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Cultivating Awareness by Jaye C. Levitsky

We have all heard or spoken the words, “where does the time go?”, “where was I as I drove home from work today?”, “where was I as I prepared dinner for my family?”, or “where was I during our game of Candy Land?” These types of experiences have been felt by each of us at one point or another. These little moments serve as a reminder of our absence from what is happening right now.

Why do so many of us struggle with staying in the present moment? The answer is simple. We validate ourselves through our thoughts. Any unresolved issues of the day are rehashed over and over in hope of resolution. If there is a discrepancy between our perceived ideal and our perceived reality, worry is present. This makes it all the more difficult to ignore that voice in our head offering feedback. The good news is that choice is always present. We choose the level of power we give to every single moment in our lives. Choosing to be consciously aware of our tendency to drift will do much to dissolve this inner dialogue. When we are fully present, our mind is not dwelling on the past which frees us to make better use of each minute of the day.

Learning Where Our Thoughts Go

In order to be present, we must first find out exactly where our thoughts go. Joel and Michelle Levey, founders of Inner- Work Technologies, Inc., offer the following exercise:

1. Sit upright in a chair with your hands on your knees.
2. Be still.
3. Allow your thoughts to pass through your mind without judgment. As they do, take note of them by tapping your knee with your fingers.
4. Tap the left knee to acknowledge thoughts relating to the past – the retelling of a story or event.
5. Tap the right knee when your thoughts explore a fantasy about the future.
6. Smile and sit quietly when your thoughts are focused on the present.

In this way, you begin to learn without criticism where you go when you leave the present moment and how often you are away. The same exercise can be applied to uncover the tone of your thoughts as well. Are your thoughts pleasant, unpleasant or neutral? Remember: just notice – do not judge or dwell.

• Tap the left knee to acknowledge pleasant thoughts of acceptance and appreciation.
• Tap the right knee when your thoughts involve speculation, anxiety and judgments.
• Smile and be still when your thoughts do not accept nor judge, but rather are neutral in value.

Once we have exposed our patterns, it is time to change our habits. Suddenly we are full of options. Ceasing inner dialogue entirely is not practical, but we can control its direction and intensity. When we become consciously aware, we begin to catch ourselves engaging in negative banter and hopefully replace it with positive thoughts of kindness about ourselves and others instead.

Improving Our Awareness

Mindfulness means paying attention in a significant way and even works when faced with situations that elicit strong emotions such as grief, anger or fear. Our automatic reaction is to protect ourselves from these feelings yet mindful awareness means allowing ourselves to fully experience these emotions and navigate them with grace and clarity. In this way we become more authentic, resilient, confident and compassionate. Here are some ways to improve awareness.

• Practice putting space between the activities of your day by pausing for a minute or two.
• Breathe. You do not need to change the breath but simply notice it.
• Sit still. Realign your attention. Straighten up and release your tension.
• Take it easy and just be present.

Reverting back to auto-pilot is commonplace, as is our tendency to react to everything around us. Accept these moments without judgment. It may help to periodically ask yourself, “am I awake?” and know that it will get easier. Do you recall learning to tie your shoes? It took a lot of conscious effort while you got the pattern down but eventually it became a simple task.

With awareness, time we once ‘wasted’ on mindless activities like taking a shower, driving home and waiting in line are suddenly reclaimed and replaced with a quiet stillness. We begin to see each and every moment as a gift to be cherished and our focus shifts to experiences of love, appreciation, compassion and centeredness. We recognize our deep connection to all of existence and open ourselves up to greater consciousness.

Jaye C. Levitsky holds a Master of Science degree in natural health and is a board certified naturopath. She can be reached at 544-0447 and has an office at Vastu Health at 17 Main St, Warwick. For more information, visit TheOpenBall.com.

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