In my last post I wrote about the benefits of living a more conscious life which is all good and well but of little use to anyone without information on HOW to do this. When referring to living a conscious life I am talking about living with an awareness of self – an awareness of self-perception, emotions, behaviour, responses, needs, one’s truth, and what it feels like to just be you (when alone and when with others). Conscious living requires being present as it is impossible to be aware when living a disconnected and unconscious life. Conscious living also requires a belief that you are important enough to take note of.
In order to come up with these 8 tips I had to sit back and consider myself in my more unconscious years to determine what I did to enable me to become more conscious and remain conscious (this is the really hard part!) Our default ways of feeling, responding and behaving are usually programmed from very early on and it can be very difficult to be present to these and conscious about them.
- Notice when it does not feel good and do not just carry on regardless
I guess for me I started to live more consciously when I came to the realisation that I was tired of being unhappy and did not want to feel that way anymore. I had for so long been disconnected and living reactively that it was a shock to realise that I could CHOOSE to live differently and that it was my choice only. I have over the years learned to listen to when something does not feel quite right. Sometimes just noticing and acknowledging is enough (versus distracting the self, suppressing, denying etc). Sometimes it may mean it is necessary to consciously take action. I have had to learn the difference between the head and the heart. The more you live in the heart the more you will recognise when something is good for you or when it is not (I am reluctant to use these judgement words but they are the most apt).
When something causes an uncomfortable feeling within you LISTEN TO THAT and do not just ignore it. A good way to practice learning what comfortable feels like for you is to tune it to yourself through any form of mindfulness and focus on your heart space when thinking about something unhappy or fearful and then thinking about something joyful and peaceful. Notice what these feel like and notice those feelings arising within you at other times in your life.
- Read books and talk to people about conscious living
One of the major triggers to my becoming more conscious in my life was a book given to me rather carelessly by a friend (versus with ceremony and purpose and possibly a warning like “this book will change your thinking forever….!”) Maybe because it was the right time in my life, the book sparked a whole new way of thinking for me – where I realised I could choose how to live rather than feel powerless and at the mercy of life. That book was The Celestine Prophecy. It may not be the book everyone will resonate with but there are so many out there these days. Another book I received soon afterwards was The Road Less Travelled by M. Scott Peck and many years and books later I found A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle very valuable.
After reading that first book it was as if I had opened the flood gates and suddenly realised there were others around me that also knew about this stuff. We talked and shared and I learned more and more. Reading and talking with others will simply further raise your consciousness. Find groups of like-minded people to be around. It can be difficult to have an awareness of conscious living when always surrounded by others whose consciousness is on a different level. It’s literally like living worlds apart at times. Yet, even then, be open to what you can learn through those who are not yet as consciously aware. There will always be something.
- Mindfulness practices: sit back and observe the self
I think it goes without saying that a mindfulness practice of sorts is necessary in order to gain that perspective that enables observation, awareness and knowledge of self. I was completely intimidated by the idea of meditation when I first started on this journey of conscious living. Meditation was what other people did and I could not conceive of myself being a person who meditated. When I tried it – the classic 20 minutes of sitting still and observing my thoughts – my resistance only increased. It was really, really difficult to get that close and personal with myself (especially on my own and with no guidance). Fortunately, I learned simply ways of being mindful. Simple exercises like observing my external and internal environment through all of my 5 senses, a body scan involving scanning from the top of my head to my toes observing the felt-sense, and breathing in through the back of the body and out through the front. These practices were more accessible, easier to do and less threatening. Later I progressed to more traditional meditation and found it far easier.Simply taking a minute a day to observe your breathing is a form of mindfulness and breaks that disconnect with yourself while allowing you to take note of your self and charge of your life.
- Be honest with yourself.
Know your truth and honour that. This does relate to no 1 to some degree because if we honour what sits well and what does not then we are living authentically and consciously rather than allowing our defaults, programming and filters to govern our responses and feelings. Start to notice what you are doing because you WANT to and what you are doing because you feel you SHOULD. Conscious living is honest and authentic living.
- Notice your patterns
With mindfulness and honesty you may become aware of your patterns. You may become aware of how easily you shut down around certain people. You may notice how you always pretend you are OK when inside you really are not. You may notice how when you are in your truth others are so much more open, friendly and connected yet when you are being whom you think you should be this does not happen. As you become more mindful you will be able to observe yourself and your feelings in certain situations and see those that are your defaults but not your truth.
NOTE: Please try not to judge these patterns. How can you have known any differently when this is how you learned to be through childhood experiences and there was no one who could demonstrate to you how to be or do differently?
- Talk to a therapist, friend, life coach or mentor.
Accepting the objectivity of others is beneficial in two ways. Firstly, you can ask them to share with you how they experience you. As mentioned above if we have always been a certain way it can be difficult to see that it is possible to be any other way. Also, ask someone to point out certain patterns you would like to be more aware of when you engage in them. And then remember to LISTEN and don’t deny or run away when it feels uncomfortable.
Secondly, if you talk to a professional they may help you to draw connections between your past and present way of being in order to help you understand your patterns. One cannot make changes to detrimental patterns unless these are first recognised as not being beneficial to the self, and, secondly, they are understood in the context in which they occurred and continue to occur.
Remember that EVERYONE is a mirror to help us to become more conscious. We observe things in others we do not like because they are reflections of those things in ourselves we do not wish to own or acknowledge. Our external environment is always a reflection of our internal state. Take note of others and situations as clues to become more conscious of self. For example you may find that people never open up to you. Ask yourself how open you are being with others.
- Live consciously in all aspects
Living consciously does not have to be some kind of spiritual or intangible endeavour. Start with the basics and notice how it feels when eating, talking, driving, being alone, being with others. This requires SLOWING DOWN and using your senses. You can assist this process by narrating what you are doing i.e. “I am now walking down the passage.” “Now I am entering the room and I feel a little flutter in my chest.” This observance of self in simple states of being and doing is a vast difference from responding and reacting unconsciously in a disconnected manner.
- Don’t judge yourself
Often when we begin to live more consciously there is a judgement of what we observe – as being bad or wrong. However, rather be gentle and observe with interest. Like an impartial researcher who takes note of what is observed without judging it. There is no right or wrong way of being. There is, however, a way of being that is more authentic and feels better for YOU. When choosing to live consciously this is an opportunity to honour yourself rather than an opportunity to judge, berate and fix yourself.