Awareness is energy. Stress is energy. At times, they can be conflicted. Stress can close our awareness to a challenges only one way, with no way out. Closed awareness is like wearing blinders, seeing only what’s directly in front of you. The two main stress emotions, anger and fear, can cloud over the potential for seeing alternative paths or solutions.
Many of my nurse coaching clients, when they first come to me, are suffering with confusion, not knowing how to get out of the rut they feel they are in. Listening to them, I have found they have similar stories. They use the same thinking or the same tactics to change their situation, or wait for the circumstances to change, so they can get some relief. These approaches are futile.
To create change, closed awareness needs to shift to opening awareness. The energy and focus shifts. The change is in the ability to alter our perceptions about the situation and our relationship to that situation. Opening awareness is from the inside-out, which begins with our thoughts and mind. Our feelings are thoughts in the moment.
As we observe our thoughts and feelings, receive and interpret information through the senses, our awareness opens. It’s like taking off the blinders to develop a broader peripheral vision. We see more of the possibilities, opportunities, and abundant life surrounding us. Perceptions shift. When our perceptions towards life’s stressors change, we grow.
Over the years, I’ve taught simple practices to open awareness. My clients have reported feeling calmer and able to cope with challenging situations with more ease. They express a sense of connection, appreciation, and oneness with others and the world around them. It’s important to mention that there is no one-way to open awareness, and no one-practice better than another. Here are 3 practices I practice and teach.
Child-like curiosity. Young children live in present moment awareness, and are masters of observation.There is much we can learn by watching a child interact and engage with the world. Like a child discovering for the first time, be inspired to look at the unfolding world with wonder and awe. Adopt a playful attitude. Step out into nature and notice what each moment brings. Let all your senses fully absorb the experience. Observe your thoughts and feelings. Let go and connect with the freedom of simply being. Be in open awareness.
Journal. Writing our thoughts and feelings is cathartic. It’s a place to organize our thoughts, use our imagination and express ourselves. It’s hard to remember everything that happens to us, and how we resolved or evolved through certain situations. Keeping a journal lets you observe your growth, and changes in your thoughts, emotions and feelings, and beliefs. You get to know yourself on a deeper level. Writing can come naturally to some, and be challenging for others with not knowing what to write. Here are several questions you can ask yourself to stimulate your internal dialogue.
- What inspires me?
- How am I feeling right now?
- What’s important to me in life?
- What are my biggest stressors?
- How do I express my creativity?
- What do you find fun?
- What did I experience today?
- What are your memories?
- What do I dream about?
Tune-in. Intentional listening is a relaxing and spacious path to opening awareness. As a music therapist and sound healer, I know the influence of sounds on the body, mind and spirit. The following is a meditation to explore the awareness of sound. Set aside at 10-minutes or longer, if you prefer.
Sit in a comfortable position. Close the eyes. Bring your attention to the breath. Let the breath flow naturally. No forcing. No effort. Relax the body. Take several breaths in and out through the nose. When you are relaxed, gently shift your awareness and listen to the sounds around you. No straining. Simply listen. Are those sounds loud or soft, fast or slow? Do they stop and go? How many different sounds do you hear? Are they close by or far away. Let them fade in and out, without fixating on any one sound. Relax to sound symphony of the cosmos.
After a while, notice the sounds seem to be everywhere. Now imagine the mind has no boundaries. The mind is everywhere, expanding in every direction, like the sounds. Become aware of the vastness of the mind.
Now, as you listen to the sounds, notice any thoughts and images that surface? Let the thoughts and images come and go, just like the sounds fading in and out.
Notice in the mind’s eye, the awareness of the body is one of floating in space. Restful. Expansive. At peace. Rest in this state of open awareness.
Now slowly come back to the present moment. Bring your attention back to the breath. Feel the surface beneath you. Move the fingers and toes. When you feel ready, open the eyes.