Choose one sense object for a basic object of attention. It
is suggested that you choose either the sensations in one part of your body of your
breathing or the sounds around you.
Focus your attention on this object, but do so in such a way that if your attention shifts
to something else you are immediately aware of the shift.
Let us suppose you have chosen for your basic object of attention your breathing. Well,
then, concentrate on your breathing.... It is quite likely that after a while your
attention will move to something else a thought, a sound, a feeling.... Now provided you
are aware of this shift of attention to something else, this shift is not to be counted as
a distraction. It is important, however, that you be aware of the shift while the shift is
taking place or immediately after it has taken place. Count it a distraction only if you
become aware of the shift long after it has taken place.
Suppose you choose breathing as your basic object of attention. Then your exercise will
possibly go something like this:
I am breathing.... I am breathing.... Now I am thinking.... thinking.... thinking.... Now
I am listening to a sound.... listening.... listening.... Now I am irritated....
irritated. Now I feel bored.... bored.... bored...
In this exercise, the wandering of the mind is not considered a distraction provided you
are aware that your attention is shifting to some other object.... Once you have become
aware of this shift, stay with the new object (thinking, listening, feeling....) for a
while, then return to the basic object of your attention (breathing).... your skill in
self-awareness may become so great that you will not only become aware of the shift of
your attention on to some object, but even of the desire to shift, the impulse in you to
shift on to something else. As when you want to move your hand you will first become
conscious of the desire arising within you to move the hand, your consent to this desire,
your carrying out of this desire, the very first stirring of your hand.... All of which
activities are performed in an infinitesimal fraction of a second and so we find it
impossible to distinguish one from the other until the silence and stillness within us has
become almost total and our awareness has acquired razor edge sharpness. Self-awareness is
a powerful means for increasing in love of God and of neighbour. The self-awareness
heightens the love. The love, when it is genuine, fosters deeper self-awareness.
Do not go in search of abstruse means for developing your self-awareness. Begin with
humble things like the awareness of the feel of your body or awareness of the things
around you and then more on to exercises like the ones which are suggested here and it
wont be long before you notice the fruits of peacefulness and love that heightened
self-awareness brings with it.