When we look past matters of politics, material goods, romantic partners and other life choices, most of us share a desire to achieve a sense of wholeness, to enhance our spiritual nature and to experience personal growth. Another way of putting it is to say that, somewhere in our brains beyond the worries about credit card bills and looming layoffs at work, many of us want to live a more conscious life. Ideally, we'd be balanced, aware of ourselves and others, and present in each moment.
So why waste any more time? It's not a pipe dream -- there are ways that we can increase our awareness of the aspects of life that affect our actions, thoughts, contentment and values. And once you do that, you can use the awareness to make positive changes in your life. How? Read on to find out.
There's been lots of debate over the merits and shortcomings of criminal profiling. Regardless, just as a criminal task force may develop a list of traits and behaviors commonly found in perpetrators, you can develop a profile of your own life and glean useful information about yourself in doing so. By examining your habits, thoughts and actions, a picture may begin to form of the life you're currently leading. Noting differences between the life you want to be living and the life you actually are living is one way to take a step toward living a more conscious life.
Look for self-destructive behaviors in your life, such as substance abuse. Try to identify actions that are hurtful or detrimental to others. Pinpoint what sets off your temper, and what makes you anxious.
But this isn't just about creating a negative profile. Identify the positive things you do as well. What brings out the best in you? What life-affirming activities do you include in your life? In what ways do you help others or work to make the world a better place? Ask yourself: Am I doing what I want to be doing and, if so, is that what I should be doing? Determine the patterns of your own behaviors and you just may be able to change them and enable a more mindful life experience.
If you want to live a more conscious life, you may want to take a moment to do … nothing. Well, not exactly nothing. Meditation and prayer are excellent ways to move yourself toward conscious living, as meditation and prayer are themselves affirmations that you'll live consciously.
No matter what you call it ("taking a moment to myself" suffices), it doesn't have to take much time -- you just need a few minutes of solitude once or twice a day.
Meditation involves breath control, focus and blocking out external stimuli in an attempt to reconnect with your most basic essence. Many people believe that it helps them be more conscious of the moment, more mindful for the rest of the day, and that it helps them "reset" themselves.
It doesn't matter what your religious beliefs are, because all of them provide the opportunity to take a moment to express gratitude, reconnect with your spiritual beliefs, and ask for or reaffirm intentions to overcome a fault or obstacle.
When we drive down an unfamiliar street in a foreign city, our senses detect everything and we take everything in: the colors and shapes of homes and businesses, the darkness of each alleyway, and the sounds of urban life. But when we drive down the street we live on, we see and sense very little because we know what's there -- it's almost like we're seeing our memory of the street rather than the street itself.
Likewise, when we look at our own lives, it's hard to see what's really going on. It's not a skill you're lacking -- think about a friend's life for a moment and you'll come up with all sorts of things to fix. It's just harder to do when you turn your focus on yourself, but it's possible. Try to consider your physical, emotional and situational surroundings for the first time all over again. What would a stranger see if they walked into your life? Does your life look like it's going forward, or is it in a state of disrepair? Even if the conditions of your life have seemingly remained the same for some length of time, you've still changed and may discover that you view things differently than when you last took a "first look" around.
It's easy to focus on the things in life that bug you, whether they're political, professional or personal issues. Many times, we feel overwhelmed by health issues, money troubles or other crisis situations. While these problems are very real, it's important to identify and appreciate the things in your life that are good. Fostering this sense of gratitude can keep us grounded when it seems like life is trying to sweep us away. It also takes our focus away from just the negative things in our lives, and broadens it to take in the entire picture.
Take time to appreciate the things that are good in your life. Try to take a moment each day to appreciate your loved ones, to honor your achievements and to cherish the blessings in your life. If you have children, keep in mind how quickly they grow and cherish the joys they have brought into your life (and allow yourself to forget for the moment all the other things they do).
Think about how far you've come in your life's journey and the good deeds along the way that you've performed for others, as well as the good deeds others have performed for you. Reminding yourself of these positive things will make you more conscious of bringing more positive experiences into your life.
While all of us would like to live more consciously, the reality is that we spend most of our time living, well, somewhat mindlessly. Perhaps we made life decisions long ago that we're still acting upon, even though we (or the conditions in and around our lives) have changed.
Also, sometimes we've been doing something so long that it becomes nearly impossible to objectively view the validity, effectiveness or goodness of that activity or situation. Sometimes old friends bring with them old habits or prejudices. Or maybe the traditional way you've spent every Saturday night for the last decade isn't really cutting it anymore, but tradition continues to schedule your weekends.
By changing even the simple patterns and habits we've accumulated in life, we can re-engage with our surroundings and bring a sense of new awareness to our days.
Bring new foods, activities, music and entertainment into your life. Go somewhere you've never been before (this can be in your own ZIP code). Seek out opportunities to meet new people with different perspectives, cultural backgrounds or personal experiences who will bring with them the opportunity to be exposed to new ways of thinking and living.
When making a decision, remind yourself to do things differently or in a different way than you normally do them. While this in itself isn't necessarily conscious living, the fresh perspective it brings will make us give consideration to what we're doing while we do it.
Looking for more ways to live a more conscious life? See the next page for lots more articles.
HowStuffWorks looks at the differences between supporting an addict and enabling one.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- Bentley, Karen Anne. 10 Radiant Ideas: Awaken Your Passion for Living Consciously. Heart Books, 2001. ISBN 0966696727, 9780966696721.
- Branden, Nathaniel. The art of living consciously: the power of awareness to transform everyday life. Simon and Schuster, 1999. ISBN 0684838494, 9780684838496. http://books.google.com/books?id=mkGmuD0MNQoC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_navlinks_s#v=onepage&q=&f=false
- Dorsey, John Morris; Seegers, Walter Henry. Living Consciously: The Science of Self. Wayne State University Press, 1959.http://books.google.com/books?id=FhFm1QjPjpQC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_v2_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q=&f=false
- Oz, Lisa. Us: Transforming Yourself and the Relationships that Matter Most. Free Press, 2010. ISBN 978-1-4391-2392-8.
- Pavlina, Steve. Personal Development for Smart People: The Conscious Pursuit of Personal Growth. Hay House, Inc, 2008. ISBN 1401922759, 9781401922757.http://books.google.com/books?id=OZzLnGH74ToC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_v2_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q=&f=false