“He who experiences the unity of life sees his own self in all beings, and all beings in his own self, and looks on everything with an impartial eye.” – Buddha
We all experience different forms of consciousness in our daily lives. Consciousness is experienced as a vast spectrum of awareness, ranging from completely unconscious to fully awakened. When we are operating from a lower level of conscious awareness, we may be feeling lazy, distracted, or bored. This state of mind may be useful in carrying out mundane chores, but it is not an optimal state of awareness for engaging in meaningful work.
We are unconscious when sleeping and (debatably) when under the influence of mood-altering substances. When in a state of unconsciousness, your true self is no longer present in the same way. Mindfulness is a tool that enables you to become more connected to the present moment and to increase your full awareness of your internal and external experiences. In this way, mindfulness and “flow” experiences are very high levels of consciousness. Entering into these states helps you to direct your attention towards goals and fosters self-discipline.
How to Become More Conscious
You don’t have to choose to devote your entire life to practicing mindfulness to become more fully conscious and present. In a recent article on regaining consciousness, five clear steps are outlined as a basic path towards becoming fully awake and conscious:
(1) Find your values
In order to build a meaningful and purposeful life, it is crucial to take the time to mindfully identify your true values. Having a clear sense of what matters most to you enables you to move through life in an intentional and conscious manner. Values act as guideposts that direct your behavior and shape your goals in useful ways.
Without a clear sense of your most cherished values, you may have the sense of going through life without a clear purpose or direction. Listen to your intuition about your true values. As you discover your values, try to ignore what you think you “should” value and instead focus on what truly matters the most to you.
Examples: Family, relationships, work, school, health, beauty, religion, comfort, money, determination, freedom, harmony, honesty, modesty, privacy, reason, success, support, truth, love, support, laughter, praise, justice, mercy, etc.
(2) Take control of your health
When you make the choice to become more mindful of your health, you are choosing to become more conscious of how your behaviors positively and negatively impact your health. Consider the way that your actions impact your physical, mental, and emotional health in various ways. The more that you choose to become aware of how your behaviors affect your well-being, the closer you move toward fully conscious and mindful self-awareness.
- Think of one thing that you can do differently this week to be healthier. It could be choosing to add a healthy habit to your weekly routine, such as exercise. It could also be choosing to eliminate an unhealthy habit such as cutting back on drinking.
- Implement mindfulness into your regular meals. Learn how to slow down as you eat and savor each bite. Become more conscious of the enjoyment taken from your meals, rather than eating quickly or mindlessly.
- Learn how to consciously connect with your body. Practice tuning into how your body is feeling, noticing areas of tension or stress. Increase your overall conscious experience through becoming more aware of your bodily reaction to thoughts, feelings, and events.
(3) Do work that matters
When you feel a sense of purpose and meaning behind the work that you do, your levels of happiness and well-being will rise. It is also important to feel that the work you do is aligned with your values and your core sense of who you are. When you really believe in what you do, you do your work with greater conscious awareness.
Do you typically feel rejuvenated and fulfilled by your work, or do you often feel drained and burned out? It is likely that there are times when you feel passionately connected with what you do, whereas other times you feel unfulfilled. What matters is that deep down at the core you feel consciously committed to your work in a meaningful and value-driven manner.
- Consider the things that you like and dislike about your current job. Is it aligned with your true values and identity?
- Begin to actively notice the moments when you typically get into a state of “flow.” What is it about these particular experiences that is so rewarding to you? How can you build on these experiences in the future?
(4) Master your mind with conscious thinking
- Acknowledge your biases and limited perspectives. Admit to yourself that you don’t “know everything” … even in your own field or line of work.
- Begin to look upon people and events from a more mindfully neutral perspective. Shift away from your regular way of approaching people and activities and choose to observe in as unbiased of a manner as possible.
- Make the choice to become an active or lifelong learner. Continually challenge your knowledge and assumptions. If you encounter something new, choose to learn more about it rather than brush it off. Expand your intellectual horizons.
- Choose to maintain an open-minded and curious stance toward your life. Cultivate your sense of awe and wonder with the world. Stay awake, alert, and engaged with your experience in an open and accepting way.
(5) Nurture conscious relationships
A vital step toward living a fully conscious life is increasing your awareness of your interpersonal relationships. Choose to observe and attempt to understand the meaning behind your typical patterns in relationships. Do you notice that you have a tendency to gravitate towards particular types of people? What is it about those people that attracts you? What benefits do you gain from the relationships that you seek out?
- Recognize the people in your life who take more from you than they give to you. Notice what people in your life drain your energy and emotional resources more than they add richness, meaning, and vitality to your life. How can you begin to consciously pay attention to these patterns in relationships and actively work towards changing them?
- Choose to move towards people that make you feel better about yourself and are concerned with helping you move closer to your goals. These are people who actively encourage you to pursue your dreams, respect your values, and are concerned with what is in your best interest rather than their own.
- Conscious relationships require you to invest time and positive energy into them. Decide what relationships in your life are valuable and make the choice to cultivate and protect them. Notice what relationships in your life are not valuable and choose to either alter that relationship or stop devoting your energy and emotional resources to it.
If you have the tendency to go through life on “automatic pilot” a great deal of the time, making the choice to become more fully conscious can inject your life with much-needed meaning, vitality, and purpose. Even if you have spent a great deal of your life simply “going through the motions,” you can make the choice right now to begin to develop new habits and ways of being in the world. Take the time to examine your life in a new way, develop healthy habits, and live a values-driven life. Notice the difference.
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Featured image: The Wizard by seanmcgrath / CC BY 2.0