Part I of the Foundations of Mindfulness: The Principle of Self-Awareness
There has never been a better time to strengthen your ability to cultivate patience, compassion, acceptance, and non-judgment for others and yourself — all qualities that are foundational for successful mindfulness practice.
We’ll be starting our seven-part “Foundations of Mindfulness” series with the principle of self-awareness, and providing helpful tips for you to be able to implement these skills in your day-to-day life.
Listen to Muse Meditation Teacher Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D., Founder of the Mindful Living Collective and Creator of 21 Days to Relieve Anxiety Naturally, share why practicing self-awareness matters. Learn what it is, how to cultivate it, and how it can make a big impact on your life right now. Follow Elisha @Elisha_Goldstein.
So, What is Self-Awareness?
Essentially self-awareness is our ability to tune-in and consciously be aware of our own thoughts, emotions, and actions coupled with how our behavior affects others. At first, this may sound simple, but it actually takes a great deal of practice and skill to be able to call upon that consistent level of awareness.
For example, as you read this, are you able to tune into your current emotional state? Are you able to recall how you felt when you woke up this morning? How about how you felt after the last conversation you had? Life moves fast, and if we don’t take the time to build moments into our day to slow down and tune-in we can move through life on autopilot.
Every day, we repeat movements, thought patterns, and ways of interacting with others. In this repeated daily practice, we create automatic behaviors (some good, some bad) that have a tendency to stick. Whether it’s moving through your usual day-to-day activities, being confronted with difficult thoughts and emotions, or having conversations with others, we all have patterns of behavior that we act out over and over again… without fully recognizing the patterns we’ve created.
Why Should We Cultivate Self-Awareness?
We have all left a difficult conversation or made a quick decision in an emotional state with the sinking feeling that we wished we could have said or done things differently, had we been in a different emotional space or mindset.
By building your skills of self-awareness through meditation you can learn how to hit the “pause button” before reflexively leaning into bad habits or negative behavior patterns without noticing.
Self-awareness allows you to slow down and create space between receiving information, processing, and reacting – giving you the ability to check-in with your best self in real-time before responding.
Over time, hitting your “pause button” before automatic reactions will become more and more effortless, giving you the breathing space needed to check-in and recalibrate for the most compassionate course of action with yourself and others.
Honing your self-awareness is also crucial to being able to actively tune-in and take stock of your automatic biases and judgments so you can shift your day-to-day mentality towards compassionate awareness and acceptance.
Listen to our Attitudes of Mindfulness Collection on the Muse app, with meditations intended to give you tools to become more mindful and self-aware. Each meditation includes helpful instructions upfront to prepare for your practice.
Tips on Developing Self-Awareness
Self-awareness takes time and is a constantly evolving practice on tuning-in and tuning-up. Mindfulness teaches us to bring our attention to these patterns that we may not be aware of so we can consciously decide if we want to continue practicing them.
Meditation is the perfect tool to help you develop this mindful awareness by teaching you to tune into your mind, body, and breath. As you move through your day, take a few moments to check in with your thoughts and emotions at that moment. As you go through your day, practice this awareness a few more times and see if you are able to slowly extend the awareness to longer and longer periods.
Above all, remember to be kind to yourself and try to be aware, without feeling guilty or angry at yourself, of what you’re doing and thinking at any given moment.
Watch your thoughts like clouds passing through the sky, when they arise simply make a note that you are thinking. If you find yourself getting caught on a thought, try to bring yourself back to the present and remind yourself that they have no roots, no solidity. They are simply thoughts, not facts or realities.
Focus on the physical sensations of your body, your feet on the floor, the gravity that keeps you pressed comfortably to your seat, or the temperature of the room. Pay attention to any feelings in your body and quietly notice what you are sensing.
Maintain awareness of the breath. As you inhale say to yourself “breathing in” as you exhale say to yourself “breathing out”. Notice the sensation of air filling your lungs, your diaphragm, and just be mindful of each breath.
By bringing attention to your body and mind, you can begin to notice how you feel and how you respond at work, at home or in relation to others.