In this article, we explore the technique known as open awareness meditation.
Getting into meditation ain’t easy.
When we first started, we were downright overwhelmed by the number of styles, techniques, and teachers.
Again, we want to reiterate that we are not meditation masters, spiritual guides, or zen gurus. We’re just regular folks who found some amazing benefits in a beginner’s meditation practice.
In order to make those benefits more accessible, we are breaking down some of the more popular techniques.
Not all styles of meditation are right for everyone. In fact, it can feel like meditation “doesn’t work” until you find the right technique.
In the last article, we covered focused awareness. If you missed that one, check it out here.
Today, we’ll discuss a technique called open awareness.
Open awareness is pretty much the opposite of focused awareness.
Instead of focusing on an “object” to anchor us in the moment, like the breath or sensations in the hands, the aim is to open up our attention to everything that is happening right now.
When we step back from an anchor like the breath, we open ourselves to a whole world of emotions, thoughts, sounds, smells, and sensations.
This style of meditation works with our brain’s natural tendency to wander. It can be hugely beneficial for cultivating creative ideas and improving problem-solving.
It can also be extremely easy to get lost in thought during an open awareness meditation. This is why we recommend getting yourself in the correct mindset before you start.
A Kind Curiosity
When we open up our awareness a whole world can come rushing in.
Some of these sensations are pleasant and non-distracting like the feeling of your breath or the air on your skin.
And some of them are…less pleasant; car alarms going off, the smell of your neighbors attempt at cooking, that memory of ripping your pants during middle school gym class.
We can easily fall into a distracted and judgemental state when we expand our perception past our anchor.
To prevent this, all we need to do is a little mind prep.
Our minds are a wacky place. They’re the most complex structures in the known universe; there’s bound to be some weird stuff bouncing around in there.
Before practicing open awareness, remind yourself that for this short period of time you are going to observe everything as it happens with a sense of kind curiosity.
When that memory of your ripped shorts pops up, kindly acknowledge that it has curiously appeared. Allow yourself to observe it, and then return to your state of open awareness.
Allowing ourselves to be curious and kind about whatever arises helps us remain non-judgemental. The “goal” is to simply observe and experience whatever arises with a sense of kind curiosity.
When you are first starting out with this method, it is completely normal for your sense of openness to only last a few seconds before becoming lost in thought.
Remember that just because the practice is difficult doesn’t mean you’re not benefitting. Resting in open awareness allows you to discover how your mind works.
You’ll soon recognize patterns and tendencies that carry you away in thought, allowing you to stop them in their tracks and stay in the present.
Give it a try in this guided walkthrough of an open awareness meditation.