Last month while on a spiritual quest to Maui, I had the golden opportunity to connect with the American spiritual leader and teacher Ram Dass. Many people might remember him for his iconic book Be Here Now, originally published in the 1970s. Ram Dass’s wisdom continues into the New Millennium. More contemporary terms such as “mindfulness” have emerged, but the message is the same: Be present. Appreciate the now. Emanate loving-kindness, and celebrate the happy moments.
As a spiritual seeker myself, I am open to positive thinkers such as Ram Dass. It’s refreshing to hear his words during this chaotic holiday season when we often need to remind ourselves to remain in the moment. Being in the moment helps us gain a better understanding of ourselves. In flipping through Be Here Now, I stumbled on this quote: “The journey across the great ocean of existence is a journey inward . . . ever in deeper and deeper and the deeper you get in the more you meet the truth.”
Practicing mindfulness is one way to meet the truth. According to Thich Nhat Hanh, “Mindfulness is the energy that helps us recognize the conditions of happiness that are already present in our lives.” His method of achieving mindful living is to incorporate the following into daily life:
Mindful breathing: As you breathe in, say that you’re breathing in. As you breathe out, say that you’re breathing out. Take a few seconds to breathe in and breathe out. Focus on the breath, as this is a reminder that you’re alive.
Concentration: Focus on your breath during the day without allowing in other distractions. This will lead you to a state of concentration.
Body awareness: While inhaling and exhaling, become aware of the rest of your body. In this way you make a connection between your mind and body.
Releasing tension: When you’re aware of your body, it’s easier to release tension. Breathe in and say, “I’m aware of my body.” Breathe out and say, “I release the tension in my body.” Repeat as many times as needed during the day.
Walking meditation: If you have difficulty sitting still or are limited for time, a walking meditation is a great alternative to a seated meditation. Pay attention to your body as you do a “royal stroll,” feeling and being aware the ground with each step you take. Think of each step as a miracle.
All these techniques lead to increased self-awareness, which is about having a clear perception of who you are—your personality, strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, idiosyncrasies, motivations, and how in touch you are with your emotional well-being. When you’re self-aware, you’re more able to understand yourself and others. Being self-aware also makes you more resilient.
Those who are self-aware are typically more comfortable in their own skin, and they may be perceived as calm individuals. We may see these qualities in some clinicians, spiritual leaders, and writers.
There are various rituals that foster self-awareness, and you might consider some of these during the busy holiday season. They include:
Setting intentions: An intention can be thought of as having a plan or a mission. Setting a daily intention sets the mood for your day and keeps you on track. There are different ways to set intentions. You can simply create intentions for yourself, or you can use intention cards. When using these cards, simply shuffle them and choose a card. Then leave the card out on your desk to glance at throughout the day.
Meditation: Meditation is a way to calm your nerves and allow your brain to process information. It’s also a way to unlock your writing ideas, and gives you a chance to tap into your inner voice. Listen to the messages the silence offers you. Meditation and writing are both about letting go. Start with 15 to 20 minutes each day, and increase as needed.
Journaling: Treat yourself to a new journal and pen. Find a quiet space and time of day when you won’t be interrupted. Write for 20 to 30 minutes without lifting your pen off the page. This form of automatic writing is a way to tap into your subconscious mind.
Happy Holidays, and remember to “be here now!”
Ram Dass (1971). Be Here Now. New York, NY: Crown Publishing.
Hanh, T.N. (1999). The Miracle of Mindfulness. Boston, MA: Shambhala Publications.
Hanh, T.N. (2010). You Are Here. Boston, MA: Shambhala Publications.