Awakening to Awareness in Meditation

A few years ago, in the middle of an interview with bestselling
author, Sarah Susanka, an alarm beeped.  She’d just come out with her
book, The Not So Big Life: Making Room for What Really Matters which
focuses on time and self-transformation.  She pulled the alarm off of
her belt and reset it.  “This is my fifteen minute exercise,” she
said.  The alarm exercise helps to cultivate awareness and draw the
mind to pay attention to the present moment, she explained.  It acts in
the same way that meditation functions, but the buzz or vibration
reminds the practitioner to stop and pay attention to how she feels,
what’s going on around, what’s happening inside on deeper levels.

is one of the best ways I’ve found to develop awareness.  My experience
with meditation began with training at Lerab Ling in the chilly air of
the mountains in the South of France under the gente instruction of
Tibetan Lama, Sogyal Rinpoche.  We sat under a large white tent as the
Mistral wind whipped around and Rinpoche reminded us to bring the mind
home.  This meant to be right here in this damp, cool place and not let
my mind wander off to craving for chocolate croissants and espresso. 
Someone struck a bell and the meditation period started.  I squirmed
and so did many of the hundred or more people until the bell rang out
again.  It took many years of practice before I realized that bringing
the mind home simply meant being here, now.  Easy to say, not easy to

first meditation seems more like a struggle than a pleasure.  But a
wise teacher suggested I treat the mind like a little child and gently
prompt it back to the candle flame I aimed to focus on.  After some
time and a good bit of patience, the mental chatter lessened and the
sense of expansion grew.  The real challenge is how to maintain this
expansive, openness throughout the day.  I’ve heard teachers say that
real meditation begins when we become fully conscious of each and every
moment – that is when we pay full attention to each luscious fork full
of food and we fully concentrated on the muscles, aware if the
surroundings when we walk or exercise.  This kind of meditation in
action is the desirable state of joyful being where peace spontaneously
arises.  Bringing conscious awareness into conversations, looking into
the other person’s eyes, and thinking before speaking help to integrate
awareness into each instant.  Perhaps being conscious of what we say
and do might transform both of these and create a better environment
and a better world. 

Back at
Susanka’s the beep buzzed again.  We both paused and enjoyed being
silent for just a moment.  In the rush of daily life it was a pleasant
gift.  As Susanka continued to experiment with the alarm and awareness,
she developed new ways to use it.  “You
start to notice that you get conditioned and you can literally turn
this thing off without being aware you’re doing it,” she said.  The
automatic gestures, the repetitions that we tune out are a way of
tuning out to life itself and not being awake. "You
can start to be aware of how frequently you have not noticed and turned
it off automatically,” she said.  But the real aim is to be conscious
now.  “Now it’s like the day is perforated with moments of real
presence.  It’s amazing how much more you really start to show up. 
That’s the real key to this exercise,” she said.  Susanka’s exercise
takes me back to the tent in France and rings a bell as a constant
reminder to wake up and deeply appreciate the only time we have – the

What is the practice that most helps you to stay in the present?

Copyright: Debra Moffitt-Leslie, Oct. 2009


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