One of the results of the global shift in consciousness we are going through is that many of us are now aware of our thoughts.
The human brain is hardware for the mind. It provides us with the ability to use the mind in all it’s variety of forms. It is a phenomenal wonder but it has little animation of its own. When we die, the brain dies too, in just a short while. Just as with our other organs, the brain can not function without the rest of the body.
The mind is something else. It electrifies our existence through our senses and our brain. Every perception happens through the mind. It shimmers and twinkles like a spiders web on a dewy morning and provides us with a network of connectedness that we are able to make sense of things within. Without mind, we are mundane. Whether it is individual or collective is highly debatable but certainly we use our individual brains in combination with our senses to interpret, translate and utilise the mind within our environment.
Everything we have built around us is a result of mind in its most basic form of thought. We can all think and many of us can not stop. We are born with everything we need to develop the faculty of thought and without it we would not be able to care for ourselves, which is the purest and true purpose for thinking. Thought is self-serving and can be used in the most dignifying ways, but it can also destroy lives, even our own.
“For him who has conquered the mind, the mind is the best of friends; but for one who has failed to do so, his mind will remain the greatest enemy.” Bhagavad-gita
The constant narration in our heads, that we feed by giving it our attention can be considered untrained awareness. If we choose to, we can develop our faculty of thought into its higher form that we call awareness, by acute and persistent observation of our own thought processes in a disassociated manner.
We have all experienced the perspicacity of our own awareness for example… When the sound of a twig snapping close-by breaks the silence of darkness and jolts us into a perfect state of presence that is both penetrative and diamond-like – this is us in awareness.
Attention is the key, it is very, very valuable. Our energy flows towards and into, whatever our attention is on and this becomes our contribution to the world. If we give our attention to engines, we will become a great engine expert. If we give our attention to our kids, we will be a great parent. If we make our inner world the object of our attention, self-awareness is the result and if we pay all our attention to our fake identity or “brand”, we will become a great big ego!
Attention breeds awareness which we experience when we are rapt by someone or something and we “forget ourselves” for a while. Because it is the false ego that we are actually “forgetting”, when we pay attention and move into awareness, we are really remembering our true self.
Just as a cloth covers a table, thoughts conceal our awareness. No matter how beautiful a table might be, as soon as we cover it, our attention shifts to the cloth and the table is essentially lost to us and yet without the table, there would be no cloth.
Similarly when we read, we focus on the words and are largely unaware of the platform they are written on. There is actually much more white space than words on a page, much more “nothing” than something, but we hardly notice this because our attention is on the meaning of the words. As with the table and the cloth, without the white space, the words couldn’t exist and yet however we alter the words and whatever we say, the white space remains. It is the same with thoughts and awareness.
While one of the advantages of developing our awareness is the quietening of normal thought, it can be difficult without a solid foundation, and a connection and “handle” on our emotions. On a higher level the physical body, emotions and mind are not really separate but for development, it can be useful to address them in this order.
Some good nutrition and catharsis may be necessary before one is able to begin observing thoughts without getting wrapped up in them and if you’ve tried and been disheartened or frustrated in the past, this is quite normal and understandable. This is how the popular phrase, “I tried meditation and it wasn’t for me” was born.
If this is you, kick all meditation cushions under the table, switch up the loud music and try dancing around like a mad witch! Go to your bedroom and kill the nearest pillow with your bare hands and then go swimming, get under the water (to avoid being institutionalized) and scream like an absolute nutcase. No-one can hear you, so let it all out.
Alternatively, you may instinctively know that you need to divert your attention towards improving your diet or exercising. All of these things will help you prepare the way for observing your thoughts and every now and then, grab a cushion, sit down in front of your altar and try a new meditation practise and see if it is for you.
If you fancy a quick shot of your own awareness, try throwing yourself into an icy lake! Used worldwide by many cultures and communities as a purifying ritual, it is not without foundation. Using the physical body as the device, the icy water forces our attention onto the body and shocks the natural thinking processes into silence, revealing our awareness for a few moments, which revitalises and refreshes the mind of anyone crazy enough to jump in.
Plunge pools, the oceans, swimming pools, cold showers are all everyday replacements we can use to gain the same or similar effects. It has been almost 30 years since I have not finished a bath or shower with a cold shower. Along with a good diet and meditation practise, cold water is one of the most important tools we can use daily to keep us in awareness.
Rather than it being something we achieve or gain, an increase in awareness is really a byproduct of us beginning to use the mind as a tool rather than allowing it to be our disquiet or angry ruler. Awareness is present, where all the real gifts of life are and the more we observe our thoughts and recognise our awareness, the more we prepare ourselves for living totally in the magnificence of the present moment.
“Mind is an illusion, albeit a persistent one” Albert Einstein
Here are ten practical and useful tips we can use to help increase awareness;
1. Avoid processed food
Choosing to eat processed foods can lead to all sorts of mental and physical problems and generally, these concoctions cost us more energy to digest and assimilate than we obtain from them in nutrient value. A diet of processed food is really like slow suicide.
Attempting to stay present and in awareness or trying to practise meditation while living on a diet of processed food is like trying to concentrate with toothache. It’s possible, but very difficult. It is much easier to eat fresh organic food.
2. Turn off the television
Our brains work within particular frequencies and can be affected by other transmissions. All electrical devices affect us and while our eyes are on the potentially harmful effects of 5G technology right now, television still remains the worst culprit.
It is not called programming by accident. Watching TV slows the mind down to about the same rate as a practised meditator in just a few minutes. The difference is the input and the results of course, are opposite.
3. Don’t drink tap water
Unless we are fortunate enough to have our own water source in the mountains, it is almost impossible to obtain the kind of structured, nutrient-dense water that directly aids our awareness. Of the remaining options, tap water comes bottom of the list and it barely resembles the original, untainted fluid.
If you’re unfortunate enough to be in an area where fluoride is one of the added ingredients in your tap water, bear in mind a Harvard study which showed the consumption of fluoride is linked to the lowering of IQ levels of a population by between 15-20 points. To move into and remain in awareness, a clear and capable mind is essential.
4. Listen carefully
We are taught to talk, walk, read, eat and go to sleep but when it comes to listening our teachers usually shouted at us or threw the board rubber at us. We spend a high percentage of our time listening to others and generally, we are not very good at it.
Listening is a golden opportunity to consciously put ourselves aside and be in awareness by focussing intently without “phasing out” or mentally preparing our input for the conversations sake.
5.Get into the body
It is much easier to practise awareness of the body than the emotions or thought. When we are tired of over-thinking and need a break, exercising like running, swimming, dancing, walking or stretching gets us out of the head and into the body for a while.
6. Cease needlessly chattering
Blah blah blah!! Drop the story! Everyone has a story, but day to day “idle chatter” about past events, future dreams or gossip scatters the mind, dissipates its penetrative qualities and strengthens identification with the false self or ego.
7. Immerse yourself in cold water
Go on – throw yourself in the icy lake! For a gentler version, while in the shower, try running hot water down the spine for 30 seconds, followed by cold for 30 seconds and repeat this two more times, finishing off with a warm shower.
If you wish to simply clear or refresh the mind, try cold water on the back of the neck for 30 seconds.
8. Snap the band
To train the brain out of involuntary over-thinking, try wearing an elastic band around the wrist, making sure it is not too tight and whenever you catch yourself too much in the head, pull and snap the band. You can then use the little sting to allow your attention to move into the body, away from your thoughts and into the present moment, into awareness. A gentle but definite self-tap or slap on the forehead head also does the trick.
9. Memory triggers
The present, where awareness is, is most commonly forgotten to thought. It is very helpful to place memory triggers within our daily routine to remind ourselves that we are lost in thought. Standing in queues, going to the bathroom and washing up are good examples of times when a memory trigger can help us replace thought with attention, either onto the breath, one of our energy centres or onto the job in hand.
Meditation is the ultimate tool for increasing awareness but it has its time and place. As Osho explained to us meditation begins where psychotherapy ends. Before we can comfortably observe our own thoughts we must be detached enough from our ideas of who we think we are. This sometimes requires some physical detoxification and nutrition, catharsis and/or psychotherapy before we can begin.
Meditation is sitting quietly, everything else is practise. Remember this simple truth as you seek out practises that resonate with you.
Meditation practise is a de-construction process. Whatever we seek is already here. Any ideas and beliefs you have of yourself must be suspended and replaced with an inner curiosity and openness, because it is in this willing state that realisations occur which dissolve painful perceptions and reveal fresh ones. It is this process that gives us the feeling of spiritual development and should be encouraged.
Meditation practise is an adventure so do not expect results, Always be implacably honest with yourself and be wary of listening to advice from others unless they are a true master, who are rare.
Most important of all, whenever approaching your inner world, tread lightly and keep your sense of humour, despondency or seriousness are of no help internally.