Tools for the Aware Self to Use
by Debbie Homewood
The Aware Self
It can be helpful to draw a diagram which consists of a big circle with smaller circles inside it. The big circle represents you and the smaller circles represent different aspect of you, such as the inner critic, the child, the protector, etc., parts we all have, as well as unique parts such a musician, father, etc., depending on who we are.Then draw another circle outside, but touching the big circle. We call that the Aware Self. The Aware Self is our conscious awareness with which we are able to be aware of what we are feeling, what we are thinking, what we are experiencing, which aspect of self is out front, how we are reacting, or anything else that is going on inside us. One of our goals is to strengthen our Aware Self and be able to go there whenever we need to. When we are able go to our Aware Self we can then begin to work skillfully with whatever we are experiencing. I have put together some tools our Aware Self can use to help us function more from this place. First there is a list of the tools, and then I explain a bit about each, below the list.
Tools for the Aware Self
- Surrender the Outcome (non-attachment)
- Compassion and Loving-kindness
- Connecting with your Heart
- Softening instead of resisting
- Separating from some of those other parts like the inner critic or frightened child)
Mindfulness means being aware of whatever is happening in the present moment (in our body, our thoughts, our feelings) and accepting whatever that may be without judgment. Mindfulness means knowing what you are experiencing while you are experiencing it, moment to moment and allowing it to be whatever it is. Mindfulness is awareness of what is, and acceptance of what is. It is a way of opening to whatever is happening, even if what is happening is painful in some way. It is a conscious choice to experience our sensations, feelings, thoughts and self, just as they are, moment to moment without attachment – without needing to make them different in some way. Mindfulness helps us open to ourselves, just as we are. See my free download of a meditation to help you experience mindfulness. Here is a link to a web page with many mindfulness techniques and exercises: mindfulselfcompassion.org/
2.Surrender the Outcome (Non-attachment)
From our Aware Self, we can work on focusing on awareness and acceptance of whatever is happening in that moment, without it needing it to be different, without there needing to a different outcome other than what is. Surrendering the outcome is another way of talking about developing non-attachment. Non-attachment is different than detachment. Detachment is a rejection of something. Non-attachment allows us to accept and to care, but without getting hooked, and becoming dependent on things being a specific way or there being a specific outcome.
As we work at becoming more aware and more familiar and comfortable with allowing whatever is happening, it can be very helpful to name what we are experiencing. For instance if we are anxious and we become aware, from our Aware Self that we are anxious we can say to ourself “ Ah, Anxious” or “Ah, Anxiety”. This is a useful tool to strengthen our awareness and help us to see what we are experiencing so that it becomes easier to accept it.
A very useful tool the Aware Self can choose to use is to focus its awareness on our breath and soften to our breath, or breathe a little more slowly, a little more deeply, or just feel the sensations of the breath as it comes in and out of the body. This is a powerful tool to bring us into the present moment, feel a little calmer and be better able to connect more strongly with the Aware Self. Slow deep abdominal breathing helps get us out of the Fight or Flight Response.
5. Compassion and Loving-kindness
One of the most powerful tools the Aware Self can use is to embrace whatever is happening with kindness. The Aware self has the ability to embrace pain, anxiety, fear, loneliness, happiness, grief, anything at all, with loving kindness, with compassion. This is about the aware self choosing to enter into the truth of the experience with softness and kindness. I have attached a list of synonyms for Compassion to help you explore more fully this complex, multi-faceted experience. I encourage you to read and reflect on these ideas, gently rolling them over in your awareness, savouring each one, opening to the feeling of it, so that when the Aware Self is choosing to meet something with compassion it has lots of ways to do that. As well as accepting what is happening in the moment with compassion, it is equally important to accept ourself, the self that is suffering, the self that is in pain, the self that is scared or lonely, with compassion. So not only can we accept the feeling, or thought or experience with compassion, we can accept the self that is suffering, with compassion. Compassion can become a constant loving companion. For many of us feeling compassion for ourself is really, really hard. Sometimes if we start by being aware of someone we know who is suffering, and feeling compassion for that person, we are able to gently move from there, to feeling some compassion for ourself. In the words of Christopher Germer, “we offer ourselves kindness not necessarily to feel better, but simply because we feel bad " and is so doing, things begin to change. The path to emotional freedom starts with kindness towards our suffering self.
6. Connecting with your Heart
The Aware Self is able to direct our awareness to our Heart, our heart centre, our centre of emotional and spiritual intelligence. Sometimes the Aware Self has a hard time being able to connect with compassion, or to be able to accept whatever is happening with loving-kindness. It can be really helpful to get our focus of attention out of our head and into our heart. By focusing awareness on our breath, and following our breath with our awareness, down into our chest area we can gently guide our awareness to our heart centre and connect with our heart which is the source of compassion and loving-kindness. Free download of a meditation to help you learn how to connect with your heart. When you have connected your awareness to your heart you can then bring whatever is happening in the moment into your heart where it will be accepted and embraced with loving-kindness and compassion. Compassion is the heart inclining towards suffering with compassion which will gently bring us to peace and well-being by accepting what is, with loving-kindness.
7. Softening instead of resisting
A simple but powerful tool the Aware Self can use is just to soften – soften to a feeling, soften our breath, soften our belly, soften to the pain. Softening is an inner gesture that changes our experience. It helps us stop resisting what is and makes it a little easier to accept it.
8. Separating from some of those other parts (like the inner critic or frightened child)
Often when we are very upset in some way, one of the parts of us, such as the Inner Critic, has taken over. The Aware Self is the place from which we can notice that this has happened. As soon as the Aware Self has realized that some particular part has come to the foreground and is in charge, then there is already a little separation from that part. You can then offer compassion to that part, or, if it is really causing a great deal of suffering then the Aware Self can use its position to separate us from which ever part is in the driver’s seat. With awareness, really feel the part that is dominating. Then, with awareness, stand up and leave that part where is, move away and turn and look back at the part you have just left sitting there. Take a moment to focus your awareness in your body and really feel your aware self. You may want to speak to the part you have separated from or offer if compassion. It is important to not sit back down in the same place.
The Aware Self can ask a question, which can help us be aware of what is happening in the moment and help us remember to accept, with kindness. Here are a few questions the Aware Self might find helpful:
- Which part of me is trying to control things right now?
- How can I be kind to me and not hurt me or cause me more pain?
- Is this harmful to me or hurting me?
- Is there a tool I can use to take care of myself right now?
- Am I resisting whatever is happening in this moment?
- What would be the compassionate thing to do right now, for myself?
- How can I be a better friend to myself in this moment?
- Do I have goodwill towards myself at this moment or not?
Debbie Homewood is a counsellor who helps her clients access and benefit from becoming more conscious and using Mindfulness in their daily life. This article may not be republished without the permission of the author. Copyright © 2010 Debbie Homewood