Last time out, I started a new series called Essential Ideas.
On the pivotal insights of modern physics and philosophy that everyone should know (but almost nobody does).
This time, I wanted to start another ongoing series that would be more applicable to daily life.
Essential Ideas is about changing the way you think. And how you view the world.
Everyday Awareness is about all the creative ways that you can move your consciousness to improve your day-to-day existence.
Practical tips on everything from work to sex to relationships. And all the ways that your consciousness can make or break your endeavors.
Trained awareness isn’t just about altered states and obscure spiritual experiences.
It’s also about learning to better handle the challenges of everyday life!
Up first: a simple tip to maintain grace under pressure.
We’ve all been in stressful situations.
And felt how hard it is to keep our cool when the pressure is on.
Maybe it’s when we speak in public…
Or ask the boss for a raise…
Or have an uncomfortable confrontation with a friend…
And we all have our own ways that we respond when we break under pressure.
Different ways of breaking.
But before we break—before we completely fall apart—we all begin the process in exactly the same way…
We pull our awareness away from the situation we’re in, and direct it inward, inside ourselves.
Think about the last time you fell apart under pressure… and about how it all started.
Were you paying attention to what you were doing?
Focusing on the task at hand?
Or were you paying attention how you were feeling? On what everyone might be thinking about you? And all the things that you didn’t want to go wrong?
Falling apart under pressure always begins with turning your attention inward.
So, if you want to remain graceful and calm, you have to do the opposite…
Focus your attention outside of yourself.
Focus on the horizon.
Focus on the cracks in the wall.
Focus on the wrinkles around your boss’s eyes. Or that stray eyelash.
Follow the cliche and see your audience in their underwear.
Whatever you choose to focus on is fine… Literally anything can work.
The important part is that you externalize your awareness.
(And don’t hold your breath.)
When you pull your awareness back inside of yourself in stressful situations, it creates a cascade of involuntary motions in your consciousness.
Movements that leave your mind all tied up in knots…
You start out feeling stressed and uncertain.
But instead of keeping your attention focused outward, you pull back inside of yourself.
You lose sight of what you’re doing, and start focusing on what you’re feeling.
But that doesn’t feel good, so you dissociate and pull your awareness up into your head.
Except that doesn’t help either…
Because then your mind starts racing. And your thoughts splinter and disintegrate…
And that’s no good at all!
So you either dissociate further, until it feels like you’re having a pseudo out-of-body experience…
Or you focus in on random trains of thought and forget what you were saying and doing…
Or you struggle and strain to pull the pieces back together through sheer force of will. (But the pieces don’t fit—so the charge and stress get even worse.)
Or you just keep right on disintegrating until you pass the hell out…
Any of that sound familiar?
Maybe one of those is your go-to response? (I tend toward the first and third.)
Maybe you’ve given all of them a try?
Whichever way you wander, the end result is the same…
You break under the pressure.
And it all starts with something as innocuous as internalizing your awareness.
Stay on Target
Now, once you put your focus outside of yourself, you have to keep it there.
Don’t jump around.
As the pressure continues, you’ll feel pangs of discomfort.
You’ll be doing okay—holding your shit together—and then you’ll get a stab of uneasiness…
And you’ll be tempted to follow that uneasiness inward.
Don’t do it.
Every time you catch yourself pulling your attention back inside yourself, put it right back out there.
Don’t try to cope, or fix your feelings.
Don’t focus on, or try to power through your discomfort.
That just leads into the same death spiral.
Drop the feelings, breathe slowly, and externalize your awareness.
Yes, you’re avoiding your discomfort.
Yes, you’re ignoring your emotional conflict.
Most of that is transitory anyway. And what isn’t, you can deal with later.
For now, just get the job done.
As you get better at focusing outward, you can follow up with lots of other motions that will help even more…
Things like keeping your awareness grounded in your body so that it doesn’t run away into fight-or-flight mode.
Remaining unattached and centered in the present moment to minimize anxiety over the future.
Disidentifying from your thoughts and emotions to gain depth, freedom and perspective. (Without dissociating from them!)
And cultivating a sense of beauty, gratitude and acceptance that embraces your discomfort as being perfect in itself.
But those motions are all (progressively) harder to pull off.
And none of them come first.
So begin with what’s easiest…
When you need to remain graceful under pressure, just breathe and keep your awareness focused outward.
Up next: a simple way to deal with anxiety.
If you liked this post, please consider sharing, along with a brief comment of what you thought… It doesn’t sound like much. But these small gestures make a tremendous impact on building our community, and helping other wayward rebels find a perspective that they can resonate with.
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In any case, thanks so much for stopping by! – \m/ – Z
About Zach Herbert
I teach people to do cool things with their consciousness, and break their brains with beautiful ideas.
Professional heretic. Unlikely mystic. Host to rebels, misfits and independent thinkers.
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