A few years ago I dreamt that Lord Krishna held open the door of this beat up car with a smile on his face with the look of “are you going to get in?” And all I could think was, “this is my chariot?”
Becoming self-aware involves finding an appreciation for the balance in our outward and inward environments. Where it may be easy to find balance most of the time, there are times that we find we lose it. Taking a moment to understand why we are unbalanced can help us find our way back to balance. It is important to understand that we are constantly moving in and out of this state of balance. Everything that we experience affects us on some level and the way we respond improves our balance. Discovering self-awareness can help us find equanimity both on and off the mat.
Ways to Develop Self-Awareness
Get into your body.
Finding movement through any form of exercise is the quickest way to develop self-awareness. Show up for your practice and get into it. Allow yourself a child-like sense of abandon to experience your imperfections as much as your perfections.
I attended a teacher training this weekend which emphasized teaching and practicing poses more mindfully.
Being mindful in our practice is not about performing the perfect pose that looks like a picture on social media, a textbook, or like anyone else.
Cultivating a mindful practice is about observing how our body responds to a pose and how we can thoughtfully achieve the intent of the pose without sacrificing the pose.
Sit with your pain.
Use meditation as a tool to shift the intensity of your outward emotion and provide clarity about what you experience. Allow yourself to observe, process and validate your emotions and reactions. When we share our distress with another before turning inwards, we disperse the energy of what we are feeling. By taking a moment to sit with our pain we can tap into our personal information system to acknowledge our situation.
I used to participate in a weekly group meditation circle with a gifted teacher who taught heart-centered meditation from the Taoist tradition. During these sessions, my teacher would tap my chest and remind me to focus on my heart. I had the hardest time with this and it was often because I was over thinking how to focus on my heart. I would try to cultivate thoughts of love, however I still had a difficult time connecting. Then one day my teacher told me to just sit with my pain. She encouraged me to sit with the anger I was feeling and it was definitely much easier to connect to my anger than my heart. As I sat in the group filled with the support of more grounded individuals and worked through these emotions silently, I noticed things shift in my outer environment. As these external forces changed over the coming weeks, I was able to soften and connect more with the subtle energy of my heart. It was as though I was breaking down the superficial walls built up around my heart, allowing it’s energy to finally come through. It was then easier for me to clearly share why I was angry with trusted friends once I understood why I felt this reaction.
If you are interested in understanding more about these techniques and principles, please refer to this article about 3 Taoist meditation techniques.
When our mind feels restless, the practice of bee breath (brahmari pranayama) assists us in lifting our mood from low to high, clearing the mind, calming anxiety, relieving stress, and with vertigo. There are several variations of bee breath and the one explained here is the easiest to follow. You can repeat this practice for 1-3 minutes as is comfortable. The basic steps are to close the senses by closing the eyes and pressing the inner ear cartilage (but not poking fingers into the ear canal). Then you will want to inhale and as your exhale make a loud humming sound like a bee. This is very effective in balancing the internal sensory organs. You can also practice silent bee breath, without the sound on exhale.
Cultivating self-awareness is akin to self-care. This year I finally decided to get checked-up on several issues that I had been ignoring for several months and to my surprise my doctors concurred that my ailments could be solved with a regular meditation practice. As happy as I was that they were not eager to prescribe my issues away, they harped on the fact that I knew my body well and the only course of action was to do what I knew how to do. As life has a way of throwing a monkey wrench into the best laid plans, I can only heed these welcome reminders and hope to practice reclaiming my balance.
See you on the mat!