The key perhaps is to pay attention - to direct your awareness to what is going on, initially when you're deeply absorbed, or when you feel particular happiness.  Over time you'll begin to experience it much more deeply, and you'll learn how to cultivate such times, for the benefit of yourself and others.

The curious thing about it is that when you reach the stage of 'just being', you no longer need to try: there's no longer a need to make an effort.  You just allow and everything happens as if by itself.  There's no need to think about what to say or do.  You just are, and everything happens seemingly without any conscious action by you.  Nevertheless, your actions are crucial - actions that come from your heart, and from your deepest passions - from the highest part of you.

Cultivating awareness involves paying attention to what is going on in your life, both internally (such as your mental chatter) and externally.  Meditation is the ultimate means of cultivating awareness - of paying atttention to what is going on internally.  But some people find meditation difficult.  A useful exercise involves taking time out to feel the region of your body where your heart is, and to concentrate on that.  Thinking of a loved one, a favourite pet, or a treasured memory helps the process, activating the neural connections between brain and heart.  Expressing gratitude reinforces the process.

Other ways of cultivating awareness include paying attention to the people, activities and things that you like, especially those that bring noticeable joy into your life.  Observe too why it is that you like them.  A side benefit of doing this is that you cultivate more of life's joy.

Notice too how much good there is in the world by paying particular attention to it, and by seeking it out.  If you find yourself judging and criticising, accept that too.  Making judgments is natural, a part of the way we make sense of the world.  But judging can be separating too: an act of the ego asserting itself at the expense of others.  Examples are judgments that criticise or condemn someone, which reflect our own mean-spiritedness (and at times we can all be mean-spirited).  Similarly, expressed criticism can be a sign of our own shadow (more on shadow later).  So begin by showing yourself some kindness ... and then practice extending that kindness to others.

By paying attention, your awareness grows.  As it grows, you'll begin to see how expressing judgments and criticism can damage your connections to others - and also subtly destroy your own sense of wellbeing.  On the other hand, it's helpful to know that even apparently 'bad' things and behaviours have a useful purpose, one which may not be apparent to us (or may be unacceptable to us, because of our personal, family or cultural values).

Even introverts and people who are not especially social can find great joy in discovering ways to make every interaction with others pleasurable for the other - and hence for themselves too.  Paradoxically, in focusing outwards, rather than concentrating on our own feelings, our world is transformed.  This can be experienced even in simple interactions, such as with staff in shops and other service businesses.  Finding a way to be lighthearted, to make a small joke, or to recognise the other's humanity by noticing something specific about them seems to produce a wonderful kind of alchemy, even magic.  In summary, paying attention to people, things and activities that you enjoy helps you to cultivate this higher way of being.


Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly.  The Evolving Self (1993).  HarperCollins Publishers Inc, New York

Servan-Schreiber, David, MD, PhD (2003).  The Instinct to Heal.  USA: Rodale