Being self-aware is the most vital and fundamental skill of existence.
Without self awareness, our thoughts, feelings, and behavioral patterns are controlled entirely by unconscious beliefs, assumptions, and instincts. When we lack self-awareness we create our own suffering and perpetuate it in the lives of others, creating endless pain and chaos.
However, when we learn to become conscious of our primitive and self-destructive thoughts, beliefs, ideals, assumptions, and choices, we become more peaceful, loving, and intelligent beings. Not only do we stop suffering, but the people in our lives stop reacting to our self-imposed misery. Instead, they find more peace.
Our thoughts literally create our reality, which is why the following self awareness activities in this article are so important for us to learn and assimilate.
Do you lack self-awareness? If so, you will be able to identify with the following indicators:
- You have a hard time understanding what you are feeling.
- You find it difficult to speak about your feelings and thoughts with others.
- You are constantly lost in your thoughts.
- You are frequently infuriated or grieved by others.
- You have low self-esteem.
- You share many of these self-destructive signs.
- You have a very weak sense of self, OR, you have a very rigid identity.
By putting into practice the self awareness activities in this article, you will slowly and steadily find more joy and fulfillment in daily life.
Three Self Awareness Activities for Beginners
If you feel as though you lack a basic understanding of yourself and of others, you will benefit from the following self awareness activities – but only if you make a regular habit of doing them.
1. Get away from people, be still, and don’t do anything.
Often we use “busyness” as a way of escaping our fear, hatred, and pain in everyday life. We chronically feel the need to “do something” when often the best way to truly experience and appreciate life is to be still with ourselves.
In order to develop self-awareness it is imperative that you start with an “empty canvas,” and silent solitude is the best place to start. This is because solitude grounds you in reality, and although it can be scary and lonely at first, spending time alone each day provides you the opportunity to reflect on yourself, what you have done, what you have said, what you feel, and what you would like to do. Solitude realigns us with our deepest needs and cravings in life, and is thus a perfect conduit of self-awareness.
2. Meditation and self-inquiry.
There are many different forms of meditation out there, not simply the sit-on-the-floor kind. For example, you could do dynamic meditation which involves a full-body catharsis, or you could do a moving meditation such as Qigong, or perhaps a constant mindfulness practice that you incorporate into your regime all day, every day. Whatever type of meditation you choose, it is vital that you learn how to slow down your mind and body, because this helps you to become more conscious of the inner chatter within you that often goes unnoticed.
Self-inquiry is another brilliant way of increasing your self-awareness as well. Asking questions such as, “Why do I feel this way?” “Where did that thought come from?” “Are these assumptions true?” “What triggered that behavior?” are all very powerful questions that will deepen your awareness.
3. Keep a daily private journal.
Recording all of your thoughts in a safe and secure place helps you to not only track your self-growth progress, but this practice also helps you to be more authentic with yourself. When you are honest about your thoughts and feelings and when you find a place to express them, they no longer stay bottled up in your mind, which tends to create a lot of tension and stress. Writing your thoughts down gives you an opportunity to explore and reflect on what you truly think and feel, and what you can do to feel better or remedy certain issues. You might like to store away these thoughts in a private place, or write them out and then destroy them shortly afterwards.
Three Self Awareness Activities for Advanced Learners
As rivers lose name and shape in the sea, wise men lose name and shape in God, glittering beyond all distance. – Mundaka Upanishad
There comes a time when self-awareness evolves from understanding the nature of the self/identity, to understanding the nature of the Self/Essential Nature, or spiritual essence of who we are.
With enough thought, it becomes apparent that the mind is a very limited muscle, and although our intellect is a complex tool, it is nevertheless understands a minute fragment of reality. Furthermore, it also becomes apparent that who you “think” you are is not truly what you are.
These self awareness activities are for those who have developed a lot of insight about themselves, but perhaps not very much insight about the spiritual Self, or the Self that is often spoken of and embodied by “enlightened” people.
1. Ask the following six questions …
- Am I this emotion?
- Am I this thought?
- Am I this physical sensation?
- Am I this circumstance?
- Am I this body?
- Am I this personality?
If you are to reflect on yourself in everyday life you would realize that most of your thoughts center around a vicious identification with your personality, your body, your feelings, and so on. But are “you” really all of these things? How can you be something that is subject to growth, change, and decay? If you are none of these physical, emotional, or mental phenomena that are as transient as the wind, who are you? You will discover something amazing … you are nothing! But not a nothing that is void or depressing; a nothing that is full, vibrant, pure, loving, and eternal; a nothing that is paradoxically everything. I wrote more about this topic in this article.
2. Two-Way Pointing
With one hand point at the world, and with the other hand point towards yourself. Look at the scene you are pointing at right ahead of you. Examine all the shapes, colors, objects and details. Then, focus on the hand pointing towards “you.” What can you see now? A self, a person, an identity? You will realize that the view is completely different: there is nothing but a space of consciousness! There is no head, there is no face, there is just awareness!
How can this be applied to your life? When you are in any situation realize that you are the observer; that space of vibrant emptiness. Remember that you are not the head and body that is subject to growth, change, and decay, but that ever-present space of awareness.
As the enlightened master Ramana Maharshi said, “The answer to your problem is to see who has it.” Being fully conscious is not an amazing psychedelic, sparkly, lights-and-glam process, but a very simple experience.
3. Closed-Eye Experiment
Close your eyes. Allow yourself to rest, allow your thoughts to slow. Then ask:
“How big am I?”
“What shape am I?”
“Do I have any boundaries?”
“Is there a place where I stop and the world begins?”
“Is anything dividing me from the world?”
“What am I?”
Be aware that your mind will start drawing on past memories, past experiences, visual scenes and sensations, hearsay, and imagination. Let all of these thoughts, images and sensations drift away as you focus completely on your present moment experience.
You might like to write down these questions, then close your eyes as you slowly answer each one.
As you drop all thoughts, you will come to see that each question can’t be answered in the same manner you once answered. You will come to see that you are limitless and boundless: you simply can’t be defined. Isn’t that an amazing discovery?
When I first tried many of these self awareness activities I felt uncomfortable and uncertain. My advice is to be patient with yourself; it is unlikely that you will be perfect from the start, and often you will need a little practice in order to feel as though you have made progress.
Also, if you would like more advanced self awareness activities, I recommend reading Douglas Harding’s book “On Having No Head” from which two of the exercises in this article were derived.
For now, ask yourself, “How do I plan to become a more self-aware person?” Please share below if the fancy strikes you.