5 Unexpected Moments in Daily Life That Can Bring You Into Awareness
By Natasha Friedman
Are you aware right now?
Who is reading these words?
Who is looking at this screen?
If you are striving for real transformation, your meditation practice has to extend off the cushion. It has to permeate every minute of your life.
You don’t want to be peaceful and present only while meditating: you want it all the time. If you go deep in meditation but run on autopilot the rest of the day you have missed half the point of the practice. You may even create a schism in your personality.
On the flip side, the more you maintain awareness in daily life, the easier it will be to reach higher states of consciousness in meditation. This is your foundation, your springboard from which to fly.
5 Times to Come Back to the Heart
The ideas below are suggestions to experience more awareness during your normal activities.
You will see that even mundane moments can provide a window to the Self. Although I’ve only put my top five here, these opportunities are infinite.
The only limit is your imagination.
I put this one first because it merits its own sloka in the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra, one of the most important texts of Kashmir Shaivism. This unique book, framed as a dialogue between Shiva and Shakti, presents 112 techniques for recognizing Reality, mostly from within the realm of the senses and daily life.
The techniques range from fairly esoteric meditations to the surprisingly down-to-earth: staring at the sky, relaxing on a swing, and thinking about your lover are mentioned.
Food meditation is sloka 31:
“If one concentrates on eating and drinking and the happiness obtained by that joy of taste, from such contemplation of enjoyment arises the state of fullness, which then becomes supreme joy or bliss.”
You might often spend hours thinking what you will have for lunch, but when it comes time to eat, you’re so distracted by thoughts, conversations, checking your phone, or planning dinner, that you barely notice what goes into your mouth.
“Bliss is only one. That happiness or bliss [ananda] is itself God. Our natural state is bliss. Because this is experienced externally, through various sensual enjoyments, various names are given to it. […] [The jnani] enjoys all the happiness enjoyed by everyone in the world as his own bliss of Brahman [Brahmananda]. Brahmananda is like an ocean. The external types of happiness are like the waves, foam, bubbles, and ripples.”
Eating is one of the most basic external sources of happiness in human existence. Since any mundane pleasure is just a partial reflection of divine bliss, paying attention to it can remind you of what’s casting the reflection.
So once in a while, take yourself on a lunch date and practice mindful eating. Sit alone without reading or doing anything but enjoying the food. Allow yourself to experience every flavor and sensation. They will take you naturally into meditation.
2. Walking through a door
A classic way to train yourself for more continuity of awareness is to anchor it in triggers that you encounter regularly throughout the day.
First, find the best way for you to come immediately back to yourself. This might be asking yourself “Who am I?” It might be feeling the life in your chest, or tuning into your breath. It may be simply closing your eyes and evoking the sense of pure being.
Whenever you walk through a door, use it as a reminder. It’s similar to reality checks that you can do to encourage lucid dreaming.
Gradually, as you come back again and again to Self-awareness, this state will become your normal way of being.
3. Brushing your teeth
Brushing teeth is such an automatic action you might not even remember doing it. Maybe I’m just spacey, but many times I’ve walked out of the door and locked it behind me only to have this horrible moment of, “Oh no, did I forget to brush my teeth?”
This makes it all the more interesting to bring awareness to it.
There are so many sensations in this simple, forgettable act. Tuning into them is like opening to the infinity within daily life. That’s the beauty of this divine manifestation: no matter how deep you go, there is no end to the details and permutations, always changing and blossoming within the space of the witness.
Twice a day, this can be a two-minute meditation. Try to focus only on what you’re doing with the toothbrush, treating the action with as much care as you would give a yoga asana, and ask, “Who am I? Who is feeling this?”
What do these feelings in your mouth become when you take away the story about them?
4. Taking your first barefoot steps in the morning
Your feet are so sensitive. They might be calloused, but when they touch the ground first thing in the morning they are like the feet of a butterfly tasting a flower.
They receive every detail of the ground below and of your body above them. How much can you feel when your mind is open?
You can practice so this becomes a reminder to start the day off on, well, the right foot. As soon as your toes hit the ground, come into the present.
Come into the Heart.
5. Doing something you mildly dislike doing
Daily chores can also be opportunities for developing awareness. They don’t have to be something you hate necessarily, just boring tasks that you frequently have to do and never enjoy. Washing dishes, for example.
A funny thing happened when I started paying attention to how I washed the dishes. I don’t really like doing it; in fact, I usually feel annoyed when I get stuck washing them yet again. But one time, I started watching what actually happened during the chore.
There are physical sensations, dishes in my hand, and the sound of water. There’s the smell of soap.
There’s water running over my hands.
There are also stories playing in my mind about how frustrating it is, how much I hate washing dishes, how unfair it is that I’m always the one doing it.
And yet, in this openness to the present moment, I can’t find what I hate so much about washing dishes. Instead, it’s just an experience of being, like any other. Just being, exactly there, in that moment, with those dishes. The annoyance disappears into simple joy.
It’s interesting to see how when you feel boredom, frustration, or distaste for what you’re doing, it’s really just a lack of presence. Being fully aware in any moment, tapping into the flow of life unfolding through that particular activity, can actually reveal the Stillness behind it.
Natasha is a Hridaya Yoga student and a frequent contributor to our blog. You can read all her posts here.