Developing Self-Awareness


Developing self-awareness is an exciting self-help skill to master. Personal growth and awareness go hand-in-hand since we first need to become aware of a problem before we can find a solution. Yet, being aware is also about so much more. Awareness is a foundation for life. The more aware we become the more life we can hold. And the more life we can hold the more alive we are.

There are many doorways to explore the inner journey to developing our self awareness. This article covers a few main 'highways' for you to experiment with and explore. If you practice and do the following three things your awareness will grow increasingly sharp and clear.

Be Mindful

"Life isn't lost by dying. Life is lost minute by minute, day by dragging day in all the thousand small uncaring ways."

~Stephen Vincent Benet

Developing self awareness is to a large extent a matter of developing mindfulness or increasing our capacity to be mindful.

The mind is always thinking about something. If it isn't thinking about today, it is thinking about yesterday or tomorrow. If it isn't thinking about us, it is thinking about others or about what others are thinking about us. If we aren't thinking about ourselves or others we might be thinking about world affairs, the latest nutritional, social or scientific theory or at least one million other potential things.

The possibilities and combinations of things to think about are endless. We may even think about deep thought provoking questions on self-awareness itself - which in this case would be designed to awaken awareness rather than putting it to sleep.

Yet, we are often unaware of what happens to us while we are so busy thinking. We don't notice the tension that builds up in our body. We don't notice the muscles of the neck and shoulders tensing up. We don't notice the tightness of our chest and the restriction in our breathing. We don't notice the tightening of our jaw or our increasingly furrowed brow.

When we lose ourselves in thought we are no longer present. We lose touch with a living knowledge of ourselves and of life happening all around us. Being absent to the body and life around us we become increasingly susceptible to accident or mishap. Our well-being essentially gets relegated to habit - which could be beneficial or detrimental depending on how well our habitual ways fit the reality at hand.

To be present, to be mindful, is to take a step out of the mind. So long as we are inextricably entangled in thought, developing self awareness will be difficult. At the same time, awareness is only always a 'step' away. Incorporating some of these mindfulness exercises into your weekly routine can be of assistance, as are many other resources you'll find for inspired life change on this website.

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Be Silent

Silence is a subject that doesn't often receive the attention and credit it deserves. Perhaps because it is so quiet ;-). Yet it is an important agent when it comes to developing self awareness.

We often think of silence as something lifeless, something dead. We see it as something that happens when nothing else is. We often try to avoid silence, since our mind is so good at filling in the void that silence creates. External silence means that we are left alone with our very noisy mind, which can feel very uncomfortable.

Yet, true silence isn't external. It is internal. It is the absence of self talk. As the famous Jesuit priest and psychotherapist Anthony De Mello once said, "Silence is not the absence of sound but the absence of self." It is the absence of self talk.

The absence of self-talk may be hard to imagine. It is hard to imagine not a single word being uttered in the mind. Not a single voice to be heard. No self-abuse or self-recrimination. No worry, fear or anxiety. Also no pep talks or self-congratulations. No hope or excitement about the future. Imagine nothing but spaciousness when you look inside. Nothing but a pervading peace that comes with the absence of mind activity.

This is the condition known as true silence or solitude. It is the complete absence of self talk. If you are fortunate enough to experience such a state, you will find yourself coming out of it rejuvenated like you've never been before! It will feel like you've just been on a wonderful vacation, the likes you've never realized is so accessible and close at hand. You will have taken a vacation from the ceaseless chatter the mind and its command.

One way to discover this silence, or absence of self-talk, is through an ongoing practice of mindfulness meditation. As with stillness, true silence can't be forced or created. It is experienced by stepping out of the mind. When self talk stops and silence is there we discover that we are so much more resourceful and alive than we ever thought. This developing self-awareness puts us in touch with true inner self in ways we hadn't experienced before.

The warrior within is brought to the fore.

Be Still

“One’s action ought to come out of an achieved stillness; not to be mere rushing on.”

~D.H. Lawrence

Most of the 'thinking' we engage in day-in and day-out and all day-throughout isn't really 'thinking' in the pure sense of the word. A large portion of it is more accurately described as inner self-talk or inner-talk.

This inner self talk is the constant activity of the mind. It is the ego. Whether we are walking, running, lying down or sitting still our mind remains constantly on the move. The ego never rests. How tiring! Why can't we just give ourselves a break? After all, we can bring the body to a halt whenever we choose to do so. Why is it that we can't do the same for the mind?

When inner self-talk stops or comes to a halt there is stillness.

Stillness isn't something we usually experience on a regular basis, yet it does come to us naturally from time to time. A breathtaking sunset, taking a stroll along the beach or walking through the woods. Perhaps we are sitting by a bubbling stream listening to the water gliding by.

It is during these times that we are taken quite naturally out of the mind.

In these moments of stillness we become totally aware. A freshness enters our being and a new quality of life is born. The more stillness we experience the more awareness awakens in us. False self comes into view - yet without the power it usually has over us.

Nature is a great catalyst for stilling the mind. Yet, there are also awareness exercises that can bring us to the brink of stillness. The practice of meditation is one such awareness exercise. There are many others.

Each person should find the mind-body discipline that suits them best. Whatever practice inspires you - that will be the path for you to follow.

Enter One Door - You've Entered Them All

You've probably noticed that mindfulness, stillness and silence aren't mutually exclusive. They all contain significant overlap. Each one of these doors is enough to lead us out of the mind. Experience and practice one of these and you will most likely start experiencing more of the others as well.

It is important to remember that awareness lies outside of the thinking mind. Thus, if our aim is developing self awareness then we do well to make room for more mindfulness, stillness and silence in our lives. All three consist of stepping out of the mind. This is the essential habit to cultivate.

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