the inspiration blog

how to improve your mood (part 4) – witnessing; awareness practice

Posted on: February 20, 2011

When we have a bad mood, or perhaps are lost in the distractions of the day, we become immersed inside of the experience with little perspective. Ever feel like other people saw you just a little bit more clearly than you realized? Or maybe they even pointed out how you felt before you realized what was going on? It’s easy – from the outside.

Cultivating an internal witness is a powerful practice, and at the heart of Buddhist meditation and awareness practices – don’t worry, they’re at heart nondenominational and don’t conflict with any other belief or practice. Here’s one version.

  1. Sitting up straight, either close your eyes or have a soft gaze upon a single point in front of you.
  2. Focus on the breath. If you  like, take long, even breaths, with approximately the same count in and out.
  3. For a minute, listen to all the sounds around you.
  4. Then, for a minute, notice all bodily sensations.
  5. Next, pay attention to emotions that come up.
  6. Finally, listen specifically to your thoughts. It’s easy to get lost in them at any step – just bring your focus back to where you were.
  7. The last step is to intermingle all of the above. Watch whatever comes up. Let your attention skip back and forth, and let all of them garner your equal attention.

Personally, I find taking long intentional breaths allows me to focus better, but other practices say not to intentionally alter the breath.

Now, I said “a minute” for each step – but it could be an hour, or just 15 seconds. Play around with it.

Keep in mind – cultivating this witness does not mean detaching from your negative emotions. It’s simply cultivating a new relationship to them. And again, this is just one awareness practice, and there are many – but give it a try.


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