Many of us are often confused with the concept of consciousness. Sometimes we use it as a mere mental activity and sometimes we think it means merely being awake. In our day-to-day activities, we attend to so many chores, big or small. ][But most of these are done mechanically and unconsciously. Even when it comes to some of our simple habits, we are in a hurry to get to the next one or feel that it is a waste of time to give undue importance to small things which we do out of habit.

If we can grow conscious to what we do, we can make a big difference to our lives and enhance the quality of our lives. And we grow our conscious awareness through the practice of mindfulness. Through mindfulness, we get in touch with our individual awareness of our unique thoughts, memories, and feelings.

Since our conscious experiences are constantly shifting and changing, for instance, one moment you may be focused on reading this, the next moment, your consciousness may shift to a memory of conversation you had earlier with someone. This ever shifting stream of thoughts can change from one moment to another. Altered levels of consciousness may cause states of constant stress, anxiety and lack of focus.

Bringing your attention consciously to the internal and external experiences occurring in the present moment, you can develop complete awareness of your thoughts and emotions. Being aware of your mind, body and feelings creates a feeling of wholeness rather than being overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.

“Peace of mind arrives the moment you make peace with the content of your mind .”

Rasheed Ogunlaru

Mindfulness changes your state of awareness

At the most basic level, mindfulness is simply being aware of what’s happening as it is happening. When you become aware of the workings of your mind, in the moment, you deliberately direct your awareness back into the now and focus your attitude there.

It alters your state of distractedness, inattention, and confusion to being more aware, present, focused and attentive. This helps you to react less to emotional or situational impulses or when things don’t turn out as you expected.

Instead of automatically falling into the stream of past or future that ignites unhelpful emotions, one can draw their attention to their present moment. The more you are mindful, the more is your ability to improve your patterns of thinking. Purposefully concentrating on what’s happening, reduces negative mindset or the tendency to label things as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. You reflect more on the mind to make conscious choices in a state of altered awareness.

Cultivating mindfulness habit into your everyday life

“The best way to capture moments is to pay attention. This is how we cultivate mindfulness.

” —Jon Kabat-Zinn

If you are interested in the development and evolution of your own consciousness, the most important thing is to cultivate awareness of your conscious self. By cultivating a habit of mindfulness in our daily activities, you can avoid knee-jerk reactions to your immediate responses and can respond more constructively, and without judgment.

Mindfulness isn’t necessarily limited to certain breathing practices or to focus your attention on certain objects. Neither it isn’t just about knowing that you are hearing, seeing or observing. It’s about doing so in a way that creates space for insight and has more to do with becoming self aware of your thoughts and emotions in the moment, and to take responsibility for your sense of self. By cultivating an objective sense of self you can avoid getting lost in the subjective drama of your ever-changing inner conscious experiences.

Making Mindfulness a way of life

Mindfulness is a way of befriending ourselves and our experience.

Jon Kabat-Zinn

In everyday life we rarely pay full attention to anything. Since our conscious awareness is like a stream, it is constantly changing. The way your thoughts drift from one topic to another can feel effortless even when thoughts you are having are different. And we feel resistance inside of us when we try to be at peace with ourselves. The more we try, the more we become aware of our buzzing thoughts, or emotions. And resistance is born out of our very effort to be peaceful.

Mindfulness on the other is based on the very foundation that we are innately whole, that our emotions and thoughts are messengers, and that awareness is the key. But the most fundamental thing underlying it is that of your ability to accept and respond to your every experience, as opposed to engaging in a reactive or dismissive attitude.

Being open to your experiences in the moment enables you to step back and get a proper perspective on the situation you are in. As a result, you not only stay connected to your experience, but also identify yourself as something more than your experience. This enables you to accept the feel yourself as the spacious openness of conscious awareness.

However, a peaceful mind does not mean a mind devoid of thoughts, sensations and emotions. When we begin to be mindful, we think we must suppress all thoughts and feelings. Concentrating on breath or an object should not done for suppression of whatever is arising in your conscious awareness. Because suppression only leads to avoidance or denial. Instead when you accept, observe and follow what arises in the light of awareness, it leads to enlightenment of your true self.

Mindfulness & State of well-being

Training your mind to be in the present moment is the number one key to making healthier choices.

Susan Albers

Everyday distractions can keep you from experiencing the joy of simply being— a state of body and mind in which you feel whole, grounded and deeply connected to yourself.

State of well-being can be achieved by a regular practice of meditation. And this can be done in different ways. Insight meditation is where you observe thoughts and emotions or sensations that arise in your awareness without judgment or expectation. This increases your focus and helps you maintain your physical as well as mental well-being.

Then there is zen meditation which says you must have a very quiet mind. It involves disciplining oneself, being aware of every moment or developing present moment awareness. Yoga is a form of meditation where you join together the mind, the body and the higher self. But no matter what system you follow, or you go from one to another, freedom is essential as it is the intrinsic nature of the mind. Once you see the truth with your own light of awareness, you will be able to go beyond perception and be available to your moment.

Mindfulness helps in shifting your perspective

Our thoughts are invisible, yet they have power to influence how we perceive the work around us. We experience negative and positive thoughts. They either make you feel you are capable of great things, or they might make you feel you aren’t good enough or helpless at times. Whether it’s thinking that you are capable or that you are helpless, thoughts get their power from our body’s reaction to them. So, when you bring your thoughts into your conscious awareness, you develop an ability to change them or shift your perspective, so your body responds accordingly. It can change your perspective to more positive and more connected to the world around you.

To-do;

Do not limit your mindfulness practices just to few breathing sessions. Extend them to other areas of your life, like for instance, hobbies and activities that you enjoy can be forms of meditation. When you become engrossed in an activity, you find your flow and in a way, you are doing light meditation. Indulging in your creative pursuits can be a great way to be present and mindful.

Slow down when you are doing your daily chores. For instance, making conscious choices in choosing what to eat, chewing your food or eating mindfully, being present to your surroundings when you are walking, or staying aware of your body sensations while experiencing stress etc., can help you tap into feelings of peace and joy.

Practice deep breathing techniques. Instead of taking short rapid breaths, practice abdominal breathing. Slowing down and becoming conscious of your inhalations and exhalations calms you further and increases your energy.

Welcome emotions and thoughts that are present, without trying to suppress or judge. No matter how uncomfortable your emotions may make you feel, remind yourself that they are temporary. Treat emotions as messengers and welcome your experience just as it is instead of negating or denying.

Nourish your intention to be more in being in your conscious awareness. Be patient with yourself and build your mindfulness practice everyday, a little and often. Experiencing your wholeness enables you to recover a sense of unchanging and ever present peace and well-being.

“Meditation is not evasion; it is a serene encounter with reality.”

Thich Nhát Hanh

Identity cannot be found or fabricated but emerges from within when one has the courage to let go”

Doug Cooper

One of the most important aspect of human beings is to have a stable sense of self. Having a well-developed sense of self is what helps us make wise choices in life. However, formation of self-image or identity is what has become an important conflict today. Since people and the environment around us strongly impact our sense of identity, our likes and dislikes are constantly influenced by changing trends, consumer cultures and need to be accepted. In other words, identifying with our true self has become really challenging competitive and ever changing world.

How can we really identify who we truly are when we have a constant desire to fit in with our peers, to earn appreciation or to live by other people’s standards. As a result, we switch between different identities, live confused, instead of holding on to our true sense of identity. We are influenced by what others do or want us to be, like what we ought to eat, how we should feel, what to achieve or even how to dress so we can be fit ins.

In a way, we’ve become attached to a fake sense of self more than ever. Our lives are so comfortably filtered that it is easy to experience a loss of identity from time to time. A lost sense of self can often lead to mistaken beliefs, values and inaccurate measure of one’s worth.

Our identity or true sense of self is not something inherent, but is developed overtime and is determined by number of factors. And is based on perception of the characteristics that define us, our abilities, what we like and dislike, our belief systems and our values. Even the things that motivate us contribute to our identity as a person. It is further shaped by our experiences during the course of our life, particularly during childhood and during our growing up years. 

Understanding your own identity 

The process through which you develop your own identity begins in childhood. As a child, if you grew up in a supportive environment, and you were given freedom for self-expression, you may develop a healthy sense of self. On the other, if you were raised in non-supportive environments or for some reason if you were subjected to neglect or experienced unfriendly or unpleasant circumstances, you may often struggle to develop a healthy sense of self. 

If your self expression in your growing up years only earned you criticism or punishment, you might respond to it by ignoring your true self. You might have reshaped yourself into someone more widely accepted in order to feel more secure. However, as we transition from childhood to adulthood, each one experiences a sense of confusion and may experiment with different roles, attitudes and behaviours.

Our level of social interactions and relationships too affect our sense of identity. Feelings of constant comparisons and insecurity or over identification with ego too play a role in shaping it. Since we consciously live by the rules we have been taught by our care givers, parents or teachers, they unconsciously play a role in shaping our  subjective sense of self. This creates a continuous self that remains more or less constant even as new aspects of life are developed and strengthened overtime.

Factors that lead to Identity crisis

When you are grounded, comfortable and secure in your true identity, you take responsibility of your own opinions and feelings. It helps you make wise choices as you recognise the value of your own worth. On the other, when there is a loss of identity, you end up clutching to whatever identity labels other people throw your way. Be this your family members, friends, co-workers or social groups and social trends. 

Loss of identity also occurs when you don’t really understand your true self or lack self awareness. This might lead to shifting between your different selves and often makes it difficult to know what exactly you want. Adopting an identity without self exploration or self-knowledge and giving into conformity, peer or parental pressure and cultural expectations contributes to loss sense of self.

Sometimes the busyness of daily stresses or routines tend to put pressure on your available time. Such increased demands in your time and responsibilities make it even more challenging to be in touch with your true identity. 

It is common to experience a loss of identity when you juggle many tasks or responsibilities in order to please others. This further reduces your sense of worth and increases your discontent. When you live your life trying to fit into someone else’s definition of success, you might simply drift through your life , feeling uncertain and indecisive. As a result, you might always try to adjust your sense of self or might find yourself changing in response to other people’s likes and dislikes and seek external validation to reassure yourself.

This urge to model yourself to fit into expectations of others might even extend to your personal or work relationships as a way to gain approval. For instance, faking  a certain persona at work, another one with your family, or an other one with your friends. Shifting between these different selves often can be emotionally and mentally draining.

Spending too much time focused on one thing you feel you have to also leads to you losing sight of what you truly want. Being a parent or prioritising your work over everything else can be some such instances. But the thing is that we each get to decide the right understanding of what we want to be. It comes with self knowledge, self acceptance and how you respond to your experiences, behaviour, thoughts, and feelings.

Your sense of identity depends on recognising your strengths and values 

Our moral code is what makes our lives meaningful and motivates us to make wise decisions. But in today’s busy world, most of us fail to make choices that really reflect our true self identity. Our important life choices often get lost in unnecessary trivialities. Everyone’s personal values and strengths are central to their true being. And everyone’s interpretation of their own life experiences may be one of the major driving factors in determining the values they choose to live by. 

In other words, Our values are inherent to who we are and since they represent our unique and individual essence, being unclear of what’s important in your life can lead to loss of identity. Understanding our personal core values and strengths on the other hand helps us gain clarity on our life’s purpose and so on our authentic sense of self. 

Our identity and social comparisons

As social beings, we are always comparing ourselves to one another and we do so either consciously or unconsciously each time we interact or relate with other people. We rely on our comparisons so as to gauge our own skills, abilities, beliefs and attitudes.

However, comparing can only inspire us to change for better as long as you have a strong sense of self. At other times, it in fact leads to a weak sense of self if one is constantly measuring their success by what someone else does or doesn’t. Fear of missing out and peer pressure makes us compare with others. Also, such frequent social comparisons play out on other areas of our life negatively. We feel burdened by feelings of inadequacy, insecurity or not being good enough.

Rediscovering our identity through self-acceptance and self-compassion. 

We live in a highly competitive world that makes us rely excessively on neediness to being accepted by others. As a result, we tend to be hard on ourselves and live live constantly self-evaluating. This leads to self-criticism in areas like our intelligence, abilities, skill or worthiness. Because the relative significance of these areas changes at different stages of our life, so does our sense of identity. This constant striving to feel good about ourselves in a way, leads to undermining our true self. 

The toxic idea that we have to strive for more at all times can also bring forth our egotistical self that threatens our true identity when faced with failure or rejection. But we can always regain a realistic perception of our true identity through self-compassion.

Being understanding and practising self-kindness, and being self-compassionate to our imperfect self can help us achieve the connectedness with our inner true self. Recognising that personal inadequacy is part of human experience and is something we all go through, rather than something that happens to you alone makes you less judgmental.

Mindful self-awareness helps in reconnecting with your ideal self

At some point in our life, we all experience a lost sense of identity in some situations. When you experience loss of identity at times, choosing to overcome it is not difficult, but needs patience to raise your awareness of patterns of your mind. With a little bit of practice and reflection, you can reconnect to your true identity. Letting go of adopted sense of self however requires careful self-reflection, just like the way you train your concentration or focus. 

Relating your personal experiences to those of others and putting your own situation or experiences into a larger perspective makes you more accepting of both your perfect and imperfect selves. By practicing flexibility and openness, you develop a deeper sense of your identity. Bringing your attention to understanding the conditions that led to lost sense of identity, you begin to see how you are holding yourself back from being your true self. Instead of identifying with the past conditions, you learn to release them and reset yourself in your true nature.

To-do:

Treat yourself with kindness and without judgment. This alleviates fears about social disapproval where you can approach difficult experiences without losing touch with your true identity. Self kindness helps shift your perspective of how you relate to failure, mistakes and difficulty and helps you see it as part of larger human experience.

Notice the presence of judgment by becoming mindful of your inner critical voice and feelings of inadequacy.  This creates space to make wiser choices. Each time you recognise a negative emotion, practice unconditional positive self regard to decondition yourself from the old self-criticising ways. This paves way for self-compassion more naturally. 

Take some time out to destress and reconnect with your passions or people who can help improve your sense of self. Maintain a balanced perspective of self and avoid comparison triggers that don’t really add any value to your life. Do things that not only interest you, but can also help nurture your inner self. 

Practice a daily ritual of mindful self reflection to look inward  and to get in touch with your feelings, thoughts and emotions. When you observe your faults, weaknesses and failures, non judgmentally, you can take responsibility and accept your imperfections. 

Avoid measuring your self-worth and personal values with others socially. Don’t rely on peoples’ opinions of your abilities when it comes to assessing your own self. Instead develop self-awareness of your own strengths and values to gain a precise self assessment of your true self. 

Practicing unconditional acceptance of self, prioritising your values and assuming responsibility creates a strong identity of self. This also lets you overcome moments of lost sense of self and does not allow external circumstances or people to lower your actual sense of self.