When was the last time you did something with utmost awareness? Do you remember eating a meal without being distracted or driving a car without hearing music?
Even if you did do something with awareness, how involved were you in the activity? Let’s say you were eating alone. Did you savour every bite of food you ate and relish every drop of the drink you drank?
How often do you say ‘Thank you”? Ever so often? Even so, how sincere are your thank you’s? Is it something you say mechanically like a robot or do you put your heart into the thanks you send out?
I am a digital entrepreneur and a long time meditator. I have deep spiritual leanings and practice many techniques taught to me by my Guru. I believe that for many of us who live hurried, complicated and busy lives, there can be a simple and effective technique that can enhance our happiness and smoothen our expectations of life.
I call that technique AMT - comprising Awareness, Mindfulness and Thankfulness.
I see people all around me multi-tasking. People hold up tablets while they eat and are texting all the time, even when they are with friends and family.
Simply put, there is an art of ‘awareness’ that we have lost touch with.
To give you an example, consider the practice of running or exercising with music piped into the ears via music players. I run with my iPod all the time.
Very often, even while running in beautiful surroundings, I forget that I am running. The music takes me into another ‘zone’ and my mind then begins to recreate the past or the future (depending on my mood and how energizing the music is). There have been times when I have passed breathtaking scenes and missed familiar faces because I am ‘somewhere else’.
The first step in the AMT technique is to develop Awareness.
All that you need to do is become completely aware of the activity you are doing. If you are running then be completely aware that you are running. The same for cooking, drinking and even relaxing!
Step 1: Just be Aware.
Do you remember what you were thinking about when you had your last shower? Was it work, was it the kids or was it something else?
Do you ever remember having a shower without having any thoughts?
Mindfulness is the ability to be totally absorbed in the activity you are doing without any distraction. That frees up the mind to observe every small change, every little event that you would have otherwise missed.
To experience mindfulness, do this:
When you shower next, make a conscious effort to think only of your bath. Start applying your mind to the water pressure, the warmth or coldness that you are experiencing and the soothing effect that the water has over your body.
Observe the minutest of details. How the water feels on your head, on your shoulders, on your back, so on and so forth.
Close you eyes and just immerse yourself in your shower – physically and mentally.
When you shampoo and scrub yourself, be mindful of the fragrances, their texture, the effect they have on your body and how different you feel after applying them.
Be so mindful of your shower that if someone later asks you write a two page report on your experiences, you will be able to do so effortlessly.
Try and practice Mindfulness while eating. It is particularly uplifting.
In one meditation session that I attended, all of us participants were each given a grape and then asked to close our eyes. We were instructed to place the grape in our mouth and experience its tautness, its shape and its skin texture with complete mindfulness. Later when we bit on the grape we experienced the explosion of flavors, juices and the sweetness of creation engulfing our mouths.
A single grape provided us many minutes of ‘mindfulness’!
Next time you eat a meal, please try and do the same without closing your eyes! Just bite into every morsel of food and feel it, taste it and savor it thoroughly. Be silent while you eat and make conversation with the food instead.
Step 2: Be mindful of everything you do, no matter how small.
Once you are aware and mindful, the next and last step is being thankful.
This may sound strange to a few of you, but the fact that you can be thankful is a blessing in itself. When a Gardner waters the plants or a little girl feeds her pet parrot, the plants and parrot ‘may’ be thankful but are unable to really express the same. They exist on a scale of evolution that allows them to receive and maybe appreciate, but not to communicate.
Thankfulness is really thanking the provider for the experience of awareness and mindfulness that you have experienced.
Once you have completely enjoyed your shower and fully eaten your fruit, slip into a silent zone of thankfulness. Appreciate the water, the steam, your ability to clean and refresh yourself and be thankful. Apply the same principles of thankfulness to whatever else you experience.
Step 3: Be Thankful.
Starting slowly but surely, try and activate this 3 stage simple technique when you do anything, no matter how routine and insignificant it seems:
While AMT may sound easy, it takes time to be fully activated. Most of them time, our distractions get the better of us, so ideas like these get easily passed over.
What I would stress on is trying to apply AMT even once or twice a day to start with. That will begin to create a certain practice in your busy life to step on the kerbfor a few seconds and look at things with a higher objective.
As I have myself experienced, AMT begins to manifest itself slowly but surely in many of my routine tasks and then begins to automatically surface when I start doing something new.
AMT for Actions and Thoughts
It sounds relatively easy to apply AMT to common day activities like showers and meals, but what about applying AMT to thoughts and emotions?
Let’s say that someone was very rude and disrespectful towards you and you have a developed a resentment towards that person.
Now ask yourself, is this resentment an emotion that you need to carry for a long time? Is this negative baggage worth lugging around?
If you apply the AMT technique on a brooding mind, this is what could happen:
Awareness – Many of us really don't want to confront a problem that's affecting our mind, head on. We keep skirting around it, hoping that it will disappear. Unfortunately negative experiences are built to last. They don't go away.
By becoming completely aware of the emotion, we give it a chance to completely dominate our mind. This way, the emotion occupies center-stage – right in the middle of our minds from where it has no escape.
Once awareness is established, apply complete mindfulness to the emotion. Think of the hurt, anguish and the pain that the emotion has caused you. While doing so, also look at all the angles. Example - If while eating a strawberry mindfully, you will feel its slightly abrasive texture on your tongue and even possibly taste its mini seeds; so also then, while being mindful of an emotion, you must apply your mind to notice all its contours and colors and complexions.
It may just emerge that you may have overreacted to a situation or taken something too personally, when it was not really intended. If that's not the case, then closer examination may reveal that the offender is not always in control and hence his or her nature should not become your problem.
A deep, deep dive with complete mindfulness will generate a rainbow of thoughts, ideas and feelings of a certain emotion. The colors will reveal that all is not black and grey as you originally thought.
Such a head on and deep reflection of a troubling emotion will release it from the captivity of your mind. You will empower it to slowly dissolve and fade away.
In the last stage, applying thankfulness for a negative feeling is the toughest test you can subject yourself to. But try it. Thank the person responsible for making you experience this emotion just so that you can battle it, overcome it and conquer it. Some of our best enemies are our best friends because they make us overcome what we cannot do ourselves.
AMT will help you lead a happier, relaxed and fulfilled life.
I have seen these changes manifest themselves
- A feeling of gratitude for all the things that we have and take for granted
- An experience of upliftment for being able to overcome challenges we thought impossible
- An ability to focus, concentrate and pay attention to all the things in life that really give us true and everlasting joy.
I hope this simple technique helps you, as it has helped me.
Please do tell me about your experience if you would like to share!
Dedication: This post is dedicated at the lotus feet of my Guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and my God MahavatarBabaji
Great Post Sir. In today's fast fast paced life we have stopped observing these small emotions/feelings. And I have been thinking about it for some time now. But I have not done anything till now. I have bookmarked this post and whenever I will dwindle it will give the kick to me.
Thanks for this. Actually had a drop in my eyes, I don't know why..!
Thanks a lot Alok for reminding us about Basic rules of life. Guru Alokbaba ki Jai ! Feeling Thankfulness !
Coined a new term for you while reading this post :) MediTechie..The Tech guy who meditates..
Thankful to you for this post..at times you come across an article when you JUST NEED it. Feels as if "coincident" was a term made up coincidentally.
hello Alok sir
This is a great post I can totally relate to it but I doubt this post's effectiveness because most of the people don't understand the concept of mindfulness. Since I have been doing mindfulness close to an year.I would like to extend my support to anyone who wants to learn meditation.
I have got guided mindfulness mediation packs which can help you learn this AMT concept.
If there is anyone who needs it kindly PM me.