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Exploring the Benefits of Awake Meditation: Understanding and Practicing
Awake meditation, also known as mindfulness in daily life, brings mindful awareness to everyday activities. By staying present in the moment, we can reduce stress and cultivate peace and happiness.
For a better understanding of the concepts discussed in this article, we suggest reading the 'Introduction to Meditation: Observing One's Own Thoughts' beforehand.
Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years as a means of achieving greater self-awareness, reducing stress and anxiety, and cultivating a greater sense of peace and well-being.
One popular form of meditation is awake meditation, also known as "mindfulness in daily life" or "mindful living", which involves focusing on the present moment and becoming aware of your thoughts and feelings without judgment—bringing a state of mindful awareness and presence to your everyday activities, such as walking, eating, or working.
"The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it."
— Thich Nhat Hanh
In this article: Understanding Awake Meditation, Exploring the Four Types of Thoughts and Practicing Awake Meditation
Understanding Awake Meditation
At its core, awake meditation is a form of mental training that involves paying attention to your breath, bodily sensations, and surroundings, and observing any thoughts or emotions that come up without getting caught up in them. By focusing on the present moment in this way, you can develop greater clarity of mind, reduce stress and anxiety, and cultivate a greater sense of peace and well-being.
One of the key principles of awake meditation is non-judgmental awareness. This means that you observe your thoughts and emotions without getting caught up in them or judging them as good or bad. Instead, you simply notice them as they arise and allow them to pass by without getting attached to them.
Another important aspect of awake meditation is breath awareness. By focusing on your breath, you can anchor yourself in the present moment and become more aware of your thoughts and emotions as they arise. As you practice awake meditation, you may find that your mind becomes more calm and centered, and that you are able to respond to stress and difficult situations with greater clarity and equanimity.
Exploring the Four Types of Thoughts
In order to practice awake meditation effectively, it is helpful to understand the four types of thoughts that we experience: positive, necessary, wasteful, and negative. Positive thoughts are those based on internal, spiritual values, and they help us maintain a positive outlook on life. Necessary thoughts are practical thoughts that help us accomplish our daily tasks. Wasteful thoughts are those that expend unnecessary mental energy and detract from our productivity and well-being. Negative thoughts are those that are based on external, material values and have a negative effect on our personality and well-being.
These are thoughts based on internal, spiritual values. They enable us to discover the inner qualities within ourselves and in others, and to maintain a positive outlook on every situation in life. Positive thoughts create a feeling of peace, a feeling of self-respect and contentment. They also allow us to experience self-confidence, the “joie de vivre”, and the ability to appreciate others. Positive thoughts contribute to the development of a harmonious personality and an optimistic vision of the future.
Here are some examples of positive thoughts:
I am a being of peace; I am calm and relaxed.
I am content, satisfied. I have confidence in myself.
I am able to see the benefit in whatever happens to me. I do not allow myself to be upset by anyone or anything.
I am a being full of goodness.
These are the practical, functional thoughts that are necessary for accomplishing our daily tasks.
Here are some examples of necessary thoughts:
What am I going to prepare for dinner?
I have to remember to pick up the children from the daycare centre.
How should I ask him about this?
Analyzing a situation creating a project, visualizing, studying, decision making.
These are thoughts that incur unnecessary expenditure of mental energy and loss of time. A person whose mind is preoccupied with wasteful thoughts will be less productive and unable to enjoy the present moment.
Here are some examples of wasteful thoughts:
If I had arrived earlier, this would not have happened.
Questioning or doubting decisions you’ve made despite not being able to change them.
Revisiting past events for no particular reason or with no attempt to learn from them.
Trying to plan the future on the basis of a variety of assumptions.
Commenting on other people or things unnecessarily.
Necessary thoughts can become wasteful thoughts if they occur repeatedly for no particular reason or at an inappropriate time.
These are weak thoughts based on external and material values. They have a negative effect on the personality and sometimes trigger feelings of sadness, loss of joy, stress, discouragement, disappointment or a desire to change others. They also diminish self-respect and self- confidence.
Here are examples of negative thoughts
This always happens to me! (pessimistic)
I have too many things to do, I’ll never finish. (tiredness, discouragement) She is always
like this... (seeing the faults of others)
This isn’t going well at all! (seeing the negative side of a situation)
When practicing awake meditation, you may find that certain types of thoughts arise more frequently than others. By becoming aware of these patterns, you can begin to cultivate more positive and necessary thoughts, while reducing the influence of wasteful and negative thoughts.
Practicing Awake Meditation
To begin practicing awake meditation, find a quiet, comfortable place where you won't be disturbed. Sit in a comfortable, upright position with your eyes closed, and begin by focusing on your breath.
The most appropriate posture for meditation is one that is comfortable, stable, and upright. The traditional posture for seated meditation involves sitting cross-legged on a cushion or mat, with the spine straight and the hands resting on the knees or in the lap. This posture helps to keep the body alert yet relaxed, and allows for deep breathing and focused attention.
However, it's important to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all posture for meditation. Some people may find it more comfortable to sit on a chair, a bench, or even lie down, depending on their physical condition and personal preference. The key is to find a posture that allows you to be fully present and attentive, without feeling tense or distracted.
If you're new to meditation, it's a good idea to experiment with different postures and see what works best for you. Just remember to keep your back straight, your shoulders relaxed, and your eyes closed or lowered to minimize visual distractions. With practice, you'll develop a posture that feels natural and supportive, and helps you enter a state of calm and focused awareness.
Next, notice the sensation of the breath as it moves in and out of your body, and try to keep your attention focused on the present moment.
As you practice awake meditation, you may find that your mind begins to wander or that you become distracted by external stimuli. When this happens, simply notice the distraction and gently bring your attention back to your breath. Remember, the goal of awake meditation is not to eliminate all thoughts, but to simply observe them without getting caught up in them.
In many spiritual traditions, the length of a meditation session can vary depending on personal preference, tradition, and experience level. For beginners, it's often recommended to start with shorter sessions, such as 5-10 minutes, and gradually increase the duration over time.
The duration of a meditation session can also depend on the type of meditation being practiced. Some forms of meditation, such as Vipassana or Zen, may involve longer periods of sitting or walking meditation, sometimes for several hours at a time. Other forms, such as guided visualization or loving-kindness meditation, may be practiced for shorter periods of time, such as 15-30 minutes.
In awake meditation, you can choose to practice mindfulness for shorter or longer periods of time throughout the day, depending on your schedule and personal preference. For example, you may choose to practice mindfulness for a few minutes while taking a walk during your lunch break, or while washing dishes or brushing your teeth.
When finishing a meditation, it's important to do so in a gentle and gradual way. Take a few deep breaths, and gradually bring your attention back to your surroundings. Slowly open your eyes, and take a moment to notice any changes in your body or mind. You can also take a few moments to stretch, move your body, or reflect on your experience.
It's also important to cultivate a sense of gratitude and compassion towards yourself and others as you conclude your meditation. You can offer a simple prayer or mantra, or express your gratitude for the opportunity to practice mindfulness and connect with your inner self.
Remember, meditation is a personal practice, and there's no one-size-fits-all approach. With patience, persistence, and an open mind, you can develop a meditation practice that supports your spiritual growth, emotional well-being, and overall sense of peace and fulfillment.
Over time, with regular practice, you may find that you are able to remain more focused and present in your daily life, and that you are better able to manage stress and difficult emotions. By cultivating greater self-awareness and a deeper connection to the present moment, you can experience a greater sense of peace and well-being in your life.
As we deepen our meditation practice, may we cultivate greater mindfulness and compassion towards ourselves and others. We are grateful for your readership and support in this journey.
— Journal of Animaology
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