At the root of much immature behavior is an urge to avoid unpleasant feelings. Practicing observing our feelings is the foundation of self-improvement – as well as being one of the most natural, simple and actually pleasant exercises of self-awareness. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is. You can practice this at any time, in most circumstances and situations. Not only you will not lose awareness of the world around you; it will probably improve.
Remember moments when you felt in great danger: probably you felt like time was running much slower, your focus sharpened and your actions became better coordinated. This is a spontaneous increase of awareness. We cannot stay in such a state for long, it is too tiring – but we can practice it consciously.
Such a simple exercise can have profound benefits:
– intimacy with your own feelings and increased self-acceptance. Accepting your feelings results in less fear of unpleasant ones (since you can experience that you can cope with them better than you thought), and in integrating many sub-personalities into a balanced whole;
– developing inner strength and trust in yourself; a feeling of peace and worthiness that can assist you when facing unpleasant social situations and makes it easier to cope with the most difficult emotional crises of your life;
– functioning in the world with integrity, authenticity and centeredness, without pretense or exaggeration. Less need for masks and robotic conditioned reactions. This is the foundation of quality relationships and earning appreciation of emotionally mature people;
– quickly recognizing and clearly expressing subtle feelings and needs in communication with other people, even in situations in which most people lose their centeredness and allow outer influences to govern their behavior;
– recognizing subtle signals of other people through increased awareness of the details of mutual communication;
– deeper presence and awareness of the now and greater ability to learn from each situation, thus using every moment in life to its fullest;
– strengthening of intuition due to noticing and verbalizing subtle emotional signals;
– increased creativity for the same reason as above;
– increased ability to recognize and follow your physical needs (e.g. food, movement, rest, etc.), as well as to recognize the urge for specific activities, which can help you achieve a harmonious and fluid existence and an increase in productivity. When you listen to healthy messages of your body and feelings, it is hardly possible to be lazy! When I truly follow this principle, I often complete the greatest amount of work in the minimum amount of time, and even enjoy it. In contrast, rational self-control makes many types of work feel imposed or burdensome;
– easier application of any method of self-improvement, through better introspection and increased consciousness. This is especially helpful with systems focused on exploring memories and subconscious mind;
– increased self-honesty and dramatically reduced self-deception and thus unwanted behaviors;
– ability to recognize and enjoy pleasant feelings. (The more we are aware of all our feelings, the more we are aware of the pleasant ones too. People who suppress their emotions and are hyper-rational, are rarely able to fully enjoy even their moments of happiness);
– feeling independent of other people and circumstances; feeling better able to fulfill your needs within, instead of depending on others and projecting your responsibilities onto them.
The results are therefore worth the effort and time invested! You can start immediately without any foreknowledge or preparations. You do not need a specific space, equipment or setting – all you need is yourself and motivation for long-term daily practice.
How to do the exercise?
Sit and relax at any time of day when you have some time (with some practice, you’ll eventually be able to do it for a very short time too, even automatically in the background of your mind). Pay attention to your body. Notice how you become aware of emotions through your body: perhaps through feelings of warmth or chill, pain, pressure, pangs or comfort. Notice how your thoughts trigger physiological responses; even if it might be difficult to recognize in the begginning, with time you’ll notice how such physiological reactions often influence new thoughts. The result is subtle inveawing of emotions and thoughts.
Keep on simply observing what is going on in your body and emotions. Don’t try to explore it in detail at this point. Don’t try to hold on to any emotion, or to make them stronger or weaker. Accept and let go. Notice how they flow, how they follow one another. There will be other times to explore and change them. But first, you need to develop awareness.
Don’t identify with any emotions, especially if it’s unpleasant. Notice, accept, let go. Imagine you are standing in a river: you are not letting it carry you away, but you are aware of the flow. You feel it, but you don’t try to hold it back or change its direction. Once you are able to feel several different layers of emotions at the same time, as well as emotional impulses that only last a second or less, you’ll know you are doing well. This will be a good time to focus on exploring the roots of chronic emotions you want to change.