What should man striving for awareness start with? The easiest way seems to be self-observation and self-awareness practices but experience has shown that it might be a very difficult start. Man who cannot manage his attention will have difficulty dividing it into parts at once and focusing one of such parts on himself. Considering that it should be done concurrently with ordinary daily activities, it gets clear why self-observation with no preliminary preparation is practically impossible. Man physically lacks the energy of attention to retain several concurrent processes within its field. As a result, he loses self-awareness and habitually couples with one of his actions or states.
This process is inevitable in the beginning and repeatedly demonstrates that we do not possess the energy of our attention. So the best start is preparation for mastering this energy.
Any exercises used to work with attention will be of use. Any passive techniques can be used. The best active ones are those connected with concentration on the external or internal item (trataka, mantra, repeated prayers etc.). Many of the dynamic meditations, for instance, Osho’s ones, are focused on work with the energies of the body, emotions and mind, so they are not very good at training management of your attention. Probably that is why many of the people who perform Osho’s dynamic meditation regularly, cannot boast of the corresponding growth of awareness.
Suppose you have decided to start with observation of your breathing process (vipassana, a classic Buddhist technique). So you sit on a chair or on the floor and focus attention on how the air gets into and out of your chest. This motion can be observed at the level of nostrils or directly in the chest, it is up to you to choose. The main effort in this exercise is to observe the breathing without distraction and coupling with a flow of thoughts that keep going through the mind. One might guess easily it is quite a hard thing to do in the beginning. The habit of coupling with thoughts is so strong that you will hardly notice how quickly you will forget about observation and start thinking about other things. As soon as you recollect the purpose of your sitting, go back to the observation. Do not let your mind start condemning itself or producing the thoughts like, “I will fail.” Constant dropping will wear away a stone, and any effort bears its fruit.
As for the preparation for increasing the level of awareness, the use of passive techniques is obvious: they have the same principle of getting aware, but all the attention can be directed at the observation, with no distraction for other actions. Such practice helps developing the skill of witnessing and watching. If man manages to be aware of his breathing for quite a long period of time, it is a step to permanent awareness of his body and the processes inside.
The exercises must be daily so that you can see the effect of your efforts. The irregular practice helps nourishing your ego, but it is of no use in increasing your awareness. The mechanic nature of human reactions is so deep that the self-awareness attempts two or three times a week will not overcome it.