It is in meditative awareness that we go beyond perception and experience inner state of well-being. Here is how to make meditation a way of life.
Each one of us wants to achieve our cherished goals or those which we think are within our reach. We are constantly running after them and other things which we think will make us happier. We end up stressful and discontent with our present state of existence and want to get rid of anything that limits us. Inspite of our ceaseless efforts, the peace,happiness and contentment constantly eludes most of us.
Well-being is accessible to each one of us and our thoughts and emotions are messengers of our inner state of well-being and the key to understand them is by gaining awareness.
Meditation readies us to deal with your thoughts. It helps you gain awareness, teaches you to observe, identify and respond to these underlying emotions and thoughts in a constructive way, rather than recoil or react impulsively.
Making meditation a way of life allows you to see each thought as a messenger with information on how to respond in a way that helps you feel in harmony with yourself and world around you. Your negative notions start to fade, instead of chasing you and wearing you down.
Essence of Meditation
Meditation is a simple practice that requires commitment to stay fully aware of the present moment. Welcoming each moment keeps you connected with yourself and others. In fact, the essence of mindfulness of meditation is paying attention. In every day life we rarely pay full attention to anything, whereas if we set aside a time for meditation, you commit yourself in paying full attention.
By paying attention to the present moment, you can understand the mechanics of the mind. The present moment is sometimes unacceptable and unpleasant. Because of this many of us experience a kind of resistance during the meditation process. This resistance is born out of our inability to accept the moment as it is. A state of well-being cannot be achieved by suppressing all thoughts and emotions. It can be achieved by becoming mindful of everything that arises in your awareness and by observing and accepting thoughts, emotions and physical sensations as they arise without judgment or expectation. This process helps you to step out of your resistance patterns.
Staying connected to your experiences helps you to acknowledge your unchanging inner self which can be tapped into anywhere and anytime.
Here are some insights that you can include in your meditation practices. Each of these insights can be practiced individually or you can apply them all together, sequentially into your meditation practice.
Set firm intentions
Meditating with right intentions develops focus, determination, patience, and perseverance. Intentions are agreements you make with yourself and then express through your actions in your daily activities. if you don’t set firm intentions, you will eventually find yourself wandering and might lose sight of the reason you are meditating.
Intentions set can be small or large. Aim is to discover your genuine intentions and affirm those with certainty in your meditation practice. Express each intention in small phrases in present tense as if it is true. This enables your subconscious mind to register them as actualities. Resolutely follow and affirm your intentions for they enable you to overcome all trials and suffering.
Tap into the feeling of being
Everyday distractions keeps you away from experiencing the joy of simply being. Practice meditation not to become whole, but to connect to your existing wholeness. Realise that wholeness is your birth right and you are more than a limited individual.
Just being is a familiar feeling that you have always known, although you may have ignored it until now. Notice how, when you are simply being, you are perfect just as you are. Affirm your intention to experience the feeling of being. With a regular practice, you can learn to connect to your existing wholeness amidst your daily life. During the practice, simply experience the presence and aliveness of being. Staying focused on the sensation of being slows your thinking and eventually turns off negative thoughts.
Connect to something bigger
Meditation helps us to get in touch with universal life force that connects us all. During the practice learn to align with this force. This connection with bigger force results in a state of well-being. With an expansive mind, you are not narrowly focused on how things should be and on other small desires, but will be able to see those as part of bigger picture.
Connecting to and experiencing the universal life force enhances concentration and your present opens up to infinite possibilities. This enables you to interact and respond rather than contract and react. The expansiveness of mind gives a meaning and purpose to your life.
Practice mindful breathing
Taking hold of your breath builds concentration. Meditating on your breathing is a natural and extremely effective tool to prevent dispersion and enables you to release obsessive thinking. Observing and following breath exhalations and inhalations enhances your ability to sense and respond to the information your body is sending.
Awareness of your breathing patterns allows you to make changes where required to maintain equilibrium. You can continue to do so while walking, sitting or when you are outdoors. You can also practice to count your number of inhalations and exhalations to develop focused attention and concentration. When you recognise you are distracted, gently bring back your attention back to your breath. Breath-counting helps you to maintain a single- pointed focus.
Meditating on your feelings and thoughts makes you stay calm, grounded, and healthy. There can be many disharmonious, negative, and disturbing thoughts that arise during the process. Meditate focusing on them. When such strong feelings arise, refusing to accept and labelling them as enemies will only make them come back more strongly as if they are here to convey important information.
You need to welcome and experience emotions both negative and positive. Know that they are not your enemies but are just seeking your attention. Learn to observe and respond instead of reacting. By focusing on every thought and its opposite, anxiety, fear, and self- judgements no longer control your life. You can no longer remain a hostage to your negative emotions.
Welcome feelings of joy
Joy is an essential emotion which is already within us, waiting to be experienced no matter what the outside circumstances may be. But many of us believe that it only comes by material possessions or achieving a particular outcome. We keep searching for it outside in objects, relationships, and other experiences. When you deny the feelings of joy which is a natural phenomenon, you lose life’s meaning and its purpose.
During meditation, welcoming the feelings of joy also brings with them its opposite. Experiencing both joy and its opposite makes you realise how stressful the opposite is and how it affects your body and mind. When it feels right, release the stressful thought and let joy radiate through you. This can unearth unchanging feelings of joy irrespective of the circumstances thereby reducing the perceptions of pain, anxiety, and depression.
Contemplate on interdependence
Meditating on the interdependent nature the universe makes you realise that everything is a part of an interconnected wholeness. We normally see reality in compartments and make boundaries around ourselves. Because of this we are unable to see the interdependent nature of the world we live in. We are connected and not separate in our suffering and in our desire to be happy.
When you live the sufferings and joy of others, you start to realise the impermanence of the universe and can strengthen the positive emotions of gratitude and compassion. Experience yourself as a unique expression of life, interconnected with the Universe.
Finally, Regular practice of meditation helps you to attain an ideal state of mind. A well disciplined and controlled mind is necessary for various aspects of well-being. Nourish your intention of making meditation a daily practice.
Nourish your intention to make the practice of meditation your own. Be patient with yourself and perseverant and you will be able to notice small changes right away.
Meditation helps us to understand the mechanism of the mind, to love, to live in the present, and to use the full potential of our lives.
“ The more you connect to the power within you. The more you can be free in all areas of your life.”
“To be aware of a single shortcoming in oneself is more useful than to be aware of a thousand in someone else.”
So many of us hide from ourselves and we don’t even know who we truly are. We don’t know what we feel, we don’t know what we want.
Consciousness is essential to know who we are and to leave our limited thinking and beliefs behind for a bigger and cosmic view of life.
What is consciousness?
To be conscious is to go within and know who and what we really are, and to know that we have the ability to change for the better and recognise the power within. Being conscious is to live without fear, judgement, blame, and guilt.
Total awareness breaks the bondage that is rooted in our unconsciousness. It is the freedom to be the real you.
Why is it important to be conscious?
Conscious people own their commitments by owning their results. They experience what is here and now and are not trapped in old patterns.
Unconscious people are cut off from an authentic experience of themselves and people around. They are more reactive about the past or an imagined future and their ego or mind takes over. They lack creative impulse and tend to live out of familiar patterns again and again when fear or anger kicks them into reactivity.
Most of us live life unconsciously in the habitual nature of our personality and live in regret and anger because of the past and in fear about the future.
“A candid and pragmatic assessment and acceptance of ourselves and our abilities and limitations is essential for our well-being.”
Often a single black line serves as an important model for the measure of your consciousness. At any point, you are either above the line or below the line.
The conscious beings are above the line. They are open, curious and are always committed to learning. They have the ability to tell themselves the truth. Below the line can be attributed to closed, defensive, and are committed to being right. Distortion and denial are the traits of unconscious beings.
When we perceive a threat to our sense of well-being, we go below the line, we don’t choose this consciously, we get defensive, limited and insist on being right. Whenever we are given feedback about our work or how we are perceived, we interpret it as a threat to our identity and tend to go below the line by being right instead of learning. Our ego firmly believes that if it is not right, it will not survive.
When we develop self-awareness and locate ourselves accurately where we stand, is it above or below, creates a possibility to shift from an unconscious being to conscious. By choosing consciousness, we shift from being closed to open, defensive to curious, wanting to be right to wanting to learn, and from fighting to survive to living with trust.
Here are four states of consciousness. Becoming aware of which state you are in and where you stand as to above or below the line, helps you to shift from being unconscious to consciousness.
The “TO ME” Awareness
This state of consciousness is synonymous with being below the line. We all spend most our time in this state. In ‘To Me’ consciousness, you see yourself “at the effect of” meaning you believe that the external conditions are responsible for your unhappiness, failure and insecurities. This makes you question “Why is this happening to me?” that is, you pin the cause of your well-being on external factors.
“To Me” mindset leads to ‘victim consciousness’ in which you are constantly looking to the past to assign blame for the current experience and this in a way disempowers you as you invest more in being right and thus makes you defensive and you experience very little control.
Key to change this mindset is to take responsibility for whatever is occurring in your life, owning up your experience, and letting go of need to blame yourself, others, circumstances, or conditions.
“As long as you cling to the idea of the way “ life is supposed to be,” your life circumstances will continue to reflect a perspective that sees itself at the effect of circumstances beyond your control “
The “BY ME” Awareness
When we shift from below the line to above, by taking responsibility, we move from living in ‘victim consciousness’ to ‘creator consciousness’ and from being “at the effect of” to “creating with”. In this state of awareness, instead of thinking that the world should be in a certain way, we see everything in the world as perfectly unfolding for our learning and development.
“ By Me” mindset leads to creator consciousness where in you begin to understand you are the cause of your experience and you are consciously creating with people, circumstances, and conditions. This mindset empowers and generates interest and curiosity. You experience a sense of control and power.
Key to develop this awareness is to choose curiosity and learning over being right and defensive. Opening yourself through curiosity helps you learn from the difficult situations. You start asking: “What can I learn from this situation?”
The “ Through Me” Awareness
As you open up “ Through Me” consciousness, the “ Me” starts to open up to another. Curiosity you developed in “By Me” state of awareness guides you to a different mindset of how everything relates to with you being the centre of consciousness. You begin to notice something beyond yourself with a bigger purpose. You start asking : “ what is the life’s highest purpose that wants to manifest through me?”
“ Through Me” mindset lets you understand that there is “other”in addition to “me” that wants to make something manifest in and through you. Instead of figuring out, it lets you pay attention to various things that are being communicated there by improving your intuitiveness.
Key to gain this awareness is to surrender and let go of control of people, things, and circumstances. By developing an higher sense of your purpose and clear vision, you let life’s highest idea to manifest itself through you.
“ when I finally get all my ducks Ina row, I realised they’re not even my ducks.” Let go of the illusion of control.
The “AS ME” Awareness
You begin to experience “ oneness” in this consciousness. There is only one reality and it is not divided and there is no separation. You are in fact, part of the oneness of universe. Once you realise the truth of oneness and who you are, your consciousness changes dramatically.
With “As Me” awareness you realise this oneness and that you are living in a world without any separation. No separation between you and your environment or you and your competitors and so on.
Key to develop this awareness is to meditate on interdependent and interconnected nature of the universe. The strong conviction of oneness acts like an anchor that keeps you stable and prevents you from drifting.
“ To see one in all and all in one is to break through the great barrier which narrows one’s perception of reality.”
– Nhat Hanh-
The above mentioned are not stages of development. We don’t move from one stage to another, but they guide you in becoming aware of which state you are in. As you develop deeper understanding of your true self, you can choose to shift your awareness from “ at the effect of” to “creating with.” You further strive to find a higher purpose through universal oneness.
Being happy is something we all want. What makes you happy?
What are the factors that can lead to happiness?
Many of us correlate it to friends, relationships, prosperity, appearances, success and so on. But these are all external factors which all of us have no control upon. So they cannot be considered as permanent factors in creating happiness. Paradoxically our aim in pursuing all these factors is for happiness, but many times what we say we want and what we do is never in alignment with each other. We say we want to be happy, but we make choices that bring opposite of happiness.
The ability to feel happy is something which is innate. Two people living in the same world with the same set of circumstances can experience life differently just by the way they think. ‘Happiness’ or ‘misery’ all depends on how you choose to respond to these circumstances. What you pursue in your mind is what you get out of life. In a way, your attitude towards life and your thoughts determine your happiness quotient.
“The greatest happiness is to know the source of unhappiness.”
– Fyodor Dostoevsky.
Certain facts about happiness you need to know in the pursuit to make it a habit.
*Your happiness is not dependent on others. what people say or think and the situations around have no hold on your happiness index.
* Happiness is fundamental natural state of mind. We are all happy beings born with natural state of joy, compassion, and kindness.
* Accumulations and appearances do not result in happiness. Material things come and go, appearances change, but beneath all remains innate secret of unreasonable happiness.
* Fear and happiness cannot co-exist. The unhappiness producing process always feeds on your fears and worries.
* Unhappiness is self-created. You are the own creator of your thoughts and you have the power to create your own happiness.
When we understand these facts, we can change our thinking from ‘I want happiness’ to ‘me is a happy being’. It is necessary to cultivate happiness habit to drive off the thoughts which create unhappiness and to replace them with happy ones.
Turning towards happiness is a valid goal and you have to make a conscious decision to seek happiness by cultivating the habit of happiness.
Certain obstacles you should look for in the pursuit of cultivating the “Happiness Habit.”
The moment you become judgemental about others, you get into unhappy modes such as anger, resentment, ill-will, etc., which not only takes you away from your natural state of being, but also blocks further happiness.
Tip: Accept the differences in opinions and views. Develop appreciation and awareness and change your perception of others.
Another hindrance in the pursuit is keeping expectations. Expecting what others would say or how they behave is like expecting their future. In a way, you are expecting them to match with your belief systems and when they don’t, you begin to feel let down or sad.
Tip: Do not base your happiness on the outcomes as having expectations from others and meeting people’s expectations, both will fluctuate your happiness.
Dwelling on past and future.
Reminding or thinking about past hurts or unpleasant events becomes a major obstacle in the cultivation of happiness habit. Thinking about future causes worry and stress.
“You can do nothing to change the past and future will never come exactly as you expect.
Tip: Focus on your ‘Now’ and whenever your focus drifts off to other places and times, map back.
Stress is a result of negative programming we have imbibed. Stress is created by feelings of fear, anxiety, or worry. Unease caused by imagining a bad outcome to a present or future event or situation.
“Stress comes from the way you relate to events or situations.”
Tip: Recognise that happiness is not contained in events or situations. It is up to you how you respond to them and you always have a choice to choose stress-free thoughts.
How you perceive challenges.
Happiness a lot depends on how you take up the challenges or obstacles. It all depends on how you face and overcome them. Treating the challenges as be-all and end-all situations will block happiness and causes depression, and discouragement. Take them as work out situations
Tip: Use the so-called problems or obstacles as opportunities to learn and grow more stronger for your future endeavors.
Developing certain personal factors or inner characteristics can lead to happiness. This can create further inner transformation and can be achieved by regular practice and repetition of new thought patterns. Here are some practices to cultivate “Happiness Habit.”
You feel good physically, mentally and emotionally by focussing on positive patterns of thinking. Substitute unhappy thought patterns with positive happy thoughts. “The happiness habit is developed by simply practicing happy thinking.”
Practice virtue of patience.
It takes time to cultivate all the qualities that create state of well-being and happiness. We acquire many unhappy and negative mental traits over time. So you need to develop patience in order to address and counteract each one of these negative traits.
“Happiness is the state of being centredness which is here and now”. Keeping your awareness and concentration in the present moment and letting go of past can be achieved by practicing mindfulness.
Practice simple living.
“ The secret of happiness is not in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.”
Happiness is equal to your contentment. We have basic needs and endless wants. Know the difference and practice simple living.
Finally, base your actions and attitudes upon basic principles of happy living by choosing happiness. Some of the basics are that of caring, gratitude and good will.
“When our emotional health is in a bad state, so is our level of self-esteem. We have to slow down and deal with what is troubling us, so that we can enjoy the simple joy of being happy and at peace with ourselves.”–Jess C. Scott
Our attitude towards our emotional state becomes very important because it can affect how we cope with suffering when it arises. Fear, anger, guilt and anxiety are all emotional responses that can intensify suffering. Understanding your thoughts and emotions and of others leads to a higher level of emotional freedom and stability.
Emotional intelligence which is built on the foundation of self-awareness helps you to be more content and fosters your own productivity. You get better equipped in terms of how to handle things rather than worrying about what can go wrong. Negative emotional state can sabotage your clear thought and focus. Developing emotional stability capacitates focusing at will and inhibits strong impulses and urges. Also enhances other relationship attributes like influence, persuasion, and cooperation.
By knowing your feelings and remaining productive during difficult emotional episodes makes you emotionally stable.
• All emotions are essentially distorted and begin from our mental interpretation of what occurs around us.
• Emotions cannot be denied or controlled.
• Negative emotions are not an intrinsic part of human nature.
• Our negative emotions can be rooted out.
• Feelings fade over time and are not constant.
Every negative emotion contains a positive lesson and plays the role of a teacher. For example, fear generates alertness and caution. Anxiety indicates an urge to succeed. Insecurity reflects a desire to do well and to prove yourself. Concern reveals thoughtfulness and sensitivity.
“Emotional self-awareness is the building block of the next fundamental emotional intelligence: being able to shake off a bad mood”
To understand and to accept your emotions means appreciating the positive lesson contained in negative feeling. Although you cannot directly control or change your emotional state, you can create a stability by improving your emotional intelligence. Here are some ways to improve your emotional intelligence and to make peace with your feelings.
Improving emotional understanding.
Each one must act their own physician when it comes to their emotional well-being. The best method is to recognise your emotions as they occur. When you are emotionally distressed, you begin to feel very negative about yourself and with those around. Negative emotions like discontentment, grumbling, becoming frustrated, or over-assertiveness might arise.
By recognising your negative emotion that is influencing you negatively, you will be able to confront your weaknesses of your own mind. Becoming aware and understanding the reasons behind and effects they have on you, you will know what measures you need to take to clear them away. This will make you better at handling negative situations and helps you develop positive, productive, and clear thinking.
Accepting your emotions.
“Accept your feelings as natural phenomena and learn from them, but don’t let them run your life.”
You require an open mind to change your relationship with your feelings. For instance, we all react in different ways to ill spoken words or criticism. Some simply ignore and forget it altogether, whereas others feel hurt. Also, there are some who accept criticism and reflect on themselves and then try to correct their wrongdoings.
Acceptance of both positive and negative feelings while acting constructively improves your inner confidence. Instead of struggling in negative emotions, you create a store of inner strength and will be able to concentrate on your positives.
“Awareness of self and others, and its application in managing our inner self and our relationships is the essence of emotional intelligence.”
You don’t need to control emotions. They are natural like passing seasons. The key here is to know your strengths and weaknesses. Constantly building on your positive emotional state and learning from your negative emotions will make you an emotionally better person. At times, when you are obsessed by worries and anxieties, you need to have a resolute attitude and need to hold on to your strengths. Develop an attitude of tolerance and concentrate on your strengths instead of giving way to pessimistic thoughts and negative emotions.
Overcoming negative emotions.
Self-reflection is an excellent method to overcome negative emotions. When you attribute the cause of your negativity to outside factors, you become the target. But by reflecting upon yourself and accepting your mistakes, you will become aware that the emotional distress is also because of you. Remain flexible in the face of difficulties and never be too stubborn to change and refine yourself.
“ To rid yourself of old patterns, focus all your energy not in struggling with the old, but on building the new.”
It may be true that you might have had past experiences with failure and suffering, but it is very unlikely that you are going to face them through out. Do not restimulate an unacceptable thought or feeling. Overcome negative emotions by replacing passive, negative emotions with positive and constructive ones.