Open Awareness

28.11.2019 |

Episode #2 of the course 10 easy meditations to bring calm to your everyday life by John Robin


Welcome back to the course!

Yesterday, we learned about directed awareness meditation. Most importantly, we learned how to apply it well beyond the stereotypical form: sitting in a chair and focusing on your breath. I hope you found more than three opportunities to practice directed awareness.

Today, we’re going to learn a second kind of meditation that you’ll also be able to practice freely throughout each day.

By the end of this course, you’ll have a collection of ten meditations, so let’s see what the next one is all about.


Open Awareness: The Freedom to Be

Most people who try directed awareness meditation will say that they find meditation hard. After all, it’s difficult to keep your mind focused just on one thing. Some days are better than others. Some days are terrible, and you find yourself getting antsy in your chair.

Open awareness meditation is the complete opposite of directed awareness. It is the embodiment of freedom to just sit and be.

While in directed awareness meditation, you must have an object of focus as an anchor, in open awareness meditation, your attention itself is your anchor.

Try the following exercise:

1. Set a timer for one minute.

2. Pay attention to your attention. What do you notice? What goes through your mind?

3. Stay still and notice where your eyes focus, what enters your head, what you feel in your body, where you feel it, and what body motions you want to make.

4. When the timer finishes, return your focus to the present.

Do it now.

What did you notice? The more you practice this, you’ll likely notice different experiences that fall into the following categories:

• thoughts

• feelings

• sounds

• smells

• body sensations

• memories

• fantasies

Each time you practice open awareness meditation, try to label each experience you have with one of these categories.

For example, if you’re lying down and notice that you want to get up, that’s the feeling of restlessness. Simply label that “feeling.” If you give into moving because of that restlessness, notice the energy in your body, the muscle movements. Label those “body sensations.” Maybe you’re thinking that it’s taking too long and you feel your heart pounding. That’s “thoughts,” as well as more “body sensations.” Are there emotions under those thoughts? Agitation? Boredom? Simply label those “feelings.”

Even though I had you set a timer in the above exercise, just like the coffee meditation example yesterday, you can practice this kind of open awareness meditation at any time, in any place. The timer is optional.

A great time to do this is whenever you’re taking a break from work or trying to relax. Our minds are usually busy, and we want to fill our free time with activity to keep us from being idle. Instead, you can choose to put away your phone, turn off the TV, or put down anything that demands your attention and just sit with yourself.

Open awareness meditation is always available to you and a nice contrast to directed awareness meditation. Here are additional opportunities to practice it:

• when you’re standing in line

• when you’re waiting for the bus

• if you’re taking a short break at work

• before bed if you’re trying to wind down

I practice open awareness meditation several times a day. I’ve trained myself to spot opportunities to do this. You can also opt to do directed awareness meditation instead during any of these times. I recommend that you change it up.

One instinct that you can pay attention to: moments when you’re bored and want to take your phone out to check messages or notifications. This is an opportunity to connect to your thoughts and be present with yourself.

When you catch yourself taking out your phone, try to notice this, and instead, put the phone back and do an open awareness meditation.

While directed awareness meditation trains your focus, open awareness meditation deepens your appreciation of just what your focus is to begin with.



We’ve learned about open awareness meditation and how to apply it freely throughout our day. As with directed awareness meditation, you can do this for any length of time, especially when you have free moments.

Your homework is to spot at least three opportunities today to practice this new form of meditation. Give yourself bonus points if you catch yourself when you’re taking out your phone to check messages!

Stay tuned for tomorrow, when we’ll turn to another kind of meditation that you have three opportunities to practice every day: eating meditation.


Recommended book

The Little Book of Being by Diana Winston


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