“We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.” – Buddha
Expanding Beyond The Mystery
While awakening may seem like some great mystery, which can only be discovered by the most spiritually devout, it is actually much more simple and attainable than you may think. The perception that one has to journey to the furthest reaches of the soul, and attain some state of being that exists only in the future if one is worthy, is simply a limiting belief created in the mind. The truth is that you are worthy right now, and what you are seeking is here and available in the present moment.
The journey of course is in coming to this realization, and letting go of the limiting beliefs that may be keeping you trapped in the illusion. While each person’s journey is unique, and there are no right or wrong answers, at its root awakening simply involves learning how to let go of these disempowering beliefs and living life from a place of presence. To do this it takes expanding your mind beyond these limiting beliefs and engaging in practices that support you in stepping more fully into the present moment. The following six practices are practical examples of ways you can incorporate mindful presence into any area of your life, and help you in discovering and letting go of any beliefs that may be holding you back.
Before beginning consider the following words of wisdom. The Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity, answered “Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”
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“Do not grow old, no matter how long you live. Never cease to stand like curious children before the Great Mystery into which we were born” – Albert Einstein
The Practice Of Curiosity
Curiosity is at the heart of awakening. When you become curious, you forget yourself. Forgetting yourself loosens the grip of the ego, and allows you to become present in any moment. Having a curious approach to living life, and seeing awe and wonder in it’s unfolding, can help reclaim your energy in dramatic ways. If you walk through life with blinders on, with your mind focused on the future or stuck in the past, you are limiting your view of what’s possible in the here and now. Curiosity when applied consciously, can support what Zen masters call “beginners mind”, and bring newness and wonder into any moment. Beginners mind is an attitude of eagerness, openness and a lack of judgment towards your present experience.
The beauty of this practice is that it can be applied endlessly in any situation in life, and can serve as a basis for all other mindfulness practices. To practice simply takes bringing your attention and a friendly curiosity to what’s happening right now. There’s much more happening in the present than you can possibly imagine. In fact, the answers to all questions, exist in the present moment if you become curious enough.
As you practice, envision yourself writing a story, in which you are the main character, and having the power to influence how the story unfolds. As you do this, shift your attention onto the people, situations, objects and information that are showing up in your story, and become curious about where they could possibly lead you. By bringing an attitude of friendly curiosity to everything you encounter, and practicing non-judgment, you open up many more possible outcomes for the plot to unfold.
It’s important to become curious in all situations, not just ones that you may deem as pleasant. The most profound answers can be found in situations you may judge as difficult or uncomfortable. Becoming curious, about what makes those situations or people challenging, is the key to unlocking profound insights about yourself. If you struggle with judgment, one way that can help is to just say everybody and everything in my story is worthy, and is just a reflection of me as the main character. Remember it’s your story. As you practice this more, you may come to find that uncomfortable experiences become enjoyable, and experiences you do enjoy, may become even more fulfilling.
Questions you might consider asking yourself:
“Without knowing the force of words, it is impossible to know more.” – Confucious
The Practice Of Positive Thought
A single word has the power to either create or destroy anything in life. Take love and hate, for example. No two words have had a greater impact on humanity. But words convey much more than we know, and are often taken for granted. At their root words, just like everything else in the universe, are made up of energy. Your words have the power to give energy or take energy away. Much of your communication is therefore not heard, but felt. Once you understand this, you can begin to reclaim any power you are giving away through communication.
To practice you can become present anytime you are having communication with someone. By becoming conscious of the words you are using, you can actively replace negative words, with ones that carry a higher vibration. As you practice, ask yourself what do you wish to manifest in the present moment through your communication. By aligning your words with the present, rather than focusing on a past result or future outcome, you will naturally be led to words that empower you and others.
The key to this is intention. When you set an intention, and align yourself with that intention, you are making a choice, and signaling to the other person what you wish to manifest through your interaction with them. If that intention is based in the present, you also signal to them that they are worthy and capable of supporting you in that intention. This is a considerably more powerful and effective way to communicate. An intention, that pushes or pulls others to conform to what you believe about the past or future, will usually lead to words that carry a lower vibration. While it can be effective in some situations, it is ultimately limiting, and disempowers yourself and others.
You can also use this same practice in observing your thoughts, and in eliminating negative thought patterns that you may be unconsciously giving energy to. You can reclaim this energy by consciously shifting your thoughts to the present, and aligning them with your intention to create any new empowering beliefs. Again, the key is intention, and choosing to align your thoughts with beliefs that are centered in the present. Using positive I AM or I HAVE statements, such as I am worthy, I am loved, I have abundance, is a powerful way to bring your thoughts into the present. Practiced enough, you can raise your energy high enough, to where any negative thought programs created by disempowering beliefs, can no longer operate.
Questions you might consider asking yourself:
“In pursuit of knowledge, every day something is added. In the practice of the Way, every day something is dropped.” – Lao Tzu
The Practice Of Seeking Less
In today’s modern world information can be incredibly powerful, and has the ability to influence every area of life. We are literally being bombarded by it in every waking moment. But learning and seeking new external information doesn’t always result in intelligence. Too much external information can actually lead to numbing and dumbing you down, to the point where your authentic voice can get completely drowned out.
When this happens, your thoughts and words essentially become hijacked, and much of what you think and say can simply be a regurgitation of what others are telling you. This can lead to a dependence on others, and unconsciously become the engine that fuels disempowering beliefs of unworthiness, powerlessness and victimhood. Once you become more conscious of this however, you can begin to reduce your dependence and reclaim your voice.
As I’ve pointed out, in the process of awakening, you and no one else has the answers. Anytime you are seeking answers outside yourself, there’s a chance you may giving your power away. Seeking is, at its root resistance, and it could be limiting you from accepting yourself as you are right now. That being said knowledge is power, it’s just a matter of whether you are using it to give power away to others, or reclaiming it to fuel your truth. It should be noted that knowledge, in and of itself is limiting, since it can only be used in a finite number of situations. Real intelligence comes from wisdom, and is something that can be applied at any moment and in any situation in life. This wisdom can only come from within and through experience. The key of course is in discovering it for yourself.
There are two ways you can practice becoming more mindful of this. The first is to become mindful of how much external information you are exposing yourself to, and consciously limiting it. Some simple ways to do this include checking email only at certain times, eliminating news and advertising, reducing your television time, cutting down your use of internet and social media, etc. This can create space during your day for you to become more present, and tune in more to your thoughts. Another way to practice, is to reduce the amount of multi-tasking you may be doing. Multi-tasking brings your mind out of the present, and limits your ability to focus and find flow with what’s happening right now. Practiced often enough, this approach can help you reclaim significant amounts of energy you may be giving away.
The second approach is a deep dive, where you literally go on an information diet, and eliminate as many sources of outside information as possible for a specific period of time. It’s similar to going on a meditation retreat and simply involves unplugging from all external sources of information such as news, television, advertising, internet, phone, friends, family, teachers, books, etc. It’s up to you how much and how long you do this for, but I recommend at least a week if you are going to commit to this approach. The steps to do this are easy.
As you do this, you will be essentially left with just you and your thoughts, which can be harder than you think. Spend some time writing everyday, being present and taking part in activities that support your well being. Avoid just filling your time with mindless activities as they will just defeat the purpose. As you take part in the practice, consider asking yourself the following questions:
“Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.” – Epictetus
The Practice Of Living with Less
Reliance on material possessions and consumption is one of the biggest ways you may be giving your power away. Since the 1920’s, corporations have become extremely effective at targeting people’s unconscious desires by integrating Freud’s theories on the subconscious mind into their advertising. Before this time, advertising was based solely on targeting people’s needs, rather than their wants, dreams and desires.
With this new notion, the era of modern consumerism was born, and since then every generation has been indoctrinated into a culture of expressing their desires and individualism, through continual spending and consumption on material products. It was as if the corporations had performed inception on everyone, and placed a single idea into our subconscious minds. The idea of wanting more. To be more, to have more and to be more like others in order to be happy.
The consequences of this notion are staggering, and can be linked to almost every major problem facing the world today, including the potential destruction of the environment we rely on to sustain us. What’s interesting is that the real power ultimately exists with you. And this is the power of choice.
At a basic level, our desires are based on future thinking, and the need to become worthy and fulfilled at some point in the future. A need however is based on present thinking, and being deserving and satisfied right now in this moment. It was Einstein who said, “no problem can be solved by using the same level of consciousness that created it.” So it makes sense that as you raise your consciousness and become more present, it’s possible to mindfully shift your thinking more freely away from your desires, and onto your needs.
This can be practiced anytime by becoming mindful when you are spending money, and asking yourself whether what you are purchasing is really a need or a desire. Does what you are buying serve a vital need in your life, or is it linked to some concept of yourself and being happier in the future. I’m not suggesting you let go of your desires completely. Just be able to get in touch with what has power over you, and be able to consciously regulate your wants.
As you work with this more on a regular basis, you may naturally come to a point where you wish to incorporate this on a larger scale. Downsizing you life is a powerful practice that can help you let go of the control material possessions have over you, and reclaim enormous amounts of energy. Moving to a smaller home, donating or selling unneeded possessions, getting by with one car or choosing not to replace something that is functioning fine, are a few examples of ways you can simplify your life and free yourself from the illusion of materialism. The more you do this the more power you will have to wake up and live with less.
Questions you might consider asking yourself:
“Be – don’t try to become.” – Osho
The Practice Of Flow
One of the greatest paradox’s in life is living life from a place of being, rather than doing. The pace of modern society seems unyielding, and we often feel that in order to get ahead, and be successful, we need to be continually striving and pushing for some future state of happiness or self worth.
When you operate from this perspective however, it often results in actions that are influenced by your desire to be in control, creating fear – future thinking, or lack – past thinking. While this approach can seem effective in getting things done, it takes an enormous amount of energy that can leave you drained and unfulfilled. While you may achieve your goal, it is ultimately limiting you from reaching your full potential. In the end control is an illusion created by the ego. The more you attempt to control things, the more energy it takes get things done.
A much more effective approach is to slow down and allow your actions to be inspired from a place of being or present thinking. This is sometimes referred to as flow or being in the zone. Instead of pushing and pulling, and attempting to control your actions in order to get something done, you let go and allow your actions to unfold naturally through mindful presence. In this state your actions alone in this moment are generating fulfillment and joy. While this may seem like a difficult concept, once you understand how it works, you can reclaim enormous amounts of energy and achieve much greater results.
You can practice this anytime when you notice a feeling resistance, and by becoming conscious of whether you are pushing or pulling on yourself or others. Ask yourself whether the outcome you desire is based on your happiness in the future, or improving your worth in the eyes of others. When you notice this, all you have to do is relax, breathe and let go of attempting to achieve that outcome. You can also practice by becoming aware of whether you are desiring to take credit for achieving the outcome. Taking credit is just a sneaky way the ego tries to step in a regain control and prove self worth.
While this is easier said than done, it can help to envision yourself having what wish for already. Imagine that you have achieved your goal already, and through letting go of control, you already have the happiness and abundance you seek. As you practice, it can also help to turn this into a game, by consciously modifying the task to make it more fun, creative, challenging or simple, as needed to make the task match your skill level. Over time, this practice can help shift your perspective entirely, allowing you to create flow anytime you wish, and discover fulfillment and happiness in the present moment.
Questions you might consider asking yourself:
“He has not learned the lesson of life who does not every day surmount a fear.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
The Practice Of Becoming Fearless
Fear is the most powerful of all human creations. It is said that we are born with love, but that we are taught fear. Ultimately fear is the only thing that stands in your way to waking up. If you had no resistance to fear you could wake up in an instant.
Learning to let go of fear however is the journey, and it’s what allows you to awaken and step into who you authentically are. In the end it brings you full circle, and teaches you that beyond the darkness the only thing that exists is love. When you learn to let go and shine a light where you fear to go, the illusion begins to fall apart, and things start to become much brighter. This is why learning to let go and be fearless is the most vital mindfulness skill you can learn.
If you think about fear for any length of time you may discover that fear, psychological fear anyway, is a product of the mind and is an illusion. Fear only exists as a projection of would could happen in the future. Whenever you are afraid to do something, you are actually in no danger in the present moment. Of course physical fear is quite different, and is absolutely necessary for survival. The key is in learning and teaching your subconscious the difference.
Psychological fear is the one holding you back, keeping you small, and making you feel anxiety, nervousness and doubt. Ultimately the thing you are afraid of isn’t what’s holding power over you, it is the fear itself. While it takes a lot of practice, the process of learning to let go of fear is simple. You just step into it, face it and accept that it is part of who you are, and not something to get rid of. You must learn to love your fear, and make it your friend. The more you run from it, the more power you give it, and the more uncomfortable and painful it gets.
To practice involves becoming mindful of when you are uncomfortable, and learning to become excited about stepping into this sensation. If you aren’t experiencing uncomfortableness on a regular basis, then there’s a chance you are avoiding fear. You can give yourself a boost however, by taking on the simple practice of stepping outside your comfort zone at least once a week. This can be anything from trying something new, to public speaking, to telling someone how you really feel about them.
As you do this ask yourself what is the sensation I feel, not the emotion but the actual physical sensation. Where do you feel this sensation in the body, and what does it feel like. This helps bring your mind out of the future and past, and into the present moment. Then ask yourself what other things give you a similar sensation.
Often the feeling of anxiety gives a similar physical sensation to excitement. So somewhere along the way you may have assigned the things you fear with the emotion of anxiety, and things you love with the emotion of excitement. So as you engage in doing things that you are fearful of, you can consciously begin to exchange the emotion of anxiety, with the emotion of excitement through being mindful of just the sensation. The more you do this in your everyday life with simple fears, the further you can step beyond your comfort zone in facing deeper fears.
With practice you can turn this onto any disempowering beliefs or past traumas that you may have. False beliefs of rejection, abandonment, lack of self worth or experiences of neglect, abuse, addiction, and depression are all things that occur in our lives to show us the way through our fear and back into the light. The more you practice having gratitude for those experiences, and those parts of yourself, the more you may come to see what an incredible gift they were.
Eventually when you have accumulated enough courage, and peeled back the layers far enough, you may come to the source of fear itself. Once you do this and choose to step through it, you will emerge from the darkness altogether, and will awaken into a love so deep that it will transform everything you see and experience in the world from that point forward. You will have completed one stage of the journey, and begin the next by expanding this perspective outward and consciously co-creating your dreams and true purpose in life.
Questions you might consider asking yourself: