The Enlightening Mat: Building Awareness
Okay so it's not an incredibly scintillating topic, but honestly building awareness could be the most crucial step you make towards cultivating inner peace. Building your awareness muscle is so essential that I wonder if that's why many people choose to avoid it. It's like carrot juice that you say you should be drinking, but sadly it's not in your shopping cart because coke seemed like a whole lot more fun. Awareness is so boring that it feels both difficult and easily avoidable all at the same time.
Taking a serious chunk of your life and using it to practice awareness requires energy and mental, physical, and spiritual discipline, and let's face it, in an on-the-go world, who has the time to dedicate to something so mundane as awareness?
Nevertheless, amazing artists, musicians, dancers, athletes, chefs, etc., all build their talents on top of awareness -- looking deeply and closely at things so as to notice what's happening and choose a response. However, you don't have to be trying for greatness to reap the benefits of building awareness. In fact, practicing awareness is a method for being less on auto pilot and more in the driver's seat of your own life.
One way I practice awareness, is going to Bikram yoga where I challenge myself to stay focused on my mind and body connection. I slip hundreds of times each class, but I also return equally as much to hearing my breath, noticing what my body feels, and listening to the dialogue of the teacher instead of the silly thoughts running through my head. A practice of awareness is first about paying close attention to yourself, confronting your language, beliefs, and behavior and when you've got this sorted out then learning to observe and react more objectively to the people and events in your life.
Awareness can change how you see and relate to others. Awareness can also help you eat healthier and choose behaviors and thoughts that contribute to your well-being. Awareness can become your foundation for all your actions.
The first half of my book Lemonade Mantras is focused primarily on building a solid practice of awareness through your thoughts, body sensations, feelings, and needs. After having worked the Lemonade Mantras process for several years, I now have a strong sense of what I am needing and how best to make it happen. I've finally gotten in tune with my body during stressful situations so as to come up with a multitude of actions instead falling prey to my normal reflex reaction. When someone says something that rubs me the wrong way, I finally have the skill set to step back and observe first what's going on inside of me and then empathetically guess what might be happening for the other person. Awareness can expand time and often leads to deeper more profound connections for you are taking great care to tune into yourself, others, and the moment.
If you reflect back on life experiences that provided the greatest clarity and connection, I'm guessing it was because you used awareness like a stethoscope on your heart and the hearts of others. However, don't kid yourself, awareness is a skill that requires practice just like going out for a run. You don't necessarily have to sign up for a class or read a book, but it helps to set your intentions and find time in your day completely dedicated to building awareness.
The Enlightening Mat is a blog series exploring moments of awareness that come to Beth Hemmila while practicing Bikram Yoga.
To shop for yoga charms that celebrate the different poses click here to view this blog post Sterling Silver Charms for Bikram Yoga Postures.