Awareness as Energy

In the popular movie "Groundhog Day" the hero finds himself living the same day over and over again -- until he gets it right. In one scene, he is simply walking down the street, wrapped up in his own thoughts. He trips over a hole in the sidewalk. The next day, which is the same day repeating itself, he does it again. We know he knows it's there. We watch him do it time after time. The fourth or fifth time through his day, he finally gets it right. He steps around the hole.

We spend a lot of energy falling into old familiar holes and climbing out again. It seems almost impossible to see them coming, to step around them. Sometimes we spend years in one, and climb out only to fall right back in. This falling into holes, getting stuck and climbing out takes a lot of energy. That's why developing awareness is such an important factor in conserving and using energy.

Awareness is that in us which knows, thinks, feels, perceives, remembers, chooses, daydreams, feels. Traditionally western thought has located this awareness in the brain, but modern scientists are discovering what many ancient cultures knew all along: that there is an awareness that pervades the human body and indeed all sentient life. Our cells respond to visualization; prayers and music influence the growth of plants. Modern physics puts forward the theory that phenomena at the subatomic level only come into being when observed. Many psychologists and anthropologists have acknowledged the power of observation: the very act of observation changes the phenomena being observed. As we begin to observe ourselves, we begin to change, something new comes into being.

We have an abundance of awareness available to us. The human mind's capacity to perceive, synthesize, understand and create is truly awesome. We don't have to "develop" awareness, we simply have to access it. Meditation is a doorway into a greater awareness. You can literally invite that awareness to come to you, to be present in your life. To name something calls its energy present; this is the principle behind the ancient practice of invocation. We begin this next meditative exercise by invoking awarenessAs you begin this awareness meditation, sit down quietly, in any comfortable posture. Say out loud whatever words you choose to invoke awareness: "I now invite the presence of awareness to come to me." "I ask to experience greater awareness in my life and my relationships with people." Use the words that feel right to you. Breathe deeply for a few moments and then allow the breath to settle into a normal rhythm. Become aware of your self.

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Begin by experiencing the breath moving in and out of the nostrils. Feel it. Identify it. Think to yourself: "Breathing."

Become aware of your mind noticing the breath. "Noticing." Allow the mind to travel through the body, noticing any sensations in any part of the body. Identify them. "Itching." "Pain." "Tension." Notice the mind noticing the sensation. If the attention wanders and you begin to daydream, or become involved in thoughts of past or future, simply note it. "Daydreaming." "Planning."
Don't force your mind back to attention; it will naturally wander off and naturally return. Note the movement of the mind in and out of many states of emotion, reaction, judgment. Notice that no matter how you resolve to pay attention, you find yourself in some world of fantasy, thought, feeling. This is the automatic nature of the mind. By practicing attention, you become more conscious.

This practice also develops your power of choice. Over and over you choose to come back to a place of awareness.
Notice how your field of awareness widens and becomes more sensitive. You are simultaneously aware of sounds outside, sensations in the body, thoughts in the mind. You are aware of being aware. This meditation opens the doorway into yourself and the vast universe that exists within you.

Practice it for as long as you like, quietly breathing in and out. It can be done for a certain amount of time every day, or for a few minutes throughout your day.

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Often people actually lose energy through meditation because they develop a tense relationship with it. Don't force yourself. This meditation can give you a huge amount of energy if you stop for a couple of minutes regularly during the day, close your eyes briefly and connect with your awareness.

This basic meditation, which comes from the Vipassana, or Insight, tradition of Buddhism, can also carry you into another level of awareness meditation, that of self-inquiry. This is a practice in many spiritual traditions. As you meditate and experience an expanded awareness, the question, "Who is it that is experiencing all of this?" will quite naturally arise. It is a great mystery. Who am I? What is it that thinks, feels, perceives, hears? As one sits with that question, one's sense of oneself begins to expand. A spaciousness arises in the mind. You begin to see that whatever you are, it is more than the thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, hopes and fears, likes and dislikes.

That spaciousness is another key to having more energy. Many people these days feel crowded: by other people, the demands of their lives, their own inner state. Self-inquiry allows one to detach for a time from all these elements of one's life and dwell in a greater space, the space of awareness.

This practice of self-inquiry challenges our fundamental notion of self. We lose a lot of energy in self-consciousness, wondering what others are thinking of us, comparing ourselves, judging ourselves. To question the fundamental concept of what this self is, to explore it from many perspectives, begins to loosen the tightly held habits of self-judgment. It is important in this meditation that you do not try to arrive at an answer. Simply sit quietly, follow the breath, note the sensations and then allow the attention to shift from the sensations to the question "Who am I? Am I this personality, this body, this collection of experiences? Am I my mind, my consciousness, my past, my future? Am I my thoughts and feelings? Am I what I do? Am I spirit, God, soul?" You will find your own pathways into and through this question. It will grow and expand, it will mirror and reflect, it will guide you deeper into itself. A great energy comes from this exploration, a freedom, a long as you don't look for an answer!

In the exploration itself many insights and understandings arise that will give you energy. Trying to find "the" answer will frustrate you. We also lose a lot of energy by trying to be something - some one defined unified self. The more you explore the self, the more you will discover it to be multi-dimensional, constantly changing, inconsistent, beautifully unlimited in its variations, its moods, its thoughts and feelings.

End this meditation with the thought "I honor this self." Breathe that thought deep into your body, your heart. Feel the energy of that honoring nourish you through and through.

In today's world we have an incredible capacity to deny our feelings and experiences. It is a defense mechanism that comes from living in an overwhelming world, full of painful experiences, confusion, dysfunction. Most of us learn to dissociate early in life, in our families, schools, jobs. So often we don't even know we're low on energy until we get sick. Then people will say, well, I guess my body is trying to tell me something. Meditation is a good way to listen to yourself, to get the messages before they become urgent and painful. The simple awareness meditation described above connects you with yourself.

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The practice of taking inventory on a regular basis can also bring you greater awareness and help you listen to yourself.After a few moments of experiencing your breath and entering a greater awareness, check in with yourself. How am I doing, mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually?

Rate your energy in each of those areas, on a scale of one to ten, with ten being full of flowing energy, one being completely drained and exhausted. Am I feeling mentally positive or fatigued and overwhelmed by negative thoughts? Am I physically tired or tense, or is there a basic sense of energy, health and well-being? At the physical level you can become more detailed and check out specific parts of the body, the different systems, i.e. digestive, reproductive, circulatory, etc. Or you can check with different organs.

As you pay attention in this way, you may already find your energy beginning to rise, or you may feel even more tired as you become aware of how tired you really are. Please note that the inventory is not making you more tired; it is simply putting you in touch. Check in with your emotions, what have you recently or are you at this moment feeling? And how is your spiritual energy? Is it flowing? Do you feel your connection with spirit, with a consciousness greater than yourself, whatever form that may take for you?Once you have done the inventory, then of course it's necessary to respond. The purpose of the exercise is not to depress or discourage, but to bring awareness. "My mental energy is really low, I need to relax, do some calming meditations." "My digestive system is really screwed up, I need to pay some attention to my diet." "I'm feeling really great physically; today would be a good day to do those things I've been trying to get done."

It is much harder to avoid taking care of yourself if you are inventorying regularly in this way. It's another way of honoring yourself. It's a practical way of loving yourself. People are often advised to love themselves and they haven't a clue how to begin to do it. Checking in regularly with many different aspects of yourself is a beginning. It's being courteous to yourself. With this inventory you have the opportunity to ask yourself how you are and to listen to the response.


A Few Words about Meditation

Following the Breath

Setting Boundaries and Conserving Your Energy

Awareness as Energy

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