The biggest change I have noticed in myself recently is a meta-awareness of my own thought processes, most distressingly (!) the dawning awareness that my brain tends to keep an internal narrative going 24×7!
The first major breakthrough that occurred regarding this was that – all at once – I started to realize that the internal chatter is constantly occurring.
I believe this breakthrough came about for three reasons.
First, the nature of my job is such that I am “alone with my thoughts” (without much human interaction per se), for 8 hours a day for going on six months now. Additionally, the nature of the work is such that while it is pretty simple and repetitive, it is just difficult enough to require your full attention — otherwise, you will make mistakes with what you are doing. Therefore, it started to come to my awareness when my mind was wandering during my work process – which in essence was constantly! So in this sense, necessity was the mother of invention, and I started to learn to be more present to my work and my surroundings simply because I need to do so for economic survival. (We get fired for making too many mistakes!)
Secondly, my engagement with the Lightning Path – specifically the major healing work I’d accomplished, and my establishment right environment – was causing a major increase in my daily consciousness quotient (CQ) and level of function. An increase in CQ causes by definition an increase in one’s subjective level of awareness, which in this case was me becoming aware of the fact that I have been almost entirely disassociated from my body and the present moment for my entire life!! The other major component of my LP healing work I believe had to do with this was that a major “shock point” was breached, whereby I went from a mostly blocked / dysfunctional root chakra, to an almost completely functioning one. (I used the words “shock point” to try to convey the idea that the level of function of my root chakra made a dramatic leap from “not working” to “working” in one major step at some point recently.) Bringing the root chakra “online” like this had the very noticeable and dramatic effect of grounding my consciousness into my body, and into the present moment.
The final impetus for my mindfulness breakthrough came about because of a series of audio lectures on mindfulness that I was listening to. I am a great lover of The Great Courses, and I listen to them in audio format on my way to and from work.
Around this time, I was listening to the course on “The Science of Mindfulness: A Research-Based Path to Well-Being, which obviously is about mindfulness. While all of the Great Courses are of world-class quality, in my opinion the particular audio lectures that I mentioned reached the level of being fantastic! And even more important, they are an example of where something that you encounter in life is exactly the right thing at the right time.
That particular course is all about how mindfulness fundamentally neurologically changes your brain, while also emphasizing the fact that mindfulness changes your day-to-day experience of the world in profound, surprising, and life-enhancing ways.
The whole thing hit my like the proverbial ton of bricks, and I suddenly realized that mindfulness has been a missing ingredient in me for most of my life. (As an aside, it should be noted that the emerging scientific understanding that various levels of “mindfulness” are possible, is approximately synonymous with the Lighting Path concept of a variable consciousness quotient, in the sense that increasing one’s level mindfulness is equivalent to increasing one’s CQ.)
Over the last weeks and months, I have continued to work on mindfulness while I am at work, and I have come to think of my work day as my “mindfulness training regimen.”
I have gone about increasing my day-to-day levels of mindfulness in several ways.
First, I use the concept of “gently bringing awareness back to the present” that I learned in meditation. Meditation is in essence a concentrated state of awareness, where one learns to specifically hold one’s awareness on something other than the internal chatter of one’s mind. Additionally, it should also be noted that meditation is difficult, and by practicing it, one comes to realize just how often our mind “wanders off” into rumination or fantasy. Therefore, a common admonition of meditation practice techniques is the advice to simply “gently bring your awareness back to the present moment” whenever you find your lost in the thought stream. The operative word in this instruction is “gently”, in the sense that one shouldn’t “beat oneself up” for wandering off, but instead, one should rejoice in the fact that one was able to realize they’d become lost, and were able to successfully bring their awareness back!
So I applied this strategy at work, and started keeping track of how often I could catch myself in the act of wandering off using a little lap-counter.
Secondly, I started to “self-program” in the sense that I say specific phrases whenever I catch myself wandering off. For example, one thing I have a tendency to do is to conduct long imaginary conversations in my mind. When I realize I am doing this, I simply “gently bring myself back” to the present, but then say to myself – or even out loud – “no imaginary conversations!”I find that doing this allows me to “reprogram” myself, such that I can start to become to consciously choose my own mental habits, instead of being subjected and imprisoned by them!
Next, I also use the strategy of visualizing a small “volume knob” that I can turn, which as I crank it down, causes the intensity of my thought processes to turn down. I find this visualization very useful, and when I find my mind racing, I try to remember to “turn down the volume” — which helps to do exactly that!
The final way I’ll mention that I work on my level of mindfulness at work is to ask myself periodically “where am I?” I call this process “making periodic check-ins with Reality”, where Reality is defined as the world as it is actually transpiring around me, instead of my own internal mental representation thereof.
The particular practice of asking myself occasionally “Where am I?” definitely helps with bringing me back to the present moment, because each time I ask it, I take a moment to really and deeply look at the world around me, and it is causing me to really start to SEE and notice the world in a way that I never have before.
I think of the first time I started to notice the direction that the wind was blowing by looking at an outdoor flag, for example, or the first time I heard the birds chirping one morning, or the long moment I took recently to watch the beautiful flight patterns of a flock of birds in the sky, and I am happy to report that I feel alert and awake to the world around me in a way I never have before.
The foundational prayer of the yoga tradition is the petition to higher consciousness to lead us “from the unreal to the real.” I think this prayer works on many levels, ultimately with the full-blown realization of our true nature as pure consciousness. But on a more mundane level, I think the first step on this journey is to distance oneself from one’s thoughts, to learn to both quiet them, and to accept that they are not real in any substantial sense; they do not constitute reality, but are instead a self-reinforcing – and potentially never-ending – stream of linguistic output that takes shape based on our sensory input and emotional state.
This realization, when put into consistent practice, changes one’s life, and represents a first step on the long journey from the unreal to the Real.
I will end this essay by relating a poem I wrote today:
The Invocation of The Present
I am calm, and centered: always.
I am alert to, aware of, and interested in, the world around.
I am present and merged with my actions.
My mind is quite, and at peace.
And if I stray, I trust the breath to bring me back,
because in truth, it is always so, that
I am here,