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Awareness & Presence - Journal Exercise

I thought you might find this exercise an interesting way to distinguish between awareness and presence. When you conflate the two, you get present moment awareness. LOL. For this exercise, you'll need a stopwatch or alarm, paper & pen, or you could opt to dictate to a notes app if easier.

Part 1 - Awareness

When I teach people how to meditate, I often begin with having them monitor their thoughts - bringing AWARENESS to what's happening in their mind. The reason for this... the number one complaint I hear about meditation is, "I can't quiet my mind." Perhaps the most advanced yogis, rishis and monks can get to a completely blank mind, but for the average person (myself included), that's a lofty goal.

The goal of meditation isn't to have no thoughts. It's to bring awareness to your thoughts and allow them to exist without attaching to them.

That means you don't interpret, judge, create stories, or follow your thoughts to a conclusion. You simply witness them and allow them to float away. So let's get to it...

For this part of the exercise, I'd like you to write down or dictate everything you are thinking for 3 minutes. You'll need a completely quiet location and be sure to turn off all notifications if you choose to dictate to your computer or an app. As you record your thoughts, keep in mind they don't need to be long sentences; it can be as simple as one or two words or a phrase. Just enough context to help you review what you wrote at the end of the 3 minutes. You are only writing down what pops into your mind, and it's ok if it's a recurring thought. It's very important NOT to judge the thoughts; just record them.

When you are finished, review your list and place a #1 next to any thought you value as important and a #2 next to anything meaningless or unimportant. Calculate the total number of thoughts in each category.

Now review your entire list again, and then divide the thoughts into two categories according to how much time you gave each thought. Take notice of which thoughts you lingered on longer than the others.

For this next step, only write down or circle the thoughts that fit into both categories: lingered and unimportant.

Each time you do this exercise, see if you can decrease the overall number of thoughts, the number of unimportant thoughts and if you can elongate the pauses where there is pure silence and stillness between thoughts.

Where your thoughts go, energy follows.

Part 2 - Presence

When we are still, calm and aware of our thoughts, we become more present in the moment. To me, presence is recognition of the physical & mental response to the stimulus of the moment without feeling the need to react. It's acknowledging both the thought and the corresponding place in the body where you feel the thought, and then taking a pause before acting. It also means you aren't spending time mind surfing or distracting yourself from the immediate environment: people, place, content, etc. You are intentionally placing your focus and attention on what you are presently in contact with and not thinking about a future outcome or response.

You're intention is to be indistractable from the present moment.

Let's practice.

For this exercise, you will set the timer for 5 minutes and sit still and quietly observe. I like this exercise because you can do it anywhere... coffee shop, office, park bench, home, restaurant, etc. You just have to witness your thoughts and feelings. Take notice of what you hear, see, smell, feel, taste and think about your current environment. The moment your mind begins to wander to activities, thoughts or people outside of this moment in space and time - stop the timer. FYI ... Distraction with your devices is not permitted during this exercise.

Now answer the following questions about your experience:

  1. How long were you able to stay connected to your immediate surroundings?

  2. What interrupted you?

  3. What did you notice about the environment?

  4. How did you feel as you were sitting there and silently watching?

  5. Did you become restless or anxious during the process?

  6. Did you fidget and move?

  7. Were you distracted or fully and intentionally aware of the present moment?

  8. Are you surprised by the outcome of this exercise?

For a bigger challenge, try doing this exercise while in conversation with someone or sitting in a meeting. See how long you can be fully attentive; placing your intention on being present. This means giving your undivided attention to the individuals in the room WITHOUT thinking about your position or response to the topic, and WITHOUT moving to a thought outside of the immediate conversation or environment.

Each time you do this exercise, see if you can beat your previous times.

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