We live in an age of overstimulation. Our minds are constantly bombarded with information on a daily basis, be it through media, cell phones, Internet, television or radio. Whether we like it or not, our subconscious mind is receiving and downloading these messages and storing it for later use.
As Freud described, our mind is made up of the conscious, subconscious and unconscious.
The conscious mind, or consciousness, is made up of only 10 percent of our daily activity, which functions as awareness of something.
The subconscious is 50-60 percent, which is where we store and can recall any information or recent memories.
The unconscious mind is 30-40 percent is where our memories and past experiences reside.1
The conscious mind determines the actions, the unconscious mind determines the reactions; and the reactions are just as important as the actions.” – E.Stanley Jones
The way we respond to situations in life trigger our unconscious mind where we have stored our past memories and experiences. These feelings and emotions cause our reaction in the present moment.
Without practicing and implementing conscious awareness, we can easily fall into the trap of unconsciously recreating habits, behaviors and the same old thought patterns over and over again. Have you seen the movie Groundhog Day with Bill Murray? This is a great depiction of how we can create this same reality over and over again! This movie was a funny, yet scary way to see that it’s not too far fetched from our real world.
So how can we create a reality with more conscious awareness? Meditation.
In my previous article on the rise of mindfulness, I mentioned meditation as a way to cultivate conscious awareness and thought I would elaborate and share my own experience with it in order to bring more perspective to the topic.
Here’s my story…
Over the past four years, I have found meditation to be incredibly useful for creating a more conscious life filled with positivity and purpose. It has helped me to think clearly, understand myself better, respond to situations more calmly and make better decisions that impact the world around me in an impactful way.
It was 2013 when I was first exposed to meditation. I travelled to Seoul, South Korea to teach ESL English for one year. Although many Koreans have no formal association to religious organizations, Korean Buddhists makes up about 15.5 percent of the population. 2 During my year there, I took part in a three-day temple stay at a Buddhist temple. We partook in various activities at the temple including meditation. This was my first time experiencing this type of practice and throughout our first 30-minute session, I found it extremely difficult to stay sitting for longer than a few minutes without my leg falling asleep, back aching or opening my eyes.
However, the entire experience opened my curiosity to meditation. As I read and learned more about Buddhism, to me it felt like a simple way of life. I really resonated with the teaching and meditation intrigued me as a great technique to help slow down the mind.
During my time abroad, I also had the opportunity to visit Thailand. I was awestruck with this lush land. The complete opposite from fast-paced Korean life, Thailand was incredibly chill and laid-back. I was so fascinated with the culture and hungry to learn more, so I decided to volunteer at ‘Mindful Farm’ in northern Thailand. In exchange for volunteering each day on the farm, Pi Nan (the ex-monk who ran the farm when I was there) would teach us about Buddhist life; buddhism being the main religion practiced in Thailand.
We practised yoga, feasted on organic food grown on the farm and practiced meditation three times a day.
My last day on the farm was one that will stay with me forever: my first full day of silent meditation. It was a challenging day filled with ups and downs, crying, releasing, but also understanding a little bit more about myself and how I perceived the world around me. Even to this day, I try my best to apply those teachings in my daily life here in Canada, implementing yoga and meditation techniques as often as I can.
Then, last year I partook in a 10-day silent meditation called Vipassana. If I thought the one-day of silence was challenging, boy was this experience life-changing. Vipassana is one of India’s oldest techniques of meditation taught 2,500 years ago. Almost 12 hours a day of meditation taught me a lot about self-awareness and how slowing down the mind encourages a state of calm and peace in response to life’s problems.
In my own experience, I have learned that this form of self-awareness is a way to get in touch with your feelings, release deep rooted issues and focus the mind to encourage decisions from a place of consciousness rather than impulse. It has helped me to become more aware of my own thoughts and bring more mindfulness to my everyday experience, positively affecting all areas of my life.
Now, I’m not here to preach meditation to anyone unless you feel called to initiate it yourself. However, in my experience I do believe that cultivating self-awareness brings you closer to a stream of conscious thoughts that leave you feeling, well, GOOD. I also believe that in order to shift our planet to one that fosters positive change, growth and mindfulness, a practice like meditation is quite beneficial to increase this conscious awareness.
If you’re curious to try, here are some easy tips that have helped me. I also provide some ideas of you can apply this type of practice to your life:
(Disclaimer: these are only tips from what I have learned and have been taught on my own journey – I am not a certified meditation instructor)
1. Find a calm and quiet space.
It’s best to find a place where you won’t have any distractions. Turn off your cell phone and sit in a position that is comfortable for you: either sitting on a chair with your hands on your lap, or on the floor crossed legged. It is best to have your spine straight, close your eyes and breathe.
Relax the body and focus on your breath. Let your stomach expand as you inhale and retract as you exhale. As you do so, feel into the body. Let go of any thoughts, visual images and just be.
3. Let it go.
Initially, I thought that meditation meant stopping the mind from thoughts – until I learnt that is utterly impossible! Meditation is not about stopping your thoughts, but instead letting your thoughts come and go like the clouds. When you realize you have a thought, let go of the thought, let it pass and don’t let it consume you. Instead, FEEL into any part of the body. By doing so, you are bringing your awareness to the present moment within the body and learning to focus your attention to what is happening now – instead of a thought in the past or future.
4. Observe your thoughts and feelings.
As a conscious watcher, observe where your mind is wandering and what feelings are coming up. Don’t judge, just observe. Remember not to let the thought consume you, simply listen to what is coming up. Remember that the goal of meditation is to bring ourselves to the present moment. The mind is constantly taking us out of this moment and into the past or future. By focusing on the feeling in our body, we are taken back to the present.
There is never a time when your life is not “this moment.” – The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle
5. Your inner world creates your outer world.
One huge thing I have learned is that whatever is going on inside of our minds, is correlated to what is happening in our external world. By slowing down the mind, you are giving yourself the space you need to create a state of calm, which will be reflected in your reality and how you react to everything in your life.
Nothing has meaning except for the meaning we give it.” – T.Harv Eker
6. Consistency is key.
As with anything in life, the more consistent you are with something the more it will have a greater impact on your life. Don’t overwhelm yourself with finding the time commit to 30 minutes every single day. Start small. Even 5-10 minutes a day of meditation will prove to be very beneficial. Then you can push yourself to try for longer. Don’t be hard on yourself and remember to congratulate yourself along the way!
Apply these techniques of feeling into the body with everything you do: feel your feet on the ground as you walk, feel the sensation in your hands as you touch different items and feel into your stomach as you chew and digest your food. As you monitor and self-observe the body continuously, you are practicing meditation with everything you do! So, it doesn’t always have to be you sitting down in a chair in order to bring yourself into awareness of the present moment.
I am definitely no expert, but the advice here is what has worked in my life by applying a simple 5-10 minute a day meditation, moving me away from a life of anxiety and stress and one with more happiness and positivity.