Where should one begin when seeking to develop awareness? It would seem that the easiest way is to start with self-observation, but experience suggests such starting is very difficult. One who is not proficient at managing their attention will have hard time learning how to divide it into two parts and keep one part directed onto oneself. Considering that this practice is to be performed in parallel with common daily activities, it becomes clear why self-observation is practically impossible without any preliminary preparatory work. A person physically falls short of the energy needed for attention to stay with several concurrent processes at the same time. He typically loses awareness and habitually slips into identification with one of his actions or states.
Such a situation is unavoidable at the beginning and just speaks one more time to the fact that we are not in control of the energy of our attention. Therefore, it is better to start with the preparatory training on getting control of that energy. Any exercises on developing attention will be helpful. Any passive techniques will work. Among active techniques, those that train one’s attention to focus on external or internal objects (trataka, mantra, repetition of prayers, etc.) are the best. Many movement meditations, for instance, Osho dynamic mediation, work with the energies of the body, emotions, and mind and therefore are not very suitable for the attention control training. Perhaps that is the reason why many practitioners of Osho’s dynamic meditation cannot boast a congruous growth of their awareness.
Suppose you decided to begin with observing your breath (Vipassana, a classic Buddhist technique). You sit in a chair or on the floor and direct your attention on the air coming in and out of your chest. You can observe the air flow touching the tips of your nostrils or the sensations in your chest, whichever you prefer. The main effort in this exercise is to observe breathing without getting distracted and identified with a stream of thoughts that flow through the mind. As you can guess, at first, it will be difficult. The habit to identify with thoughts is so strong that you will hardly notice how quickly you forget about the observation and begin to think about other things. As soon as you recall the purpose of your sitting here, you bring yourself back to the observation. Do not let your mind go into self-condemnation or producing thoughts like, “I am going to fail.” Water dropping constantly wears away stone, and any effort bears its own fruit.
In regards to the preparatory work for growing awareness, the benefit of passive techniques is obvious—they utilize the same principles as the practice of awareness, except that all attention is directed toward observation and not distracted by other actions. This practice helps to develop the skill of witnessing, or viewing. If one is successfully able to stay aware of one’s breath sufficiently long, this becomes a step toward developing constant awareness of the body and all of inner processes.
To see the progress, one must be performed exercises daily, regardless of the type. Practicing irregularly boosts the ego but is of little help in increasing self-awareness. The mechanicalness of human responses is so strong that probing self-awareness two to three times a week will be insufficient to overcome it.