Each of us has an outer world and an inner world. You experience your outer world with external awareness; you experience your inner world with internal awareness. Both kinds of awarenesses may be enhanced through different meditative practices.
You come into contact with the outer world through your five senses (sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing). With enhanced awareness of your outer world or environment, you become acutely sensitive of colors, patterns, sounds, smells, temperatures, tastes, and textures.
When you are observing, listening, touching, smelling, and tasting something, you know that you are separate from that something.
For example, you can observe and listen to the sound of a stream. You can touch, smell, and taste the water. You are not the stream—you are the person observing, listening to, and feeling the coolness of the water.
Likewise, you observe and experience situations that are occurring in the external world such as, traffic and smog. You can hear, see, feel, and smell these situations. External awareness includes your being aware of other people. Becoming aware of others’ needs, behavior, and aspirations is an important skill to develop in the workplace and at home. In the same way that you are not the stream when you are observing it or traffic, you are not your family member or friend, but you may be observing or listening to that person.
You can become more MINDFUL of your external environment through specific mindfulness-based meditation practices. Your senses become more acute and you notice detail that you wouldn't ordinary see, hear, smell, taste, or feel.
During the first half of life, you naturally became adept at noticing your external world, and you typically became an expert in a subject area or in your field of work. Paying attention to the external environment is vital, and this environment becomes the “default” location for your attention.
It’s natural, normal, and necessary to have external awareness when you are pursuing your education, building your career, and taking care of your family. External awareness enables you to raise your children, forge successful careers, pursue your interests, and deal effectively with the people in your lives.
Excessive attention to the external world becomes a problem as you age. While external awareness is necessary for establishing careers and family in the first part of life, the external environment is not particularly complimentary or encouraging to people living in the second half of life. Media messages typically promote a specter of decline. In addition, continuing to focus excessively on your family’s needs and behaviors prevents you from paying attention to yourself and from noticing a new type of creativity, resourcefulness, or inventiveness that wants to emerge in your life.
You experience your inner world by noticing your thoughts, body sensations, and emotions. This is called inner awareness or being self-aware, the first step in a 4-step universal growth process.
Inner awareness, or self-awareness, may seem like a difficult concept to grasp, but it is actually similar to external awareness. It is the same ability to observe, listen to, and sense phenomena; however, the phenomena are inside of you.
The objects of your attention are your thoughts, body sensations, and emotions.
There are three main types of self-awareness.
Mental awareness, which means you are conscious of your thoughts, including passing thoughts, patterns of thinking, and your "inner voice".
Body-based awareness, which means you are conscious of your body, including physical sensations, the sense of groundedness, as well as the delightful sensation of “flow.”
Heart-centered awareness, which means you are conscious of your connection to yourself and to others through your emotions. You can feel the movement of your emotions and regain a sense of being openhearted. You can become receptive, inspired, and willing to be “touched” by life's experiences or “moved” to action.
In addition, having self-awareness means that you are aware of your own needs, behavior, and aspirations. When you develop your self-awareness, you know what really matters to you and the kind of life you aspire to live.
Developing your self-awareness is the first step of the four-step universal growth process I wrote about in my book, Flourish!
The Tree of Contemplative Pratices is a more picturesque graphic showing many, many kinds of meditation ....
Hi there! I'm glad you are interested in meditation. A good way to get started in meditation is to learn relaxation practices, so I encourage you to contact me (or sign up for my newsletter) so you can learn the exercise developed by Herbert Benson, MD, who coined the term 'relaxation response' and has conducted body-mind research for over 4 decades.
Once you have established a basic relaxation practice -- then you can expand and learn additional meditation techniques such as the ones described on this page, to attain a wide variety of benefits.