As our lives get busier and more stressful, people are looking for ways to keep their busy mind calm. And in that search, many of us consider Meditation.
After all, Meditation is slated to be the cure-all for our woes: stress, anxiety, sadness, unhappiness and the gateway to inner peace and enlightenment. Such high promises.
The thing is though, most people who try Meditation find it really difficult and give up.
And my take on why people give up on something that’s supposed to be so good for us is because their expectations of Meditation don’t match reality.
Which is why I don’t like using the term Meditation – it’s loaded with expectations and connotations that make people feel it’s out of their reach. The assumption is that when we meditate, our mind will empty and we will become filled with peace and bliss. So when this doesn’t happen, we get annoyed or frustrated and give up.
We tell ourselves “it doesn’t work”, “I’m different”, “my mind is too busy”, “I can’t stop thinking”.
Let me assure you, there are techniques that work, we all have the same problem of overthinking, everyone’s mind is busy, and Meditation isn’t about stopping ourselves from thinking.
I’ll repeat that in case you weren’t paying attention: Meditation IS NOT about stopping ourselves from thinking.
That’s just what everyone assumes, but it’s plain wrong.
Meditation is paying attention. It’s about awareness. Which is why I prefer the term Awareness to Meditation. It’s more accessible and has the same effect.
Just like generic products do the same thing as the high-end brand, the difference is usually in the marketing or packaging, I like to think of awareness as the generic version of meditation: accessible to everyone without the BIG expectations that inevitably lead to disappointment. Then once you’re familiar with the product, you can upgrade to the high-end version.
Here’s why I prefer the term Awareness over Meditation
Everyone can practice awareness.
Hearing people tell me they can’t meditate is like pulling teeth, I wouldn’t have any left for the number of people who’ve told me they can’t meditate. But everyone can be aware. Everyone can pay attention. Everyone can learn to direct their attention.
Awareness takes the pressure away.
There’s no performance anxiety, we’re not going anywhere, we can’t stuff it up. We’re just being aware. Trying to tell a busy mind to stop thinking is like pouring accelerant on a fire. Awareness deprives the fire of oxygen and it fizzles out.
Awareness is less formal.
People often take Meditation really seriously, which is fine but it just ends up being a chore, like ironing. It benefits us but we hate it. Practicing awareness can be done in a more relaxed way, which takes the pressure away (see above point).
Awareness is flexible.
You don’t have to follow a strict regime of getting up at dawn to meditate, sit in a certain position or follow any other ritual if you don’t want to. Awareness can be done anywhere, anytime. Some of the best times to practice awareness are when eating, interacting with loved ones, on the yoga mat, and during sex.
Awareness makes us more self-aware.
I questioned writing that because it’s so obvious. The more attention we pay to our body, our breath, our thoughts, feelings, behaviours and habits the more aware we become of ourselves. And even though I’m stating that self-awareness is a positive, initially it can be painful.
Some unwanted side effects of self-awareness are:
- realising we are in a job/relationship we don’t want,
- realising we’re not happy,
- realising our life lacks meaning/purpose,
- realising we’re lost/don’t know who we are, and
- realising there must be more to life than this.
All of these realisations are crushingly devastating. The downsides to awareness may sound like a good reason not to practice, but at some point in our lives we face a choice: keep living on the surface, keeping up appearances, living on autopilot or connecting to ourselves on a deeper level, exploring our inner space and emerging from the inner journey with a new perspective on life.
A life of awareness isn’t fun or easy. It can still be painful and hard at times, but it’s the only choice for me. Awareness opens the door to the fullest potential and has given me meaning instead of that gaping hole I felt in my life.
Awareness expands. The more aware you are, the more awareness you have. Practicing awareness increases our field of awareness, we become aware of everything that comprises the present moment.
Awareness is infinite and is everywhere. Everything that has ever happened to us or will ever happen to us occurs within our field of awareness.
Think about it for a moment, could we exist without awareness? We can imagine what it would be like to be blind, deaf or without all of the senses, but it’s impossible to imagine ourselves without awareness.
The cool thing about our expanding field of awareness is that it gives us a greater perspective on life. My favourite analogy sums it up perfectly. If you put a tablespoon of salt in a glass of water, it would taste salty. If you put a tablespoon of salt in a freshwater lake, you wouldn’t taste it. When our awareness expands, we are less likely to be affected by our thoughts and emotions. When our awareness is expansive: being cut off in traffic, having slow internet or the person in the next cubicle eating smelly tuna is less likely to bother us or ruin our day.
Awareness is a skill that requires practice
Although you can practice awareness anywhere and anytime, yoga and awareness are meant for each other. Awareness takes yoga to the next level, and the awareness we practice on the yoga mat quickly spreads to the rest of our lives.
Our Brisbane Yoga classes are awareness based. We continually invite you to bring your attention to the body, breath, thoughts and feelings so that you can expand your field of awareness.
And if you want to learn effective and proven awareness techniques to calm and clear you mind, check out our 3 Day Pranayama and Meditation Course.
Artwork by Henn Kim “Who are you when you’re alone?”