“Present moment awareness” isn’t something that can be captured in words. It is a holistic awareness of “what is”. Since there’s so much interest in the idea of the “present moment”, it might be easy to get caught up in concepts about it and what it is. Any idea we have about the present moment, however, is not what it is. Let go of the need to understand and any and all expectations. In order to realize awareness meditation, you need to go through the three stages of meditation.
Three Phases of Meditation
- Normal Mind (First Phase of Meditation): During normal mind phase, the mind is flooded with thoughts. The mind has little real command over anything when in normal state because of the perpetual thought process. The body follows the mind’s thoughts, and the thoughts control the body. If your mind is out of control, so is the body. For instance, visualize yourself playing baseball. While your mind is engaged in the plays, your body follows suit. Yet, as soon as you see a car accident, your awareness turns to the automobile accident and you stop playing the game. Stresses build up over time in the normal state from the constant thought process. You soon find yourself unable to concentrate on anything, and over time you can have trouble balancing all that you have to do in your everyday life. You end up losing your stability and you end up feeling out of tune with the world around you.
- Concentration (Second Phase of Meditation): The concentration phase is between the continuous thought patterns phase and the awareness meditation phase. It is a kind of transition phase. Concentration is not meditation; but being able to concentrate is great for promoting and cultivating your awareness mediation. Concentration is not as simple you might imagine; but it is acheivable with some practice. Concentration is merely focusing on one thing; whether it’s a thought, object, or feeling. The point is to stay focused. It is natural that you will fall back into the normal phase from the concentration phase. You just need to gently bring your concentration back to what you were concentrating on. This concentration practice leads to awareness meditation. You are succeeding at concentration when you become aware of reverting back into the normal state. Your awareness of your thoughts is part of the second stage of mediation. As you practice concentration, you will increase your ability to focus.
- Awareness Meditation (Third Phase of Meditation): Awareness meditation is the phase where you do not fall back into normal mind. You are able to remain focused on the object of your focus. The effortless awareness meditation is not only a state without anxiety or fear, but it also opens the mind and consciousness for serenity, relaxation, problem solving, creativity, and inspiration. Think back and you’ll most likely realize you’ve entered awareness meditation states before.
Awareness is the key to expanding our quality of life, in relationship to ourselves, other people, work and creativity and to life itself. Awareness is to be true to who and where we are in the moment. When we begin to take responsibility for our own development, things begin to happen by itself. The Divine will always support our decisions to develop. Look for the light and the possibilities in all situations. See what you can learn in all situations. In this way you can use all situations to grow. Everything of real value is already within ourselves.
There is a deep division between the inner and the outer world, between intuition and intellect, between male and female qualities, between rest and activity and between outer knowledge and inner wisdom in our society of today. When we are able to learn to meditate with awareness, we develop a trust in ourselves and with life in general. This trust helps us to be relaxed with whatever happens. This trust helps us to come in deeper contact with our inner being, with the source of life within ourselves. The more our meditation develops, the more it becomes an inner quality of trust and silence, with which we can meet every moment in life. Trusting life when life goes according to our ideas and expectations is easy, but it is a challenge to trust life when life no longer go according to our expectations. Ask yourself what trust is in this situation, and invite the Divine to guide you. Often this opens a new, fresh perspective to look at the situation. It often transforms problems and worry over how to get things my way into an unknown mystery of how life will solve this situation.
Relating to the Moment
There are basically two ways to relate to the moment. The first is response, and the second is reaction. Response is a fresh and conscious action from the heart in the moment. Response means to be open and available to what is real and authentic in the moment. Response is to respond with the truth in the moment. Reaction, however, is to act out of the past. Reaction is to act out of our past ideas, attitudes and preconceived concepts, and about how we think other people and life should be.
Awareness Meditation practice emphasizes gentle, innocent settling into your own being, without effort or attempts to stop thinking and ‘concentrate’. Body Awareness Meditation is often used by people who want to increase their spiritual mindfulness and sensory sensitivity.
Awareness meditation simply notes what is coming up in your awareness at the present moment. At first this is done with either aloud or quietly: “I am aware of the flowers on the table.” “I am aware that I am uncomfortable.”“I am aware that I am bored.” “I am aware of my breath.” “I am aware of an itch in my left foot.” Whatever comes up is named. If you start thinking about what you’ve named, you name that: “I am aware that I am angry.” You start thinking about why you got angry, such as what someone said to you earlier today. Then you say or think, “I am aware that I am thinking about why I got angry.”
Most people will do this for three or four things and then drift into long periods of thought and feeling before realizing they have fallen asleep or simply stopped naming things. They will then try again, only to soon fall asleep into their reflections. This is why naming things out loud can be helpful at first.
How does this exercise help meditation? This exercise quickly leads to periods of peacefulness and certainty that are quite different from normal waking experiences. This process quickly leads into periods of genuine meditative awareness. Deepening this process becomes a matter of noting more subtly whatever comes up. As the mind calms you will find that you start naming thoughts, feelings, and sensations as they start to come up and then even before they come up. This naming is more properly called “noting,” because the process is much more subtle than language and grammar at this point.
The stream of compulsive thinking first begins to gain momentum in the morning. Upon waking up, you may immediately start to think about what you have to do for the day, and other stresses and worries. This usually sets the rest of the day up for you to be in the same pattern with those same thought streams. By the end of the day you may be mentally and emotionally exhausted. The thinking and worrying process have picked up so much momentum that breaking your identification with thought and feeling may be very difficult at first.
Taking Lessons from Children
Observe closely the next small child you encounter. Children have no worry lines on their faces. Children are almost always playing and enjoying themselves, and only complain about bills, jobs, chores, because of seeing adults doing it. If one happens to have an unpleasant experience, it is quickly forgotten and life goes on. Children are naturally balanced, living-in-the present, stress-free beings. Who has seen a young child hold onto resentment, worry about the next meal or even think about what they did yesterday or will do tomorrow? They are so concentrated on the current moment that they are entirely impulsive, free-spirited and usually very happy. They are in a constant state of effortless meditation.
Living in the moment should not be confused with a lapse back into immaturity. It should be considered an evolutionary step in which we return to our childlike innocence and simplicity while still in full awareness of ourselves, our place in society and our moral role and responsibility.
Awareness meditation is a relaxing and peaceful way to meditate and become more aware of the world around you and your place in it. This can be a very fulfilling method of meditation for many people.
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