Meta-awareness training aka mindfulness

////Meta-awareness training aka mindfulness

This topic contains 11 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  Deepak Chopra 5 years ago.

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  • #5170 Score: 2

    6 votes

    Namaste! This seems like a very general topic so I left it here, but if it belongs elsewhere, feel free to move it.

    Dr. Chopra has been tweeting the following link re: meditation:

    >> As you meditate on a regular basis, you develop what is known as “witnessing awareness” – the ability to calmly and objectively observe a situation, notice when you are being triggered, and consciously choose how you want to respond. The ability to be present and aware is extremely valuable in every relationship.<<

    I assume that this is the same thing as “meta-awareness”, that is, awareness of awareness.

    Is this the main point of concentration meditation styles? I am aware that it has other purposes, but this is the specific goal that I want to know more about.

    The instructions I have always received are to focus my attention on the object of meditation—say my breath—and to pull my attention back to the breath if it wanders off.

    But my instructors invariably assume that my attention IS wandering off…they say things like “notice your thoughts…emotions….”. I don’t have any! They told me to keep my attention on my breath so that’s where it is. I can quiet my mind so that not much is going on. I don’t think I am getting much effective training in meta-awareness this way. Maybe only on “bad days” when at least I notice that my mind is stirred up!

    I’ve always had some meta-awareness, but I don’t think it’s getting exercised through meditation. I suspect I need to modify my practice.

    What might make more sense for me would be to practice mindfulness while doing something active. Maybe the object of awareness needs to be specifically my internal state per se.

    I assume that at least some of the point of meta-awareness is for regulating attention, mood, and emotional control in real time. Like noticing if you are experiencing an emotion–let’s say a negative one like anger or fear–which is triggering an unhelpful “reptilian response” (fight, flight, freeze…) that is not helpful in the situation.

    More generally: are my mood, attention, and activity congruent with my immediate goal? Long-term goals?

    What do you think? Any advice? Much obliged!

    This post has received 2 votes up.
  • #5184 Score: 2

    Aurora Carlson
    110 votes

    Hi Kalkin, a warm welcome to the YATU forum! Don’t worry, you posted the topic in the right subforum, it is here we invite and discuss general questions as well as the preface of the book.

    I’m sure Deepak will respond soon, but in the meantime, may I ask you… you say that you do not experience thoughts and emotions in meditation. Regardless… why are you discontent with your meditation? You seem to be searching for something in an active way. But what we all seek, awareness itself, becomes apparent naturally as we learn to relax and let go of expectations and preconceived notions. In my experience, staying with one’s own awareness in the silence of meditation is a process which ripens over time. In the beginning, having no thoughts or emotions feels empty and meaningless, but in time, that state begins to reveal its beauty and depth.

    How does this resonate with you?

    This post has received 2 votes up.
  • #5190 Score: 0

    6 votes

    I appreciate you taking the time to share your insights. Thank you for the warm welcome!

    You seem to be searching for something in an active way.

    Not while meditating; while evaluating my experience afterwards. I confess I have some expectations–or I wouldn’t have any compelling reason to meditate. But I suspend them while meditating.

    But what we all seek, awareness itself, becomes apparent naturally as we learn to relax and let go of expectations and preconceived notions

    I can suspend interpretations of my experiences inside or outside of meditation, and maintain “bare attention”, more-or-less at-will. Not a problem.

    You might object: but how do you know that if you’re not aware of your own state of awareness? I have SOME ability, especially when my mind is calm…I don’t think I’m exercising it much while meditating…certainly not enough to actively maintain it while NOT meditating. I am aware that some people can maintain awareness of awareness as they fall asleep, go through a lucid dream state–and then even maintain it in deep, dreamless sleep. I know that they are reporting accurately, because scientists can monitor their brain waves, and spot a secondary alpha or beta wave while their brains are producing primarily delta waves. That’s their conscious awareness witnessing while they are in deep sleep!

    The point is not to reproduce what sounds like a fakir’s parlor-trick. The point is that the same phenomenon can be useful in waking states. Meditating

    • #5194 Score: 0

      Aurora Carlson
      110 votes

      I don’t doubt your familiarity with pure attention. I also know that some people can remain awake as awareness while sleeping and dreaming, and I hear you about the relevance of such abilities in waking states 🙂 I too have been fascinated by the promise of what can be done if aware enough!

      I may of course be wrong, but when reading your description, it seems to me that you see expanded awareness as something that is attainable through some kind of effort, in the way bigger muscles are the result of training. Is that how you see it?

      In my experience, that is not how it works. The identity that wants to “attain” more awareness through effort is exactly the false identification I have to let go of in order to expand into the awareness that I already am. I have realized that I can’t attain (gather, earn, win) more awareness. What I can do is let go of the localized perspective that gives the illusion of limited awareness.

      I do see a clear link between this process and intention though. Intention and attention. What do you think?

  • #5200 Score: 0

    6 votes

    I may of course be wrong

    LOL, I think what we have here is failure to communicate! I think the problem is something that I have been wondering about for a while now. The first problem is that the English language does not have a lot of words (or their corresponding concepts) to describe interior states. Sanskrit and Pali do but peppering conversations with too much vocabulary from those languages leaves many people behind, even if you try translating them as best you can–which often isn’t entirely satisfactory since the concept is missing.

    The other problem is that there are a lot of different wisdom traditions, and they have their own concepts, rules, and practices. I think we need someone who is good at analyzing and synthesizing, someone like Ken Wilber, to sort it all out for us.

    I don’t expect you to always know what I mean, or myself to always know what you mean, and we’ll muddle through. Drunk

    it seems to me that you see expanded awareness as something that is attainable through some kind of effort, in the way bigger muscles are the result of training. Is that how you see it?

    Maybe, except I’m not sure we’re on the same track regarding “expanded awareness”. Yes, I do expect the ability that I am seeking to be attainable through effort, similar to way muscle capacity expand with training, except the organ in question is the brain.

    I think some sort of meditation-like practice should build that ability, but at the moment I am unsure about the details.

    I suspect Dr. Chopra knows, or knows someone who knows, because when someone asked him “tips for Astro travel?”, he tweeted back “Lucid dreaming”. Because some people who can lucid dream at will are also good at meta-awareness. Besides, he’s also the one who inspired the post with his comments on meditation, though I might have interpreted them other than as he intended.

    Someone else asked him “do you ever lose your temper?”, and his answer was “Less and less, I would say rarely if ever these days”. Now there are several different ways to achieve that outcome, and not all of them involve what I am thinking of, but one way to do it is to develop enough meta-awareness of your own internal state to notice when the anger is rising before it reaches critical mass, and making a decision to react in a different way.

    I can sort of do that…but not quite all the way…because I’m not making any progress on developing meta-awareness.

    The identity that wants to “attain” more awareness through effort is exactly the false identification I have to let go of in order to expand into the awareness that I already am.

    This sounds like it has something to do with what in English I suppose is called the “ego” or the “separate-self-sense”. I am aware that I am not my ego. I can suspend it temporarily (not all the time), expand it, or contract it, depending on the needs of the situation. I can experience non-dual awareness.

  • #5284 Score: 0

    6 votes

    Mindfulness is described as (1) A temporary state of non-judgmental, non-reactive, present-centered attention and awareness that is cultivated during meditation practice; (2) An enduring trait that can be described as a dispositional pattern of cognition, emotion, or behavioral tendency; (3) A meditation practice; (4) An intervention.

    Aurora (and anyone else watching this discussion), it looks like you were probably thinking about definition (1), and I was thinking about definition (2).

    Factor analyses of these measures resulted in five facets of mindfulness including (1) An enhanced capacity for noticing or attending to internal and external experiences (OBSERVING); (2) An enhanced capacity for noting and labeling internal experiences (feelings, images, and thoughts; DESCRIBING); (3) An enhanced capacity for acting with present-centered awareness rather than on “automatic pilot”—lost in the past or the future (acting with AWARENESS); (4) An enhanced ability to take a non-evaluative, non-judgmental stance toward inner thoughts, images, and feelings and outer experiences (NON-JUDGEMENT); and (5) An enhanced ability to allow thoughts, images, and feelings to come and go without reacting to them or getting carried away by them (NON-REACTIVITY).

    I am already strong in facets (3) through (5), though (5) was a late-breaking development that I am still working on. Being able to maintain access to the rational, creative capacities of the pre-frontal cortex is good, but being able to actively select your mood on the fly according to the requirements of the situation is even better. That requires more of (1) and (2).

    Before the emergence of a meta-aware position, the attention is fully absorbed by the continuous stream of the contents of consciousness. The five senses, the body and the mind produces percepts, emotions and thoughts. These evoke swift processes of evaluation by the feeling function and the mind, which in turn elicit judgments, feelings, desires, and action impulses. The attention is so bound up with these processes that all that is perceived is the result of the processes. There is no free attention available for reflecting on the processes themselves, and therefore no possibility to actively relate to what is happening. The self is lost in the ego processes, and cannot take a perspective on them.

    It may be helpful to think of this predicament as a situation where one is simply so occupied with experiencing that one doesn’t get the idea to ask such questions as: Why do I feel this way now? Do I want to feel like this? What made me draw that conclusion? Do I want to react in this way? Etc.

    This description of the pre-meta-aware personality describes most of the problem-people whom I have ever met in my life. They’re trapped in their own egos, thoughts, and emotions. Several of them developed personality disorders, and their life is a constant battle with other people who resist being pulled into their delusions.

    That’s one problem though: too many scientists can only see the situation from the perspective of pathology. They don’t think of it in terms of someone who is functional but wants to be MORE functional. And, for that matter, scientists tend to pursue WHAT but not HOW.

    Many practices have been developed for training awareness of different ego processes in order to emerge out of an unconscoius embeddedness in them. Some examples: Tai Chi Chuan, which focuses on awareness of sensorimotor schemata; The Rosen method of bodywork, which focuses on awareness of emotions; Vipassana meditation, which focuses on awareness of thinking; Tonglen meditation, which, amongother things, fosters awareness of desires. Some practices stay at the early levels of developing self-awareness, i.e. they aim at increasing the awareness of what is going on in our field of experience…

    Vipassana didn’t work for me. I can focus my attention on my breathing (or any other object of awareness), or on my thoughts and emotions.

    …Other practices aim explicitly at facilitating the emergence of a witness self.

    WHICH?! The author didn’t name them. THIS is what I am after!

    I tried searching on “meditation practice emergence witnessing self”, and got a lot of hits for yoga…not sure what type, haven’t read through yet… but I did find a white paper written by a Hindu guru that looks like it might be on-topic.

    • #5287 Score: 0

      Aurora Carlson
      110 votes

      Hello Kalkin, thank you for your message and for sharing your research with us!

      To answer your question, no, I was not referring to a temporary state, nor to a permanent trait. I am pointing to our permanent being, our true identity, and once that realization opens up there is no confusion left and no more searching to be done. Whenever the Self realizes itself in any of us, there is … I can only call it cosmic laughter and blissful emanation of love and delight. And when that surprise eventually settles down, there is a solid, permanent knowing of reality, from which the temporary states, traits and roles are consciously chosen.

      So I do think we are referring to different “things” (not that the self is a thing! 🙂 ) and from my own journey but also from what the Vedic sages say, it is better to focus on the ultimate goal and not on the different stages or capacities that come with them (siddhis), as these unfold naturally on the path to the ultimate.

      You say that you are looking for a method to facilitate the emergence of a witness self. Well, the awakening of the witnessing self means different things on the path. At first the conditioned human self witnesses only a tiny sliver of the immediately noticeable gross, material reality. Then comes the capacity to witness more of the personal environment and also the inner world of personal thoughts and feelings. As awareness deepens, the witnessing expands to all those involved in a situation (so there is access not only to what was formerly believed to be “me” but also to what was formerly believed to be “you”) and slowly this includes not only humans but other living creatures, and in a later stage even what we call inanimate matter or natural phenomenons. And after that has settled and deepened, the unity of all of it is realized as the only real identity.

      OK, so regardless of any of this, your question is HOW? 🙂
      My answer is that the path looks different for every person and the best is to follow your inner guidance, if you are in contact with it. As that can be tricky on the path while we are still with one foot in conditioned awareness, I recommend a meditation practice that helps you transcend not only the chatter and emotional fluctuations of the mind, but also the imaginary control of the conditioned self. For the conditioned (personal) self it’s a challenge to dive into the unknown, but that’s exactly what needs to happen in order to go deeper and discover where the control actually is. I think Deepak described this once in terms of the conditioned self slowly realizing that it has been grasping a toy steering wheel while the infinite Self was all this time driving the car.

      If transcendence meditation is nothing for you, one of the best ways of achieving this surrender is what some call Bhakti yoga, which means falling madly in love and taking it from there 🙂

  • #5285 Score: 0

    6 votes

    OK, did some more digging, and pursuing some leads. Have some reading & listening to do.

  • #5286 Score: 1

    1 vote

    This is a very interesting subject. I have recently started writing my own notes on HRV, meditation, intensity, stress and physiology.

    I came upon this webpage after seeing Dr. Deepak’s video on youtube.

    I apologize if this is the wrong thread, I’m trying to deepen my understanding but I feel that if I don’t reach out to people anyone, that is looking into this, my research will take longer. Already, I’m limited in my understanding and the time I have in the day to read all the books.

    Does anyone have a suggestion for a meetup or forum that allows for face to face communication? I feel that the bandwidth of reading and forums is too narrow to really achieve the understanding I am looking for.

    This post has received 1 vote up.
    • #5288 Score: 0

      Aurora Carlson
      110 votes

      Hi Christophe, a warm welcome to the YATU forum! Don’t worry about where you posted please, the main thing is that you connected with all of us who are gathered for the same purpose, which is expanding our understanding of a deeper reality. It’s easier when you’re not alone about it!

      If you have limited time and feel that reading books is not your thing right now, and if you feel that you need personal guidance, then you need to find someone who has experience of that which you are seeking. There are guides who work one-on-one and others who work with groups and large audiences. You will have to find that which resonates with you.

      Look for meditation or yoga classes around you where you live, and if you want the guidance of Drs. Chopra and/or Kafatos you can ask questions here on the forum. Or if you feel that you resonate with the guidance of Dr. Chopra, you can go to one of his many events which are posted on his website or to workshops and courses at the Chopra Center.

      I hope this helps 🙂 Good luck and don’t hesitate to connect with us again if you should feel like it!

  • #5320 Score: 0

    6 votes

    Namaste Christophe. The Divine within me pays its respects to the Divine within you. I’m addressing you with this reply:

    Already, I’m limited in my understanding and the time I have in the day to read all the books.

    I understand. If you feel like your schedule is imposed on you, rather than you being the master of your own allocation of your time on earth, that’s a problem. You need to get into the habit of making your own choices, including potentially “hard” choices that involve weighing real costs against real benefits.

    If you are in college (guessing from your profile pic), you probably have a heavy load of studying. Just make sure that whatever you are doing will contribute to your own personal goals, and not just fulfilling someone else’s expectations of you. Right now, unemployment levels are high among new graduates here in the USA where I am, and I know they are high in some parts of Europe. You might reasonably wonder what the outcome of the efforts you are putting in now will be, and how they can be optimized with choices and if appropriate, changes you make now.

    Traditionally the way that esoteric traditions were passed along was through training in a temple. It was not necessarily set up to be efficient, and recruits were typically put to task for years before they actually got any real training (wink). Nowadays we have a lot more resources available, but it still helps to seek out other practitioners for help and encouragement.

    I concur with Aurora’s suggestion to look for something like a local (Hatha) yoga class, and I suggest following up sessions with say 10-20 minutes of meditation. Instructions for how to meditate are ubiquitous, though as I am discovering there are a few subtleties involved. Don’t worry about that to begin.

    Hatha Yoga can be surprisingly vigorous despite the relatively slow movement between poses (asana). That’s because the poses are designed to put various muscle groups in tension. While you are doing it, keep your mind focused on what you are doing, and how the experience feels.

    But what’s the benefit of meditation? Teachers of some esoteric traditions don’t want me to tell you, because you’re supposed to figure it out yourself. The analogy is that if you are colorblind, no amount of talking about the color red will explain to you what “red” is; you have to experience it for yourself. But talking doesn’t hurt, so I talk, especially since if no one explains anything to you, then you don’t have any motive to agree to this. There are a number of benefits of meditation, including the ones that you read about in this thread.

    The most immediate benefit is calming down your neurology. Have you ever met someone said to be “neurotic”? They over-react to their experiences? They turn small problems into big problems? We’re all a little bit neurotic–it’s just a matter of degree! Meditation can prevent or cure that. It can increase something called “equanimity”, whereby you don’t over-react to your problems, but stay calm and rational as you deal with them. This is a blessing for dealing with everyday problems, and particularly big ones too.

    It can also lead to certain mystical experiences, but those are the ones you have to figure out for yourself. The short answer is that you really are the whole Kosmos looking back on itself from a particular perspective, but actually internalizing that sense is not something I can just tell you.

    Does that help?

  • #5322 Score: 0

    Deepak Chopra
    60 votes

    Dear Kalkin,

    thank you for the question! I have answered in Readers Ask: How Can We Attain Meta Awareness?


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