On practicing Self-Awareness
Fragments from imaginary dialogues
“How can I practice Self-Awareness?”
“Take a moment to think of a color and look around you. Notice how all instances of the color start popping into view, many of which were invisible in plain sight a few moments ago. This is an instance of directing attention – a fundamental operation of the human mind. In this case, I intentionally used the color as an attention-directing tool. I call such perceptual tools, lenses [<link; short read].
In the same way, Self-Awareness requires directing attention to certain aspects of yourself. Part of the practice is gaining clarity on what the most important things to notice are.”
“What are the most important things to notice about yourself?”
“These are the most important lenses I’ve identified so far:
Lens of Expansiveness
When you’re focusing your attention on something and when lost in thought, your field of awareness collapses and you lose touch with your sensory awareness.
Use the lens of expensiveness to do awareness checks throughout the day.
Question: Are you expanded or contracted?
Practice: Meta-Awareness, Expanding Awareness, Peripheral Vision
Lens of Posture
There’s an optimal position of the head on top of the spine – one of the core insights of the Alexander Technique. When you find this sweet spot, the result is lightness; it feels as if the head is floating over your shoulders. Some people describe this feeling as ‘antigravity’, or ‘freeing the neck’. This is the key to posture.
To discover the sweet spot, imagine a thread that runs from the top of your head all the way down through your spine, and gently pull the thread up. Relax your shoulders. Feel your spine lengthen. Chest up, chin down.
Use the lens of posture to do posture checks and free your neck throughout the day.
Question: How is your posture?
Practice: Alignment, Body Awareness
Lens of Breathing
Emotional states influence our natural breathing patterns. By changing your breathing pattern, you can change your state. Slowing down your breathing has a calming effect.
Use the lens of breathing to do a breath check every time something disturbs your inner balance.
Question: How is your breathing?
Practice: Breath Awareness, Conscious Breathing, Body Awareness
Lens of Feelings
Emotions are nothing more than physical sensations that have been named and have had a story woven around them. To deal with any unpleasant emotional sensation, always choose awareness over avoidance.
Another important physical sensation is muscular tension. Releasing muscular (and mental) tension helps you relax. Tension is often located in the shoulders, neck, and face.
Use the lens of feelings to fully experience your emotional sensations and to notice muscular tension.
Where are you feeling this emotional sensation in your body? What was the trigger?
Where are you holding tension?
Practice: Body Awareness, Body Scan, Non-Judgmental Awareness, Non-Doing [<link; medium read], Relaxation, Letting Go
Lens of Thoughts
Everything we experience is influenced by our thoughts. Our thoughts create our reality.
We view reality through a filter of meaning. Everything we experience is an interpretation. Change your interpretation of something, and your experience of it changes.
Use the lens of thoughts to notice your thought patterns. Notice judgment [<link; short read], assumptions, ruminations, desires and expectations.
Question: What kind of thought pattern is this? Is it resourceful or unresourceful?
Practice: Metacognition, Non-Judgment, Letting Go”