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How to Find Self-Awareness in Your Meditation Practice

Meditation teacher Shivani Hawkins shares tips for how to approach the practice in a way that invites self-awareness and authentic transformation.

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Woman meditating

Be a Gardener

Human development is a slow, organic process. There are times when everything blooms quickly, and there are seasons of hibernation when it seems like nothing is changing, but in fact a lot is happening underneath the surface. Inner transformation can seem as slow as a tree branch growing. However, we need to consistently nurture ourselves, be patient, and let things unfold in their own way.

Track the Discomfort

If you are caught in a loop of critical, anxious thoughts, such as Wow, I really messed up or I’m such a loser for reacting like that or I have to urgently fix this or else no one will like me, often underneath those thoughts is a deeply held self-shaming belief like I’m not good enough. Every one of these thoughts and beliefs will be localized in particular places or patterns in your body or breath. The next time you are caught in a seemingly endless loop of thoughts, instead of just watching your thoughts, also pay attention to your breath and track sensations in your body. Is your stomach in knots? Is your throat aching? Are you breathing hard? Gently identify where the pain or discomfort is in your body. Your mind may be all over the place, but your body tends to be much simpler. By placing your attention to the physical expression of your thoughts, you can more quickly identify what core beliefs are actually driving the wave of thoughts.

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Trust the Process

If you can sit with the pain or discomfort, you may discover the deeper truth behind what you are experiencing. In the presence of this truth, the mind chatter stops and it becomes easier to hear the voice of a deeper wisdom. Your own loving voice emerges to remind you that, for example, you actually are good enough and did your best. When your own compassion rises to meet your pain, it is common to feel a physical or emotional release. You might move and shake, you might cry, you might laugh. As you access your own love like this, you’ll find a deep stillness and joy without having to escape any aspect of yourself, no matter how seemingly radical, scary, or unwelcome it was at first.

Be Generous In Your Love for Yourself

The way most of us talk to ourselves is really critical, unkind, and impatient. We often shame ourselves. But it doesn’t need to be this way. Begin each meditation by committing to show up for yourself like a loving, loyal friend. Gently say, I’m here and I always will be. Nothing you say or do is going to make me leave. Whatever thought, sensation, or belief arises, I will be here with you. In this tender space you may hear new things, witness emotions that have never surfaced before, experience tremendous gratitude, or maybe just be bored (which is OK, too, and usually leads to insight or creative breakthrough later on). It’s all valuable. The important thing is to not abandon yourself during your practice.

See also 5 Solutions to Common Meditation Excuses + Fears