I Stopped Meditation and Stayed Mindful
My acting technique teacher always starts the class with a very simple, one-minute meditation:
We are told to stand still and notice our thoughts. Whenever we have a thought, we lift a pinky finger.
Then he uses a singing bowl and asks us to raise our hands when the sound is gone.
Then, we open our eyes, focus on a spot on the floor, notice the details, and sit down for the class.
I incorporated meditation into my morning routine after graduation. On some really stressful days, I had to stop and meditate. Even for just 5 minutes.
Meditation helped me through my most difficult times, but I stopped doing it a while ago. I realized meditation is a means to an end — mindfulness, and I found it more powerful to achieve through cultivating self-awareness.
Awareness VS Mindfulness
- What’s the difference between awareness and mindfulness?
According to this journal, the difference between mindfulness and awareness is that, while both refer to states of mind, mindfulness involves a lot more introspection and thought process adjustment. Awareness is more sensory-based and is the mental concept that allows us to be more present in the world around us. Both of these concepts feature in meditation practice.
2. How does awareness help with mindfulness?
In the exercise used by my acting teacher, the act of “lifting your pinky finger” is where awareness kicks in.
Imagine your mind as a water jug, and mindfulness is the clean, filtered water. Your awareness is the filter. Thoughts come up, get in touch with the charcoal, get absorbed, and only a stream of consciousness drips down into the jug.
If you want clean, pure water, use a water filter. If you want a relaxed, focused mind, develop your awareness.
What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself. — Abraham Maslow
The prefix “meta” means “beyond, along with”, so meta-awareness goes beyond awareness: To be aware of what you are aware of.
Meta-awareness refers to the ability to observe your thoughts, feelings, sensations, and impulses as they are happening. When you are meta-aware, you can be fully living in the experience while noticing how the experience is unfolding.
“The antidote for mind wandering is meta-awareness, attention to attention itself, as in the ability to notice that you are not noticing what you should, and correcting your focus.” — Daniel Goleman
Meta-awareness is also the key to stay out of auto-pilot. Besides experiencing the emotions, we are able to be aware of our thoughts that trigger the emotions. Then we have the choice to change.
Journaling is an incredibly powerful way to improve your meta-awareness. Set a timer of 5 or 10 minutes, and write down whatever is crossing your mind with no judgment. Do not stop writing until the timer goes off.
When you have meta-awareness in the driver’s seat, you will have all the power to use your mind to control your brain.
Engage Your Senses
Thanks to my acting training, I’ve learned to engage my senses and experience more fully in any situation. If you want your brain to serve you better, start with the source — your senses.
Our five basic senses (taste, touch, smell, sight, and hearing) send information to our brains for perceiving, understanding, and making decisions.
Most guided meditations help you engage with hearing and sensations, but we can practice all our senses in day-to-day life by slowing down and consciously “asking” our senses to work.
- Start with touching the container before you eat/drink. What’s the material/texture? How heavy is it? How hot/cold is it?
- Look at your container. What’s the color? Any patterns? Look at the food/drink in the container. Notice all the details.
- Smell your food/drinking before tasting. Chew slowly. Sip slowly. Pay attention to the sensation when you swallow.
Start this exercise with your next snack, meal, or coffee/tea/wine. You will be amazed by how much you missed when you were not fully engaging your senses.
“Nothing revives the past so completely as a smell that was once associated with it.”
― Vladimir Nabokov
- Meditation is a means to an end. Stay mindful is our desired result.
- Awareness is the filter, while meta-awareness is the monitor of our mind. They help us re-direct our attention and stay in the present.
- Engaging your senses is a simple and powerful way to stay present. It’s a muscle you can work on every day.
I no longer meditate, but I’m constantly living in a mindful state. Every moment in my life has more colors and matters more.
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