There are three core practices of awareness: meditation, integration, and reflection.
Meditation gives you space and clarity. It strengthens your prefrontal cortex—the part of your brain where self-awareness and willpower reside. It reduces stress, improves your moods, and gives you the ability to pause thoughtfully rather than act impulsively. All of these are essential elements for self-discipline.
With meditation you develop the power to pause, slow things down, and zoom out. It disentangles you from the thoughts and impulses in the moment, and by doing that it gives you the clarity to see what’s really happening and what needs to be done.
Meditation is ideally practiced at the beginning of the day, for twenty minutes, to kindle awareness. You can start by practicing five minutes per day, and then increase by one minute each week. Even at ten minutes per session, you will already experience some benefits.
There are many different styles of meditation. If you already have a meditation technique that you enjoy, that’s great—keep doing that. If you don’t, here is a simple method:
- Sit with your back straight and unsupported. You could sit on the edge of your bed, on a chair, or cross-legged on a cushion on the floor. The position of your hands and legs is not important.
- Close your eyes. Take a few deep breaths—in through your nose, and out through your mouth—releasing all tension.
- Close your mouth and breathe normally through your nose. Allow yourself to fully arrive in the present moment. Feel grateful that you are taking the time to cultivate awareness and ground yourself.
- Bring all your attention to your breathing. Notice if it is shallow or deep, fast or slow, jerky or smooth. If being aware of your breathing changes its rhythm, that is okay. Simply allow it to be as it is.
- Begin to count your breaths backward, from ten to one, both when breathing in and when breathing out. Breathing in, “ten”; breathing out, “ten”. Breathing in, “nine”; breathing out, “nine”. All the way to “one—one”.
- When you get to one, start again from ten. If you get lost and forget what you were doing, become aware of that fact. This is self-awareness. Simply bring your attention back to the breath, and start again from ten, with the resolve of staying with the breath moment after moment. This is willpower.
- As an initial goal, see if you can count from ten to one three times in a row without getting distracted.
Right after meditation, when your mind is clear and focused, review your aspiration and recommit to your goals. Then make a resolution to live your aspiration during the day. Affirm the intention to be aware of it, and then allow it to be the driving force behind your decisions during the day.
Action Step: Start a daily meditation practice. If you already meditate every day, then see how you can take it to the next level by exploring new practices or by better integrating it into your daily life.