Last week on the blog, we explored some core commitments that I return to regularly in my search for a more empowered and openhearted life.
This week, let’s take a deeper dive into the first one: consciousness.
I am using the word “consciousness” to refer to the quality or state of being aware, especially being aware of the things arising inside of ourselves.
When I’m talking about becoming more conscious, I’m referring to cultivating a present-moment awareness of the various sensations, perceptions, ideas, attitudes, needs, motivations, feelings, and patterns that are present within.
This kind of awareness helps us make contact with experiences as they arise within us and with reality as we perceive it outside of ourselves.
However, waking up to this consciousness can be painful.
Many of us were raised in a culture based on moralistic judgments and punitive systems of justice. We were trained to see ourselves as flawed, bad, wrong, and unworthy and to greet ourselves with judgment and condemnation. This makes it scary to tune in to what’s arising inside of us.
We judge ourselves.
We fear feeling shame.
We fear what we may find.
We fear that we will discover how “bad” we really are.
If you’re committed to waking up, becoming more aware, and increasing your consciousness, remember to greet whatever you find within you with deep compassion, grace, and self-acceptance.
Committing to Consciousness
When we make a commitment to consciousness, we are setting an intention to wake up and get present to whatever is arising in each moment. We are making direct contact with events, free of our interpretations or evaluations.
A fundamental aspect of cultivating our conscious awareness lies in having this ability to distinguish between what is being perceived in its raw, direct form and the meaning that we make of those perceptions.
When we are conscious, we are aware, intentional, and responsive. On the other hand, when we act unconsciously, we tend to act reactively from unexamined, default, implicit patterns and scripts. We find ourselves doing things even though we “know better.”
For example, your conscious mind might be able to come up with “nice” or “right” words for a situation, but your nonverbal cues will often reveal a deeper, less conscious layer of communication and internal truths.
Also, it’s habitual for most of us to add interpretations, analysis, judgment, and evaluation to our description of what’s happening.
Practicing consciousness, we can learn to notice what we’re adding to reality and begin to let things be as they are. This frees us to interact with ourselves and others with more clarity, spaciousness, and heart connection.
Of course, we all know from a lifetime of experience how hard this can be to do.
One tool for cultivating consciousness is the practice of making the implicit explicit. This practice invites us to continually bring whatever is emerging from our implicit, body-based memory systems into our verbal, explicit consciousness.
As we do this, those things that used to run us become tools that we can actively use for co-creating. We cannot co-create until we are first conscious.
Here’s a simple practice to work on increasing your awareness:
Daily Life Awareness
Choose a simple daily activity or ask that is simple enough that you can do the task and also have enough attention available to watch yourself doing it. The intention is to be able to engage in an activity or task that needs doing while you simultaneously sense, look, listen, watch, and reflect on yourself while doing it.
With practice, you’ll notice yourself washing dishes, brushing your teeth, engaged in conversations and running errands – while still sensing, watching, and connecting with yourself. In time, you will be able to maintain open self-awareness and a deeper sense of relaxed alertness and consciousness as you notice, track, sense, listen, and watch yourself go about your daily living.
Some additional practices to support the development of consciousness:
Mindfulness practices to develop your witnessing self. (I like the book Full Catastrophe Living.)
Contemplative practices (Here’s a lovely video on harvesting pauses.)
Relaxing in the face of strong emotions
Guided meditations and body scans
Attaining a state of relaxed alertness in all moments
Making the implicit explicit
Journaling and self-empathy practices
Shadow work and 3-2-1 practices
Lastly, one of the most powerful allies to consciousness work is a robust self-compassion practice, which will be the subject of next week’s blog post as we continue to explore the 5 Core Commitments.
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