Posts Tagged Awareness

Recovering our True Self: The Journey Out of Our Negative States

Down through the centuries, spiritual teachers of all traditions have differentiated between our mundane, invented personality so filled with stress, and our true identity characterized by serenity, constancy, and wisdom.  They urge us to discover our inner depths and that vaster Self which enables right action in the world. Everyone of us is meant to live with joy and compassionate outreach to the people around us. We are designed to be masters of our selves, capable of overcoming all the difficulties of life. This is our birthright, but in order to experience it, we must recognize how far we are from living in this manner, why this is so, and what efforts we must make to live in such a way. This new awareness and these efforts are the process that leads us out of our negative emotional habits in order to enter into the depths of our spiritual nature.

true-selfTo recover from our ingrained habits and our subconscious imitations of parents and peers is truly spiritual warfare.  It is the narrow way that few want to travel as it requires going against the grain of our own behavior.  It is making the hard choices rather than taking the easy way as we always have.  This process takes place in the trenches of our most ordinary interactions with the world.  Authentic spiritual development takes place in that moment of irritation, that moment of unkindness, that moment of selfishness that we encounter the heat of the battle.  This inner battle determines who we are and how we live this life during our brief journey through time.

Here then are some specific methods for recovering from those toxic habits:

The first and most fundamental effort is the objective study of ourselves. Why? Because nothing real can take place until we know what we are dealing with. We cannot take for granted that we know how or why we function the way we do. If you want to operate a computer, you have to learn the software. Human beings are complex software indeed and are rarely user friendly. So try observing yourself from a completely neutral standpoint. Do not judge what you see. Just see it. Observe your reactions, your attitudes, your moods and the many aspects of yourself that take charge from moment to moment. If you do this with sincerity and courage, not justifying every action and passing thought, you will begin to see yourself more objectively and initiate the awareness of the Observing Self who will be the key to your recovery.

This simple effort begins the process of creating a space within you that is not completely hypnotized by external events. Though you still react to external circumstances through ingrained habit, there is now this sliver of your Self that is not pulled out of you. A new space of inner freedom is being created along with a new sense of a deeper identity than the surface personality.

Another critical aspect of this observation is the study of our negative states. You will be amazed at how much of our time is spent under the dominance of these dark moods and thoughts. You will catch yourself grumbling about other people, feeling dejected over this or that event, complaining about the weather, resenting something somebody said. Nothing healthy can grow under the constant downpour of this acid rain within you. Eventually, you will discover that you can free yourself from such unpleasant behavior and states of mind. Step one is to turn off the leaking faucet: stop expressing negative emotions.

This effort is the beginning of separating yourself from them. You don’t have to accept living in those dark states. You are not them. They are bad habits acquired over a lifetime. If you want healing and joy in your life, you must stop the momentum of negativity. One of the important things to observe about negative states is how much energy they take away from us. If you are aware of yourself before and after a moment of rage, you will see very clearly how much energy has been lost in that brief moment. We only have so much energy available to us each day, and we can use it to be healed and renewed, or we can squander it thoughtlessly.

So notice your thoughts before they plant themselves in your feelings and eventually manifest in your actions. Anger at a colleague or spouse can be caught before it has caused internal and external damage. In that more rational, detached place before the feeling has caught you by the throat, you can notice why you are angry. What is it in you that is reacting that way? What is it in your colleague that has caused his or her behavior which is so disturbing? Anger can then turn into compassion, or at least into a new insight about yourself or another.

After self-observation and separation from negative states comes the next all-important practice: becoming present to the moment. Experience the moment as it is, for what it is. Becoming present grounds you in reality here and now and takes you out of the tempests of imagination and inner talking that fill the mind with so much noise. Become present not only to your surroundings, but to your body. Relax the tensions that you haven’t even noticed before: In the shoulders, in the jaws, in the stomach. Begin to experience the revitalizing peace of being alive in this moment. Those of you familiar with meditation know how helpful it is to regulate one’s breathing in order to center oneself. Just breathing in and out slowly to ease the inner tensions is a powerful tool for nourishing your spirit in the moment. Learn to sit quietly for awhile. This is no luxury or idle behavior. We are so wracked with stress and worry that we cannot recover enough to get back in touch with ourselves until we are released from the grip of our anxieties. We rob ourselves of the very joy of living when we let ourselves fall into endless worry and nervous tension. Take time to let go of all that.

This daily effort teaches us to stop or at least to step back from the constant flow of thoughts that creates reality for us. This means that most of our worrying and anxious considerations fall by the wayside and we are able to rise above the clouds of our immediate concerns to the larger picture of our existence as a whole. Sometimes, however, the flood of thoughts refuses to slow no matter what we do. Our nerves are so frayed that we cannot achieve the simple peace of looking out the window and enjoying the view without anything coming to mind. That’s when you might employ the stop exercise. In the midst of a thought or daydream, tell yourself to stop and abruptly cut short what is going on in your mind. Then relax your body and look around you, just seeing what is there. Take a vacation from the inner turmoil.

So our daily practice for recovering from a life polluted with negative emotional habits includes: objective observation of our selves, separation from negative states, quieting the mind, and becoming present to the moment. You will notice how these practices begin to take us out of our usual nervous tension and keep us from mindlessly responding to everything around us by turning a portion of our attention inward and by expanding our perspective in the moment.  We then become more than our self-centered, habitual mass of reactions.

If you apply these techniques regularly, you will soon find yourself living more frequently in that space of peace, of centeredness, of recovery from being victims of automatic reactions. Then you will find that you become capable of a serenity and acceptance of what is, of a surrender of selfishness that empowers you to help others as well as yourself.

Such a journey of emotional and psychological recovery offers us a new spiritual empowerment which enables us to accept life as it comes, even with all its complications and the capacity to act rightly in any given situation. This developing inner power creates a free human being who is no longer entangled in his or her selfishness and constant stream of fears and desires. Such a person can journey through life in peace, with wisdom and compassion. Such a person makes the world a better place.

– About the Author:

Ted Nottingham is the author and translator of a dozen books, the producer of numerous televised programs, and the pastor of Northwood Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.

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Breathing Meditation – Your Safe Harbor in a Storm

Breathing meditation is one of the simplest and easiest mindfulness exercises. Focusing awareness on your breathing takes your attention away from the raging tempest of thoughts and emotions that usually swirls around inside you during times of great stress. When you feel like you are spiraling out of control on the way to rock bottom, breathing meditation can be a lifeline around your sanity. Let’s take a look at how easy and effective this can be.

breatheAn Overview of Breathing Meditation

Breathing meditation is an exercise in mental awareness, not an exercise in physically controlling your breathing. Thus, if you suffer from breathing difficulties, such as COPD, this isn’t something you’ll do with your physical therapist. While mindfulness is generally an excellent antidote to stress, if the struggle to breathe is itself the cause of your stress then this may not be the best mindfulness exercise for you. But for most people, the process of breathing is controlled beautifully and unconsciously by the autonomic nervous system, and makes for an excellent anchor for our attention.

To begin the exercise, place yourself in a comfortable position, relax each part of your body in turn, and then close your eyes. For the next five to ten minutes, focus only on your breathing. If your mind wanders – which it will – just gently bring it back to your breathing. To help you focus (and stop you from going in the other direction and spacing out) keep a running count of each out-breath, from one to ten repeatedly.

After numerous sessions of counting your out-breaths, switch focus to your in-breath, counting before you breathe in. This makes you aware of the different feel of the in-breath – one of gathering energy – in contrast to the release of the out-breath.

When you feel you are ready, drop the counting altogether and just focus on your breathing. While counting can help you focus, it also breaks the seamless flow of breathing into a choppy, discontinuous series of individual breaths. Try to feel the air at the rims of your nostrils, and even on your upper lip. This level of sensitivity may take a while to develop, but one of the purposes of mindfulness exercises is to enhance the richness of your present moments, bringing to consciousness fine details that are usually missed. In other words, mindfulness makes you more alive in the here and now, and over time this becomes apparent across your entire waking life, not just during meditation itself.

Dealing with Distractions

The issue of distractions brings us back to our primary purpose. When you are distracted by all those random thoughts or emotions that impinge on your awareness, you are like a car driver who allows an obnoxious passenger to take hold of the wheel. You are no longer in control, and this is not an acceptable state of affairs. But it is vital not to become annoyed or disappointed with yourself; in fact, there is something to celebrate here. At that precise moment when you realize that you have lost your focus and become distracted, you are taking the passenger’s hands off the steering wheel and putting yours back on. You are becoming more aware; you are learning that you have a choice about the contents of your mind. And with choice comes freedom.

Thus, whenever you bring your attention back to your breathing after a rude interruption, do not judge yourself. Take a moment to pat yourself on the back for rising above the distraction. (Don’t overdo it, though, since this little celebration can itself become a distraction!) In a sense, the right attitude to adopt toward yourself is one of loving-kindness, which we have discussed in companion articles on this website. Breathing meditation is, in fact, a prelude to more advanced Buddhist meditations such as loving-kindness, and the calmness it will give you is a necessary precondition for insight.

Using this simple exercise, you will always be able to regain inner control and restore your sanity with just a few minutes to spare.

– About the Author:

Effective though it is, breathing meditation is only the beginning of the most fascinating journey you will ever take – the journey within. To see what happens when ancient meditation techniques are enhanced by a thoughtful application of modern neuroscience, visit Meditation Audio Reviews.

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Spiritual Awareness

It does not take a great effort (or any effort at all actually) to grow in spiritual awareness. Just be aware, that’s all. Spiritual awareness is simply about being mindful of spiritual Truths. You don’t have to go around obsessing about these Truths to be aware of them. Nor is there really any need to constantly immerse yourself in deep thought in order to break through and “see the (spiritual) light.” Spiritual awareness is not something that you can gain by force. You cannot compel yourself to become more spiritually aware, you merely have to be open to what is already within you.

Spiritual AwarenessAre you aware that the sky is blue? Or that sugar tastes sweet? These truths, in general, are universally elementary. Realizing them does not take any degree of deep thought or obsessive contemplation. They are just things that you are aware of. You don’t have to go around constantly reminding yourself that the sky is blue or that sugar tastes sweet. Why? Because these are truths which you don’t bother to doubt or question. You just accept them. And your acceptance is what informs your awareness. Whether the awareness is a spiritual awareness or the common sense awareness of the sky being blue, it’s all the same. Your acceptance is what causes you to be aware, just as it is your doubt which causes you to be unaware. You cannot perceive what you do not believe. This is a spiritual law.

Your personal reality is a reflection of your beliefs. Your life experience is an expression of the ideas you have chosen to accept as true. Therefore, your reality is different from his reality because each of you (unique expressions of the One God) accepts a different array of ideas as true. Spiritual awareness is about transcending the darkness of your personal reality (a manifestation of your beliefs) into the light of The One Truthful Reality which is common to All. How do you transcend the darkness? The answer is simple – by accepting the light. Every time you let go of a false belief, you grow in spiritual awareness. You accept Truth by letting go of fallacy. Acceptance is about letting go, surrendering, completely giving yourself over to something. You want to grow in spiritual awareness? Simply be accepting of spiritual Truths. But how do you identify a spiritual Truth from a personal “truth?”

Spiritual Truths (with a capital T) evoke good feelings. These Truths stand alone, unadorned by justification or underlying desires. A Spiritual Truth is never a reason for anything. A spiritual Truth simply Is, and that is all. For instance, I am powerful is a spiritual Truth. I am worthy is a spiritual Truth. However, I am powerful because I am rich is not a spiritual Truth. I am worthy because I am giving is not a spiritual Truth. These are not spiritual Truths because they rely on reason to substantiate them. These may, however, be examples of personal “truths.” I say personal because these ideas and experiences are not common to All; but nevertheless may qualify as a “truth” (with a lower case t) in the sense that these ideas and understandings may be true to your experience because you have chosen to accept them as true. Personal truths are not synonymous with spiritual Truths, they are synonymous with delusions. Growing in spiritual awareness means letting go of these delusions.

Every time you let go of a delusion you grow in spiritual awareness. Every time you accept an idea which not only feels good, but is not adorned by any justification, you grow in spiritual awareness.

Spiritual awareness begins and ends within. This means it takes your being able to recognize spiritual Truths within yourself in order for these Truths to be apparent to you in the world around you. All of the universe is but a reflection of You, some aspect of You (as Spirit). But if you are unable to recognize yourself as Spirit, you will likewise not recognize yourself reflected in All that surrounds you. You are perfecting your knowledge of Self in spiritual awareness. As you come to more and more see your Self in others (not just people, but things, places, phenomena… literally everything) you become more spiritually aware. It doesn’t take effort. It simply takes an open mind and an open heart to accelerate your spiritual awareness. You can be mindful of spiritual Truths without spending untold hours dwelling on them, just as it you can be mindful that sugar tastes sweet without obsessively reminding yourself of this fact. If you are truly accepting of a spiritual Truth you will be mindful of It regardless of whether or not you are directly thinking about It. The only effort expended in developing spiritual awareness is the effort it takes to convince yourself to be accepting of the Truths you have thus far rejected. If you truly want to believe you will. Like planting a seed, the real work in raising it up will not be done by your hand it will just be done. Have faith. You cannot help but to grow in spiritual awareness.

Evette Gardner – About the Author:

Evette Gardner is the author of the self realization / advaita ebook Divine Heritage. She currently resides in Boston, Massachusetts. You can read more of her articles on her web site and blog.

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The Journey of Spiritual Awareness

It is not a destination and it holds no title. It is not a time or even  intelligence, and it is not limited to the confines of some singular path. I ask  the questions . . . how do we find it, how do we define it, and where does it  lead us to? In bond to our sincerity and goodness of heart, let us now begin an  exploration of that precious yet mysterious thing we might call the journey of  spiritual awareness.

spiritualdevelopmentIn attempt to simplify a complex subject, I believe we can divide the issue  into two general arenas: awareness of the self, and external awareness. If we  clarify external awareness as an understanding of others and the reality that  surrounds us, then awareness of the self would most obviously be an  understanding of our individual souls. By an on-going study and comprehension of  both of theses aspects of awareness, I believe a broader vision can be achieved  with which we can gain higher levels and insights to spiritual evolution . . .  an evolution which not only can redefine our very character and purpose, but  steps us into the expanse of new and greater dimensions.

Spiritual awareness seldom comes easily for with it are the tests and trials  of individual experience. Perhaps for most of us, it is external awareness which  is more comfortable to confront for it is more removed from the challenges of  our egos. Self-awareness relies predominantly on our personal ability to be  objective, responsible, and honest in evaluation. It requires discipline to the  maintenance of our clarity towards our content and choice of direction. It is  usually easier to spot faults and qualities elsewhere than to turn the mirror  around and face them within ourselves. In my opinion it is the added challenge  of self-awareness which makes it all the more important for us to deal with, and is therefore to be the prime focus of this  article.

In my opinion, self-awareness is actually more than an understanding, it is  also a feeling. It is a connection to a grand wisdom . . . a strength of divine  love . . . God, cosmos, call it what you may. It is an empowering feeling and a  compassion. Humble yet grand, it is a feeling which transports us beyond mundane  and three-dimensional life to a pure freedom and peace and expansion of spirit.  The threats and hardships to our lives become somehow removed from company of  fear and join with a certainty, a faith, a sense of protection with the  knowledge that we are actually far more than what might seem from the limits of  our five senses. Self-awareness is, at its heart, a confidence  in our totality as truly multi-dimensional beings.

Fear is the great inhibitor. Some much of the negative forces within us stem  from this primal misdirection. Fear in the form of ego tries to steer us from  honesty towards ourselves. Fear limits our perceptions, our value, and our will  to keep progressing. It is the control mechanism used against us by the  institutions and individuals who desperately wish us never to find the potential  of our self-empowerment. So long as that potential is never realized, we remain  to be defined as they would have us . . . as slaves whose life and power are  sacrificed to their appetites of control. We are as food to a parasite, fed upon  and herded by their orders, and made as pawns to a game of ambitious evils. Fear  is the chains of our imprisoned souls. It is all around us, attempting to  saturate us through the subtle mediums of media, religions, governments, and  social conditioning.

A careful discernment needs to be employed here with the subject of fear.  Elimination of fear can so often be corrupted by ego into an elimination of  wisdom. What I am not suggesting here is a bravado imbued delusion of  invincibility. Not fearing the guns on the hill is not the same as painting a  target on your head and stepping into the line of fire. Circumstances may or may  not require you to face those bullets, but don’t be a fool by daring them.  Sometimes the line between fearlessness and foolishness can be a thin one, and  there is no formula I can think of to always and conclusively know that point.  All I could recommend here is to employ both your logic and feelings to the  balance of necessity. Be willful in resolution, but not so stubborn as to deny  future understanding.

Finding fears and interferences within you can be a challenging task, for  many of them hide in the camouflage of subtlety. For myself, I have often found  as well, that what might be thought of as resolved may surface again to be  understood at yet deeper levels than before. We are complex beings, especially  when you realize we are far more than what might be perceived, and therefore the  path of self-awareness truly is a journey without ultimate conclusion. No matter  how far you travel there will always be another hill ahead. As human beings we  traverse but a small section of the map of full reality and truth. Beyond the  human experience lies more, and still more after that. This shouldn’t give you a  feel of futility, rather a drive of intrigue. Don’t worry yourself over where  you may be at, just motivate yourself to find and maintain the right direction.  Know, in time, that you will keep progressing if it is your will to do so.  Knowing where you are currently is just a reference point . . . a guide of  orientation to help you get to the next point. So, stay positive and optimistic  the best that you can.

Perhaps the best advice that I could  give to anyone, based on my own opinions and experience, is to monitor your  thoughts and feelings. Think, think, and think some more . . . and keep on  thinking! Ask yourself questions and quest for answers. Why do I feel as I do?  Why do I believe as I do? Are my reactions what they should be? Think about it,  then have the will to act and change according to your discoveries. See your  shortcomings and mistakes not so much as faults but as opportunities for  improvement. Guilt that is truly valid serves only as a reminder not to repeat  your mistakes, and should be grown out of by learning from it. Change doesn’t  need to be feared. Each of us is, in our own ways and conscious of it or not, on  a soul’s journey. The importance is simply to keep moving forward not backward,  and keep expanding in the power of goodness. Maintain that connection to a  higher source. Focus your will to a noble and righteous cause. Keep steady and  determined with every step across the terrain of reality on this, the journey of  spiritual awareness.

Dan  Thomas –    About the Author:

Dan Thomas is a writer and truth seeker. He is the author of the metaphysical  science fiction novel, Inner-Tech.

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