Changing our behavioral patterns to regain our vitality takes time. Years. Therefore, it takes patience and consistent practice. If we are not fully engaged, believing in what we’re doing, the change won’t come. Then discouragement comes. So many people give up because of this. Because they are not earnest in their practice. Because they don’t give themselves the time. Start slowly, with baby steps. Separating our ideal into concrete, achievable goals which we can work with daily is what helps us see results, and thus stay motivated. Cultivating awareness manifests itself in many forms, from performing tangible actions to working with our inner self.
Firstly, set a daily goal to meditate for one minute. It can be when you wake up, when you have your lunch break, or before you go to sleep. Whenever. For one minute, dedicate your entire attention to focusing on your breath. The breath is important because it anchors us into the present moment. It gives us insight into what we are feeling. When we are angry, upset, or experience any disturbance, our breath is rapid and shallow. When we are calm and aware, keeping our equanimity, the breath is deep and harmonious. Use the breath as a tool to cultivate awareness.
At first, while meditating, thoughts will come. You will get lost in daydreams, and that’s normal. What’s important is to build the awareness to notice when you lose the breath. When that happens, patiently bring your mind back to the breath. Be loving with yourself. There’s no need to become frustrated. It’s a practice. Be careful with deluding yourself; it’s easy to do it without committing yourself fully, doing it only for the sake of doing it. But even so, establishing the discipline of doing it is powerful in and of itself.
Maybe there will come a point where you’ll feel like doing it for two minutes. Then five. Then ten and thirty and maybe eventually up to an hour. It doesn’t matter. What matters is the quality of the practice and the attitude. Don Miguel Ruiz makes an important point in his book The Four Agreements: “Just do your best – in any circumstance in your life. It doesn’t matter if you are sick or tired, if you always do your best there is no way you can judge yourself. And if you don’t judge yourself there is no way you are going to suffer from guilt, shame and self-punishment.” By doing our best we are loving ourselves, and giving ourselves the chance to become who we truly are.
This physical, tangible, practice of awareness is bound to affect our daily life. Be on the lookout for changes. Notice them, observe them, observe your feelings and observe your breath in those situations. Slowly, slowly, we let go of our desire to control our external reality. Simultaneously, we realize that by controlling our inner reality, we don’t fall prey to the external realities that used to cause us suffering. We realize that things, situations, and people come and go. We learn from them and go on without them when they no longer serve us; when they are no longer contributing to our evolution.
Letting go of the past and surrendering to what is happening now are extremely important to harnessing awareness. By holding on to things that have happened in previous realities, we are dispersing our mental capacity to be fully immersed in the present. We are limiting our ability to notice our feelings, our reactions, our behavioral patterns, and our breath. And if we don’t notice them, we can never change them. They are what caused us to be stuck in our cycle of suffering in the first place. They are what cause us to lose sight of ourselves.
Cultivating awareness is a lifetime’s work. Accepting that reality early in the process is crucial. We might never reach a point where we are fully present at all times, but the possibility is always there and to rejoice in the process is where the magic lies. The joy comes from seeing the changes in our relationships, our attitude and our vital energy. Happiness is within us, accessible to everyone, as long as we practice living in the Eternal Now.