Showing posts with label Meditating. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Meditating. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

How Self Aware Are You...Really? (Rosy the Reviewer's "Happiness Trilogy, #1)

No, this isn't one of those quizzes you find on Facebook like "What Kind of a Flower Would You Be?" or "If You Were a Kind of Pasta, What Would You Be ?
(I think I got rigatoni, but not sure). 

No, I am really asking the question.

I reserve my Tuesday blog posts for a rant when I feel one coming on.  And this Tuesday, I feel one coming on.

I blame it all on Oprah. 

This whole self-awareness, living in the present, self-help thing.  I used to poo poo such things, but now I meditate regularly and am taking not one, but two courses by two of her anointed ones: Brene Brown and Brendon Burchard.  I will check back in with you in a couple of months to see if I have achieved "better personhood."

All of that is to achieve more self-awareness.

Why is that important?

Because, in a nutshell, when you are self-aware you will be happier and so will the people around you.

I talk about it a bit in my blog post "A Little Meditation on a Little Meditation by an Unlikely Meditator" that I wrote back in 2014 - how most of us live our lives in a bit of a fog, living our lives, but not really being aware that we are living our lives, you know what I mean?

But there is more to it than that.

Self-awareness can take several forms. 

I have divided the concept into two realms:  one, the realm that includes getting in touch with your true self, that silent observer within, and two, being aware when you are being a dick, pardon my French.  I should have said "dique."
Let's start with the first one.

How often have you suddenly realized you were picking your nose in your car at a stoplight and then wondering if anyone noticed and thinking, "What was I just doing?"  How often have you been at the supermarket and realized you didn't remember putting those two gallons of salted caramel ice cream in your cart?

Because that, my peeps, is how most of us walk around. 

NOT self aware. We walk around with our heads in the clouds, our noses in our phones and our brains on hold.  Once in awhile we "wake up," and realize where we are and we might be present in that one moment when we realize we are picking our noses at a stoplight, but basically we mostly live our lives thinking about the past or the future or whether or not there will be another season of "Keeping up with the Kardashians."

Self-awareness is not the same thing as self-consciousness. 

Self consciousness is when you realize you are wearing jeans to a black tie affair or when a giant zit appears on your nose right before giving an important presentation at work.

Self-awareness is defined as "the capacity for introspection and the ability to recognize oneself as an individual separate from the environment and other individuals," and it happens when you slow down and take the time to be present in the moment.

When you are self-aware you are aware of your inner true self, your thoughts, emotions, and beliefs that govern you as you move through life.

And what is your true self? 

Your true self is that silent observer (some people call it the soul) that looks out through your eyes and notices that you are observing. All of those thoughts that run through your brain do not constitute your true self.  Your true self exists in those spaces between all of those thoughts. That's why meditation can be so helpful in becoming self-aware. When you quiet the thoughts and spend some time with yourself in the stillness, you become more aware of your true self.

But if you don't have time to meditate or it scares you, you can achieve the same thing by stopping yourself periodically during the day and thinking about what you just said, by noticing what is happening right in that moment.  What did I just say?  How did the listener respond? 

You can also spend a few minutes each day noticing sensations as you move around, touch objects or savor your food.  Taking a walk in a park, noticing the rustling leaves and the blue sky (unless you live in Seattle, then it would be gray sky) and the feeling of your feet touching the ground. You can also listen to soothing music or go for a run.  Anything that quiets your mind.

Or you can decide to greet your friends, loved ones and colleagues whole-heartedly, being present with them and giving them your whole attention.

Eventually as you become more aware and mindful, you are not just living your life, you are AWARE that you are living your life, but not in a self-conscious way. You realize that you are conscious, that you are part of the whole and that is where happiness lies.

And that is the whole point.

But the quest for self-awareness can also be all about the self, which is not necessarily a good thing and leads me to "Self-Awareness #2, which is really all about being self-aware of your actions and how they affect other people.

How often have you heard someone say..."I am self aware enough to realize..." That has become a catch-phrase for "I know what I am doing" or "I have it all together."

When I hear that I want to say, "Really?  Are you self aware enough to know that you are often not a very good friend?  Are you self-aware enough to know that you were just condescending to that waiter?  Are you self-aware enough to know that you were insensitive to your spouse when he shared something with you?  We should change that to "I am self aware enough to know that if I say I am self aware I am probably not."

This form of self-awareness, or lack thereof, falls more into the consideration and courtesy realm, but I realize that it takes self-awareness to know when you are pissing other people off, which hopefully would lead you to stop doing that.  Now you could say that you don't care and if that's the case, I hope you are self-aware enough to know that you are that kind of person, someone who doesn't care what your fellow humans have to endure when you are around.

Here are some things that show a lack of this kind of self-awareness:

  • Talking on your cell phone at the gym

---When you do that, are you aware that everyone in the gym can hear you arguing with your mother or begging your parole officer for another chance -- and that it is very annoying?

I'm not even going to get into talking on the cell phone in your car because I think that's a lost cause.  But I want to know...who are these people you are talking to that you can't wait until you see them?  I hardly ever get any calls that are important, and when I need to make a call, I can certainly wait until I get home.  I don't have to let the entire gym know about my new outfit or what a chump my husband is (not you, Hubby, I'm just using that as an example).  And why do people talk so loudly when they are talking on a cell phone?  It's like I am back in the 50's listening to my mother talking long distance.

  • In a very crowded parking lot, you get in your car, your brake lights are on and it takes you forever to pull out.

---When you do that, are you aware that people are waiting for your parking space?

What are you doing in there? Talking on your cell phone? Fiddling with your seat belt?  Picking your nose?  Just get in your car and get the heck out of that space so someone else can have it.

  • Always being late

---When you do that, are you aware that you are basically sending a message to other people that your time is valuable but theirs is not?

  • Driving slowly in the left lane

---When you do that, are you aware that you are not only holding up traffic but being indifferent to other drivers?

My mother didn't learn to drive until she was 65 and that's a whole different story.  But I remember her saying during a discussion about how awful it was when someone got into the left lane and stayed there even though it was slowing traffic.  My mother responded, "I don't care.  I'm there and I am going to stay there."  My mother was not very self-aware.

  • Riding your bike on the sidewalk

---When you do that, are you aware that in most states this is against the law (yes, in most states it is.  It's the equivalent of driving your car up over the curb and onto the sidewalk - now you wouldn't do that would you)? 

But it is also annoying as hell when I am out for a walk and have to hop off the sidewalk as a bike comes barreling past.  Little kids I understand, but it seems to be a common practice for adults these days too.

  • Putting your coat/purse/shopping bag/whatever in the seat next to you at a crowded Happy Hour bar/seat on a bus/anywhere where someone might need a seat.
---When you do that, are you aware that others might want that seat and that if they do, they must say to you, "Is someone sitting here?" at which point you will reply, "Oh, do you want to sit here?" which might prompt a person to say, "Yes, bitch, why do you think I am asking you if someone is sitting there?"  So don't risk it. 

Now it's your turn.  Fill in the blanks...I might as well let you in on this rant too.

What actions by other people leave you shaking your head and wondering how someone could be so unaware of how their actions affect others?



And then I guess we have to ask ourselves, are we guilty of those things too?

Because we can't change others.  Oh, I like to think that my little blog might have an impact on people and they will be called to action and that's why I write it.  I write it to express myself and to hopefully make people think about some things.  But in the end, we can only change ourselves and the more self-aware we become about our own actions, the more likely we will be to change our behavior, which in turn will make us happier and in turn those we come in contact with. Self-awareness starts at home.

How often do you hear someone say "I am self aware enough to know I can sometimes be a jerk?" 

Now that person is self aware.

The bottom line is that self-awareness will lead to happiness: yours and those around you.

Thanks for indulging me in my little Tuesday rant.  Must be the holiday let-down, the cloudy days and the fact that the Seahawks lost in the play-offs last weekend.  I will try to be more cheerful next week.

However, I am self-aware enough to know that I can't promise.


Thanks for Reading!


See you Friday


for my review of the new movie


"The Revenant"


The Week in Reviews
 (What to See or Read and What to Avoid)
 and the latest on
"My 1001 Movies I Must See Before

 I Die Project."

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A Little Meditation on a Little Meditation by an Unlikely Meditator


Well, that's it.  See you next time!

I'm only kidding. 

That's just a little meditation humor.

But it is kind of funny that I am even talking about meditation.


Because I am a type-A personality who has been known to scoff at any New Age self-help type stuff.

I grew up in a household in the Midwest with a Swedish mother who didn't brook any nonsense when it came to "new fangled thinking."  She didn't believe in anything she couldn't see, though I find that funny looking back, because she was religious.

Growing up, I was the hyper one who always wanted to be "doing" something.  I couldn't imagine sitting in a chair alone with myself.  In college, I would be that kid who would burst into a room loudly announcing I was heading out for an evening of fun and who would like to join me, when it was obvious everyone there was stoned and just wanted to lie around grooving to Vanilla Fudge.

When I moved to San Francisco in the early 70's, everyone we knew from Michigan came out to visit and several of our friends were into TM (Transcendental Meditation).  It was all very mysterious. They had mantras that were secret (probably because as it turned out, everyone had the same one!).  I remember coming home from work one time and finding one of our friends sitting on the floor, up against the wall, legs crossed in the lotus position, eyes closed and not acknowledging my arrival.  I thought that was very rude.

My first library job was in a very rural area in northern California.  Twice a week I rode the bookmobile to various locations in the County and one of them was up a mountain where a Transcendental Meditation University was located. I interacted with the students, but I thought it was all rather hippy dippy.

So meditation has been hovering around me for years, but I was never really interested.

Ten years ago, we moved away from where we had lived for 30 years to a new place where we knew no one.  The nest was empty, and though I found a job and had colleagues, I also suffered from bouts of loneliness. 

And a year ago, as retirement was looming, I started thinking about what I was going to do with all of that free time I anticipated.  And when I did retire, I found it to be very stressful.  Check out some of my early blogs and you can see what I was dealing with.

I think when we are confronted with big life changes, that's when we open up to new ways of thinking.  And sometimes the forces convene to lead you on a different path.

I have always been one to want to improve myself, but I wouldn't say I read a lot of self help books.  However, being in the library profession I read book reviews and titles would come across my desk.

I stumbled upon the idea of "emotional intelligence" and a book called "Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace)" by Chade Meng-Tan, who worked for Google and trained employees there on how to apply mindfulness techniques in order to succeed at work and in life. His class has become Google's most popular class and always has a long waiting list when it is offered. As the title indicates, it uses a somewhat self deprecating light hearted tone to put out an important and serious message: how to nurture your "emotional intelligence" in order to deal with stress. 

One of the tools that I was particularly taken with was the mnemonic "Siberian North Railroad," which helps you remember to Stop, Breathe, Notice, Reflect and Respond when confronted with stressful situations.

And he talked about meditation. There it was again.  The idea of meditating was following me around.

Then Oprah appeared. 

And you know how I feel about Oprah.  Right there in my email was a special invitation, just for me, from Oprah!  Inviting me to join her and Deepak Chopra in a 21 Day Meditation Challenge.  And it was free!  How could I say no to Oprah?

So I signed up.

Every day for 21 days an email would appear in my inbox, and there would be the link for the day's meditation.  Oprah would say a few words and then Deepak would come on to give me my "Centering Thought" and lead me to the day's meditation. 

Some thoughts might be:

"My security and peace are within."
"Today I make great choices because they are made with full awareness.'
"Today and every day I give that which I want to receive."

It certainly can't hurt to be thinking thoughts like that as you go through your day, right?

My first whole session took about 20 minutes, 15 of it sitting quietly, listening to tinkly New Age music and my trying not to open my eyes or wonder when Deepak was going to ring that little bell to let me know it was over or thinking about what I was going to cook for dinner.

But then as I did it every day, I started to "get it."

Meditation is not this secret, mysterious thing.  Meditation is being alone with yourself. 

Yes, there can be a mantra, but you can do just as well counting your breaths or watching clouds pass by over a blue sky in your mind.  Focus on whatever you want.

It doesn't have to be 20 minutes, it can be five minutes or forty minutes.  Whatever you are comfortable with.

Yes, your mind will wander and thoughts will come and go.  That's OK.  There is no right or wrong way to do this. Just return to your mantra or counting your breaths.

As Russell Simmons says in his new book (see, even the celebs are getting into this) "Success Through Stillness,"

"Meditation does not mean the absence of thoughts.
Meditation does not mean going into a trance.
Meditation does not mean forgetting who or where you are..."

"It's just that meditation allows you to have a different relationship with your thoughts...Instead of being overwhelmed or controlled by your thoughts, you get to detach yourself from them...and start choosing how you want to live in a controlled, peaceful and contented manner." (his book is a very good beginner's guide, too).

You WILL have thoughts, but as you settle into meditation, your thoughts will be "quieter" and you will be able to see those thoughts from a different perspective, and some of those thoughts might just lead you to where you need to go.

But every so often you get into those moments between thoughts and those moments are YOU.  Because believe it or not, you are not your thoughts.  Thoughts are just that -- thoughts.  YOU are pure consciousness.

Before I get too drifty here, think of the fact that most people are going through life asleep - acting, doing, living without thinking about how they are acting, what they are doing or how they are living.

Meditation is just about being conscious of our existence, being aware and in so doing, we become more alive and more in tune with ourselves and others.  It's about attitude and compassion.

When I retired, I was very worried about the social aspect of my job.  Here we were, far from our children and family, and work had provided a social outlet.  Once retired, how would I deal with the possibility of loneliness?

I always remember something which I think David on Real World New Orleans said (I know what you are thinking and, yes, I still watch it and let me remind you of something Buddha said, "Judgment is the road to suffering."  I am just saying). 

He said,  something like "I am never lonely because everywhere I go, I am there."  That quote has stuck with me, because I thought it was such an interesting thing to say and to think, especially since I have suffered from my share of loneliness.

And then I came across another book, "Wherever You Go There You Are:  Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life" by Jon Kabat-Zinn and realized where Real World David got that from.

Meditation is hanging out with yourself.  Your true self. And hopefully you like yourself enough to hang out!

So as I continue on my retirement "journey" - I can't believe I just said that.  Everything is a "journey" these days - But anyway, through meditation, I am getting to know myself better, and it is helping me enjoy life more, whatever form that life may take.  It helps me accept what comes my way, how things are. It gives me a more positive attitude toward myself and others.  It has moved my A-type personality to a "B."

I highly recommend your giving meditation a try, whatever form that might take. 

It will change your life.

As Deepak might say, "Sat Chit Ananda."  Existence, consciousness, bliss.

I am working on that bliss part.

If you are interested in learning more, here are some other titles you might enjoy.

Stay tuned for a blog on tarot cards.  I am getting into those too!

Do you meditate?

Any meditation tips to share?
How do you deal with stress?

See you Friday for

"Reality TV, a Primer"

Thanks for reading!

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Check your local library for books mentioned.