“How can we live more consciously?”
Most people in recovery are seeking to change. Change is part of the growth process that is recovery. An increase in awareness has to come before these changes.
My journey started when I realized that drugs and alcohol were killing me. This awareness eventually led to change. Later on in recovery, I learned that there were other things that I should change about myself (character defects) if I was to live a meaningful life of sobriety and stay clean. Before I could make any positive changes, however, I had to become aware of the problems. This required an increase in awareness; an elevation of consciousness. I had to become aware of my problems before I could fix them.
I realized that most of the time I was walking through life on autopilot. Even in recovery, I find myself slipping back into this automatic way of living…wandering through life without really being conscious enough, getting the simple things done, going to work, and so on. We don’t have to over analyze the benefits of an increased awareness though, as this is a case where the law of diminishing returns applies quite well. In other words, if we simply make a consistent but small effort at increasing our awareness every day, the payoff can be potentially huge. Our resulting gain in perspective is more than worth the small amount of time invested. So what can we do to increase our awareness? Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
1. Get a daily meditation book – and read it every morning. This can be the Daily Reflections book, or the Just for Today book, or any daily reading literature that has an entry for each day of the year. Try to see how it applies to your life as you go through your day.
2. Meditate – Find a quite place and close your eyes while sitting up. Don’t sleep. Don’t try to think, and don’t worry if you keep having thoughts. Don’t try to focus and concentrate on anything in particular, and don’t give up if your thoughts keep running wild. Just let them be. If you’d like, concentrate on the in and out movement of your breathing. Visualize the breaths going in and out. That is about 98 percent of everything you could ever learn about how to meditate. Law of diminishing returns: just go for it and meditate. You can’t screw it up.
3. Eliminate Denial – Listen carefully to other people who try to help you, and strive to eliminate all forms of denial in your life. Make an honest effort to accurately assess the truth of every aspect of your life. Don’t allow yourself to sugarcoat a situation in order to make yourself feel better. Living a lie in any way, or at any level, will make your consciousness lower.
4. Develop a sensitivity – to the needs of others. You don’t necessarily have to save the world and try to help everyone, but clearly seeing other’s needs will raise your consciousness, as well as to help you see your own needs.
5. Associate – with other people who you consider to be living consciously. Avoid negative people as best you can.
6. Exercise – Get in tune with your body. Stay healthy and pay attention to what your body tells you. Be mindful in all things, including exercise.
7. Practice mindfulness – take any activity and really try to be fully aware of everything that goes into that activity. Stay sharp. Stay off of “autopilot.”
8. Become mindful of your mind – Learn to “watch” your thoughts and observe them. Don’t react to them. Just watch them and let them be.
Notice one of the major themes that keeps popping up on that list? Meditation and mindfulness. For those in a twelve step program, this would correspond well with the eleventh step, but anyone can benefit from practicing these techniques.
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