It's that time of the year again! The time of the year where people all across the world make New Year's resolutions, only to revert back to their old habits by February. The time of the year where people use the hashtag #NewYearNewMe, only to look extremely familiar a month or two later. What causes people to fail year after year at fulfilling their New Year's resolutions? Is it lack of motivation? Laziness? Actually, the answer is lack of present moment awareness.
What is Present Moment Awareness?
Present moment awareness is focusing on the here and now. It's giving full attention to whatever is in front of you. Most of us live in the future and the past. We think about mistakes we've made, or things we have to do next week. However, the only thing that exists is now. The past exists as a memory, and once the future arrives, it arrives as the present moment. Reliving past mistakes causes regret and despair. Worrying about the future creates anxiety. But there is nothing but peace in the present moment.
How Does this Relate to My Life?
Present moment awareness is important because it helps free us from our false ego. Think about a spacious room with furniture in it. The furniture gives the room character, but it is not the room. The actual room is the space that allows everything to be. Our ego is all of the things that we believe ourselves to be. It is the furniture in the room. This includes our personality, beliefs, and mental constructs. What we truly are is the space in the room. Now, imagine that this room is completely dark. When the room is dark, we have no idea of what is in it, and can trip over the room's furniture as we navigate through life. Present moment awareness allows us to see what's in the room, so that the room's content no longer blindly guides our behavior.
We don't create our own egos, our egos are actually given to us by our environment. As children, we are told we are either smart or dumb, pretty or ugly, etc. As teens we're told by our peers that we're either cool or nerds, fat or skinny, attractive or unattractive. After awhile, many of these constructs become part of our subconscious beliefs, and it's the ego's job to ensure that these beliefs are upheld so that we can retain a consistent sense of identity.
Often times our subconscious beliefs conflict with our conscious goals. This is why people self sabotage. A person who has the subconscious belief that they are fat and ugly may consciously want to lose weight and look better. But their subconscious belief of being unattractive conflicts with their desire to improve their appearance, and will hinder him or her from reaching their goal. The person may work out for a few weeks, but then start finding reasons to stop. Or a person may have a subconscious belief that they are poor. When they get money, they'll find ways to lose it. Maybe they'll gamble it away, spend it on unnecessary things, or even get into an expensive accident! We've all heard stories of people who lived in poverty prior to winning the lottery, only to be poor again in a few years. Or athletes from impoverished neighborhoods who make millions of dollars, only to be broke in retirement. The only way to identify your subconscious beliefs is through cultivation of present moment awareness.
How Do I Cultivate Present Moment Awareness?
A few ways to cultivate present moment awareness are through practices such as mindfulness exercises and meditation.
Mindfulness Exercises- Mindfulness involves giving full attention to everything that you do. Have you ever driven somewhere, only to realize that you were checked out for the previous few minutes? You were likely thinking about something that happened in the past, or something that was going to happen in the future. Being mindful involves being aware of everything that you are doing and thinking about in the present moment without labeling it. For example, when you eat you can practice mindfulness by simply experiencing the food without labeling the taste as good or nasty. Or if you get an unpleasant thought, allowing it to be without judging it as good or bad. Eventually, your subconscious beliefs will begin to bubble to the surface. You'll also notice what stimuli evokes these beliefs. Once you have this awareness, you can work around these limiting beliefs to achieve your goals. Here's a great mindfulness exercise you can try.
Meditation- While mindfulness involves allowing all things in, meditation involves focusing your concentration on a single item. Many meditative practices include focusing on the breath, a point of light such as a candle, or a mantra that is either said aloud or in your mind. As you meditate, focus on the attention item to the best of your ability. If you notice your mind shifting to something else (which will happen ALOT in the beginning), gently return your focus to the attention item without judging or criticizing yourself. After consistent practice, you'll soon notice that you'll be able to focus your attention for longer periods of time. You'll also get epiphanies about limiting subconscious beliefs. These insights can help you gain mastery over your barriers to achieve your goals. A great app for beginners who are interested in meditation is Headspace.
By cultivating a consistent practice of meditation and mindfulness, you'll learn a lot about what makes you tick. You'll gain awareness about what is hindering you from losing weight, managing your finances, or finding that special someone. You'll also get these health benefits. So, if you've failed at keeping up your New Year's resolutions in the past, make cultivating present moment awareness your resolution for the new year. You'll soon learn that it's the only resolution you'll ever need!