Most people are externally directed and see themselves through other people’s eyes. In and of itself, this is not a bad thing, but if the only way you see yourself is from this very limited point of view, it can prevent you from seeing who you really are at your innermost self. If this external view is the only way that you see your self then the way you feel about who you are is strongly influenced by other’s opinion of you. If another person’s perception of you is something good, then you will feel good about yourself . But if someone’s perception of you is something you don’t like or is hurtful then this can be very destructive to your psyche and your inner happiness. If this leads you to make changes just to change others perceptions of you, then this leads to inattention to your innermost self and will lead to internal distress. The best, and really the only, reason for you to make changes to yourself (and thus your world) is if it will make you happy and bring you closer to your Pure Spirit – which is what I call our innermost self.
The first step in reconnecting with your innermost self is by learning self awareness. This is so much more than sitting down one afternoon and saying, “Well, how do I feel today?”(although this can be a good start). This is a process that takes effort and time. It is a commitment that you make to yourself to pay attention to everything that you think, feel, say and do. This practice will allow you to step outside of your actions and reactions by helping you to see what you are thinking and feeling and determining why you are thinking and feeling the way that you are at that moment. It takes a willingness to be absolutely honest with yourself and it forces you to be conscious at every moment. This practice also helps you to remain in the moment (or in The Now – which is a popular phrase these days) It can be difficult at first but it will become second nature with daily practice. This can and should be a very spiritually fulfilling process. Self awareness allows you to see what thoughts and behaviors are and are not serving you. After all, how can others understand you if you don’t understand you and how can you make the best decisions for yourself if you don’t know what you truly need or want? As you do this day by day you will find out more and more about who you really are at your Pure Spirit and you can work toward eliminating the things that you do not find serve you well which will allow you to nurture those that do.
A very simple exercise to start with is the practice of being physically aware of your body. Find a place where you can sit comfortably. I recommend sitting versus lying down because the point here is not to take a nap, although later you can certainly do that if it helps you to reach deeper states of relaxation. Close your eyes and relax. Concentrate only on your breathing. Take several deep cleansing breaths. After a couple of minutes of relaxation time bring all of your attention to your feet (or the crown of your head, either one). How do your feet feel? Do you sense tension or discomfort anywhere? If you do, focus all of your attention on relaxing the muscles in your feet. If there is discomfort, concentrate on what that feels like and try to replace that feeling of discomfort with a feeling of relief. Spend a few minutes on your feet, then move up to your calves and repeat the whole process. Pay attention to any feelings that may come up as you move through each part of your body because there are definitely feelings associated with the tension you are feeling. The ultimate goal of this practice is to move through your entire body. It’s okay if you only do the lower half of your body (or upper half) at first. It takes time to develop the concentration needed to move through your entire body. The more you practice the faster you will be able to move through your body. You will more easily identify spots of tension and be able to consciously relax your muscles in those areas. A side benefit of this practice is that you will feel fantastic afterwards because this practice leads to deep relaxation of your entire body.
Being more physically aware of your body and how it is feeling is a fantastic and simple way to start practicing self awareness. It will allow you to identify feelings that are associated with the tension in your body (because there are almost always emotions connected to how you are feeling physically) and it will show you where in your body you feel particular emotions. I use this practice quite often, especially when I am having a bad day. It helps me to realize what I am really struggling with beneath the surface. It’s great for stress relief when I am really deep into depression and anxiety. It also helps me to locate where I feel particular emotions. For example, I feel anxiety mostly in my back and shoulders . Interestingly, I feel both happiness and depression in my chest. Once you learn where you feel individual emotions, you can use that information to start to work through these emotions and get to a happier more peaceful version of yourself.