“We need to focus on the present moment, the only one we can really live in, to be truly effective.”
Ability to manage our attention is an important determinant of our success. But we are continuously bombarded by external events in our daily life and experience various distractions and information overload all the time. Most of us never go beyond a narrow, personalised sense of self that is conditioned by past and an anticipated future which is far from present. As a result, our ability to pay attention at will comes under control by external factors and by our past conditioning. We constantly attach thoughts and feelings to external factors, events from past and imaginary future. Because of this, the world around and people in particular come to be perceived as threatening. We begin to judge and the need to compete and dominate arises. Our perceptions and interpretations change and we take actions based on anger, despair, fear and frustration. The actions thus taken generate an automated cycle of negative behaviour where we tend to react to everything automatically without any present moment awareness and attention.
Performing right actions comes down to making right choices and this requires the ability to pay attention to the present moment. Giving full attention to whatever the moment present is possible only through complete acceptance, because you cannot give your full attention to something at the same time resist it.
Importance of acceptance
Accepting yourself unconditionally fosters your efforts to attain your highest potential and encourages you to live up to the highest in you. The non-evaluative observation of ‘what is’ without distortion through mindful acceptance and attention allows you to break the automatic response to the external events by disrupting the unconscious progression of thoughts and emotions. You can bring peace by connecting to your true self. This helps in promoting physical and emotional well-being by removing stress and inner conflict.
Acceptance means positive action
To some people, acceptance may have negative connotations, implying defeat, giving up, lethargy and so on. They might think by always accepting the way things are, they are not going to make any efforts to improve them. True acceptance does not mean to passively put up with whatever situation you find yourself in and to do nothing about it. Nor does it mean to cease initiating positive action. Accepting the present moment unconditionally is to let go inner resistance to ‘what is’. Inner resistance is to say ‘no’ to ‘what is’ through mental judgment and emotional negativity. Acceptance of what is does not mean that you cannot take action and change the situation. You don’t need to accept undesirable life situation, but just narrow your attention to the present moment without mentally labelling it in any way. Action with no resistance, no judgment, and no emotional negativity results in positive action and is far more effective than negative action, which arises out of anger, despair or frustration.
If you find your life situation unsatisfactory or even intolerable, it is only through acceptance that you can break the unconscious resistance pattern that perpetuates the situation. Acceptance is the starting point. Unless there is complete acceptance, we will never develop the willingness to change ourselves. This is true for every experience, addiction and weakness. Accepting your true self and of ‘what is’, you can begin to take action, initiate change or achieve goals.
Practice accepting ‘what is’
Focusing on the present moment through conscious acceptance allows you to improve your attention by breaking the automatic feeling-thought-action cycle. Acceptance allows you to take wiser decisions and enables you to cultivate a more balanced relationships. Here is how you can practice acceptance.
• Do not be concerned with the fruit of your action. Give attention to the ‘doing’ than the result that you want to achieve and in time you will be freed from what now seems impossible.
• Accumulation of past in your psyche reinforces false sense of ‘self’ by denying the present moment. You don’t need the past moment, refer to it only when it is relevant to present.
• Don’t be a ‘habitual waiter’, waiting to achieve your goals — with every kind of waiting, you reduce the present moment to a means to an end leading to non fulfilment and dissatisfaction. Strive to achieve your goals but don’t use them to substitute for the feeling of being, whole and complete.
• Watch your thoughts as well as your reactions in various situations. Notice how often your attention is in the past or future. Make it your practice to withdraw attention from past and future when they are not needed.
• Practice meditation to rediscover your unconditional self. Notice your breathing patterns and observe your thoughts and emotions. Accepting your situation through being mindful helps you gain focus and clarity about what triggers certain feelings and emotions.
• Practice focusing your attention in the present moment while eating, drinking, working and while communicating. This reduces stress and anxiety, as well as increases your emotional intelligence. Giving your complete attention to what you do results in empowered action.
• Avoid labelling every perception and experience. When you mentally name or label a situation in some way as undesirable or bad, you tend to personalise the resentment which in turn brings a reactive “me.” Break this habit by practicing “not naming.” Don’t name an experience as “bad” and instead bring an inner “yes” to it.
• When you are unhappy, stay totally with what is. Do not unconsciously designate your deficient sense of self through being ‘right’ and making something ‘wrong’. This leads to reactivity and creates conflict between your external circumstances at that moment. Instead of complaining about the circumstances, accept. This will allow you to make peace and you will be able to turn to present.
• Patiently work with your difficulties. Acceptance builds trust into the current situation and you can focus on underlying opportunities.
Notice how total are you in what you do or in your daily activities.
Watch how it feels like when you don’t want to be where you are — the traffic, work place, the people you are with, dealing with the countless things that make up your daily life — accept the ‘isness’ of the moments in your life. Whatever your life situation is,
practice completely accepting it as it is — where you are, who you are with, or what you are doing. This improves your full attention to the moment and your doing becomes more effective, fulfilling and joyful.
“Pause and remember— When you fight reality, you will lose every time. Once you accept the situation for what it truly is, not what you want it to be, you are then free to move forward.” — Jenni Young
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.
“ 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.