The same old story
It’s a hot, sunny day; you’re driving your car into work listening to your favourite album. You pull up to a junction when an oncoming car cuts in front of you, slams his horn, gives you the birdy and drives off… How do you react?
It’s a classic story that we have all experienced, whether as a driver or passenger. We end up angry, frustrated, annoyed, upset and completely baffled as to why a complete stranger would cut you up and give you the birdy, or beep their horn.
Holding onto the situation
What can happen here is we hold onto what just happened and repeat the story for the next few hours, the rest of the day or even longer. The reality is that the situation has happened, but at times our mind may have a completely different agenda and storyline/set of questions to add to it. It’s almost as if we have to create an added story to the situation: we may become defensive, upset and frustrated.
What if there was a way we could be ‘cut off’ from the situation; see the guy give the birdy, simply note how we feel and let it go? How would it feel to simply let it go there and then, and continue your day just as you intended before the incident?
There is a way to be more content, happier and at peace in life, even when the external situation may come with a whole host of challenges. Your freedom lies within awareness.
A schoolboy’s dream
A number of years ago I was completely fixated on wanting to be happy, just searching and searching for this happy state of being that would fulfil me forever. Where is it? And how can I attain it?
For as long as I can remember, I fantasised about arriving at the perfect place one day. Once I attained all that I wanted, I would get the ‘happiness civilian’ card and that would be it, like some sort of film. I’d become a professional musician, get a house, a car, have a family and poof, happiness would appear and stay.
As I came to learn, this didn’t turned out to be the case. This is what I call living in ‘tomorrow land’: you’re forever wanting and searching for happiness.
As we all know, life isn’t as black and white as my young schoolboy dreams made out. It’s a ride that features many ups and downs, where emotions, thoughts, feelings and circumstances constantly change. In fact, everything is constantly changing, something we all resist from time to time.
Stuck in a loop
So what do you do if you are feeling a little bit lost in all this? Maybe you’re unhappy, depressed, stressed or overworked?
Happiness can seem completely elusive if you’re struggling with any of the above – it’s the last thing on your mind when you feel overwhelmed by negative emotions. In society, most of us are rushing around trying to fill the void, trying to find happiness, but actually find that it vanishes under our feet just when we think we have found it. Many of us want happiness, whether we are aware of it or not. The irony is, it’s the wanting to be happy all the time that can cause unhappiness.
The honeymoon period
Everything in life has a honeymoon period. Whether it’s a new car, house, place, relationship, business etc. They all give us that burst of excitement and intensity. It’s beautiful and should be enjoyed.
But what happens when that begins to die off? This is when the work begins. At times, we can get sucked into a whole host of honeymoon periods, feeling like more and more things will boost our happiness.
This can last for a while, but eventually it catches us all up. It’s a bit like eating too many sweets; your stomach starts to feel off and your teeth begin to fall out. This is also true for success: it lasts for a very short period of time, so it’s very important to celebrate any successful venture. It’s also equally important not too hold onto it too much either.
Success and awareness – bringing it all together
For me, both perspectives have to be brought together. If we can bring awareness into all areas of our life, we can benefit when we are successful, or when we fail and need to learn. Remember, failure is an event, not who you are. If we can learn to love what is, stress begins to fall and we can then take greater action.
How to begin to step out of the loop – mastering the art of awareness and finding true happiness
Now, this doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy external treats and trips. They are all there to be enjoyed. But if we can find the underlying happiness within, we then have a far better foundation to manage negative thoughts and emotions when they arise.
Mastering the art of self-awareness in the following areas is is absolutely key here:
If we can hold awareness in these four areas, we open the gates to where happiness truly lies.
To start, a meditation practice – slowing down the traffic
Meditation is the cornerstone for developing awareness; the Tibetan definition is to know thy self.
Meditation can help you develop full mental, physical, and emotional awareness. By simply spending time observing your thoughts, you can learn a lot about how your mind is working during your day. You can then begin to observe feelings and sensations in your body, let them rise and pass.
Creating space between it all – stepping into a practice that works for you
Stepping into a meditation practice can be a little bit daunting at first. How do I start? What can I do? How do I even do it? .
How to note – noting with meditation and being mindful
The best way to start is simply noticing what comes in. If you keep your awareness very light, this will also help the process.
Begin to start noticing, ‘Ah, there’s a thought’ or ‘Aha, there’s a feeling’. This is a great way to start as it allows you to note the thinking or feeling without judgement. Just simply note it, see it and let is pass.
The best way to do this is within your meditation practice. As always, your mind may wander off, but you can note the feeling or the thinking as it comes and goes.
The breath and the inner body are two fantastic anchors for the present moment; as the mind begins to wander, you can use these two anchors once you note each sensation.
At first you may be shocked to see how much your mind wanders, but simply note it as a thought then come back to being present. By doing this on a regular basis, you begin to create space between yourself and the thoughts. Once you get the hang of this in your meditation, you can then move it to your day-to-day routine and notice when your mind wanders while you’re driving, washing up, shopping or at work.
Five tips to get started
- Once you are in meditation, begin to note what takes your mind away from the moment. Simply note it as ‘thinking, feeling’ etc but keep it really light, almost as if you are brushing a small feather against a glass
- Once you get comfortable with that, you can then get more specific about your labelling. ‘Ah, joy,’ ‘sadness’; just simply note it and come back to your breath or inner body
- If a feeling arises but feels stuck, expand your awareness and fully accept it, by simply stating ‘accept and let go’. Remember, some days you won’t have to move to this step as it will quickly pass – this is only if it feels slightly stuck
- Have a 15 second rule on the feeling. If you become very aware of the feeling, it will change – it may start as sadness and slowly move to anxiety, or even joy, then to excitement or love. One thing’s for sure, if you pay really close attention, it will change. This is a beautiful insight and can be one of the main windows to internal freedom
- Keep it light; thinking of it as a game of awareness can really keep the heaviness from the exercise
Try these first five tips and step into your greatness today!