Present Moment Awareness Meditation
Use present moment awareness meditation to support your journey through addiction recovery.
Imagine this: you’re walking on a bike path along a stunning coastline.
The ocean is to your left, a brilliant aquamarine. White, foamy waves crash along the shore.
They roar, and then settle. Roar, and then settle.
Seagulls fly overhead. A mother and her child walk past you, smiling and laughing.
The weather is perfect as a soft, gentle breeze delicately brushes against your hair.
And you miss all of it, even though it’s right in front of you.
How could this be?
Oftentimes, we lack present moment awareness.
Many of us live in the mayhem of our minds, caught up in the pain of our past or the anxieties of our future.
We live so deeply in the thinking mind that we miss the beauty of the present moment in front of us. We don’t even realise that there is a place beyond the thinking mind.
Fortunately, we can cultivate awareness and get out of our heads. We can increase our level of peace and joy, and we can reduce stress, depression, and anxiety. The bridge we take to get there is present moment awareness meditation.
What Is Present Moment Awareness Meditation?
Present moment awareness is a form of mindfulness meditation. During present moment awareness, we are fully present within the moment in front of us. We are not focusing on a singular object, but are simply observing the here and now.
When in a state of present moment awareness, we essentially shift from an external focus to an internal embodiment. This type of meditation suspends our thoughts and emotions. Being able to consciously bring ourselves to an awareness of the present moment prompts only a sense of inner calm. Many of the emotions we face bring us to moments outside of the present.
Emotions that keep us in the past can include:
Emotions that stem from the future can include:
Being fully immersed in the present moment means that we aren’t experiencing thoughts that would lead to negative emotions, but rather only to complete calm. In fact, it means we have separated from our thoughts entirely, and we just simply are.
According to Mindful.org, “Present-moment awareness involves monitoring and attending to current experience rather than predicting future events or dwelling on the past”.
Studies show that a person's disposition toward remaining in the present moment is linked to numerous health benefits, including lower levels of perceived stress, anxiety and depression, improved mood, and a sense of improved well-being .”
What Is The Difference Between Awareness and Mindfulness?
It can be difficult to define an ethereal, seemingly intangible concept such as awareness, but mindfulness and awareness are each key elements of meditation.
According to PsychCentral, mindfulness and awareness are both defined as “a state of awareness that surfaces when paying attention intentionally, objectively, and presently.”
Present moment awareness is an aspect of mindfulness. We can be mindful when having an important conversation with a friend, or when gardening or cooking a meal. Mindfulness teaches us how to acknowledge our thoughts and feelings in the present moment without judgment, and to let them pass.
Being in a state of awareness takes this one step further, where we intentionally observe and experience what is happening in the here and now. With awareness meditation, the actual focus of the meditation is awareness itself. Being aware of the thoughts and the space in between the thoughts cultivates deeper awareness of who we are. Although there isn’t any thinking involved, we are able to learn about ourselves on a deeper level by practising awareness.
A Simplified Look At Awareness
Another way to think of awareness is by looking at the Headspace analogy of small mind, big mind . The small mind is our analytical, decision making, thought-filled mind. This is where most of us live throughout the day. When practising present moment awareness, however, we zoom out into the big mind, where we consciously look at what is happening in the small mind.
Finally, we can think of awareness as being on the top floor of a skyscraper. When we are on the bottom floor of a skyscraper, all we see is a city street, people talking on their mobile phones and walking off hurriedly, and plenty of cars all in a rush to get somewhere. It’s bustling, loud, and busy. When we go to the top floor, our perspective completely zooms out. From here we can observe. It is still, quiet, and serene.
The way that we get from the bottom floor to the top floor is through awareness.
The Benefits of Present Moment Awareness Meditation
Practising present moment awareness on a consistent basis can have powerful effects on the mind and body.
Present Moment Awareness for Stress Reduction
Stress leads to a myriad of physical and psychological issues, and can detrimentally impact our health. When practising awareness of the present moment, we not only feel relaxed but research shows that we also significantly reduce our stress levels. Studies show that practising this form of meditation not only causes immediate levels in stress reduction, but also long-term stress reduction as well .
Studies also indicate that practising awareness meditation improves our ability to respond to stressful situations . Unexpected events are a part of life, and it's not the event itself, but how we respond to it that dictates how we feel and consequently, our behaviours thereafter. By incorporating meditation into our lives, we are able to make rational, thoughtful decisions rather than emotionally charged reactive decisions, and can better respond to stressful events.
Present Moment Awareness for Depression and Anxiety
Depression and anxiety are struggles faced by many who are going through addiction recovery. A study conducted in 2008 on Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, or MBSR, showed that practising awareness meditation for 8 weeks consistently, significantly reduced levels of depression and anxiety in participants.
Participants used a mindful attention awareness scale to deliver their results, which indicated that they also had decreased levels of psychological distress and rumination, or overthinking . This means that people experienced less psychological struggles, and were overthinking less, after practising this form of meditation.
Additional Benefits of Present Moment Awareness Meditation:
- Creates a greater understanding of ourselves
- Builds insight into our behavioural patterns
- Improves blood pressure and heart health 
- Improves sleep quality 
- Can help to reduce the effects of traumatic events 
- Increases ability to cope with triggers
- Improves ability to work through disputes with partner
- Helps increase awareness in individuals with ADHD and other learning disorders 
- Fosters better mood
Step-by-Step Present Moment Awareness Meditation for Beginners
Below is a step-by-step outline to help you begin your present moment awareness meditation practise.
Find a quiet, calm space where you will be undisturbed. This can be in the comfort of your home, or somewhere outdoors like a park. Remove any distractions. Then, either sit or lay down, whichever is more comfortable for you.
Close your eyes and take a slow, deep inward breath through your nose. Hold your breath for a few seconds, and then gently exhale. Do this several times, taking long, deep breaths, until you feel your body and mind starting to relax.
Transition your focus.
You will have thoughts in your mind. Become aware of the thoughts, and observe them. You are transitioning from an outward focus to an inward focus. Notice the thought that you are having, and release it. Then, there will be stillness. Try not to think about the stillness, but simply be in it.
Be in the here and now.
Be fully present within the moment. Dial into the reality of this very second. Notice any sensations that you may feel within the body. Listen to the noises around you that you may have been unaware of. This is all about being fully present and quieting the mind so that you can open up your awareness.
Acknowledge any passing thoughts.
While practising present moment awareness, thoughts will come in and out of the mind. This is completely normal, and should be used as a tool to heighten awareness. To be able to acknowledge that a thought has come in is mindfulness and is awareness. Once you are able to acknowledge a thought, allow it to float away and bring yourself back to the present moment.
If you’re slipping out of the present moment, find a focal point.
If you’re having difficulty finding the present moment, or you’re experiencing significant difficulty remaining there, try to find a focal point to ground in. The most convenient focal point to use is our breathing. Focus on your breathing, how the air feels going in through our nose on the inhale, and how it feels coming out on the gentle exhale. There is nothing more present than our life force, our breath, so focusing on this is a good option to get you started. When your thoughts begin to wander and you notice it, simply acknowledge the thought, let it go, and focus once again on your breath.
Remember that this can be a more challenging form of meditation, as there isn’t anything in particular to focus on as there is with body scan meditation or focused meditation, for instance.
Be gracious with yourself when beginning any new meditation practise, as it will take time to get the hang of it. We’ve spent decades of our lives living in our thinking mind, so we can’t expect ourselves to easily transition to embodying awareness overnight. If you would like further tips on meditation practise, Recoverlution is here to help!
Sources for Accessing Present Moment Awareness Meditation
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Author - Thurga
Resilience in Recovery: How To Boost Your Resilience Through Mindfulness
- Present-Moment Awareness Buffers the Effects of Daily Stress - https://www.mindful.org/present-moment-awareness-buffers-effects-daily-stress/
- In This Moment: How to Stay in the Present for Meditation - https://psychcentral.com/blog/how-to-do-present-moment-awareness-meditation#present-moment-awareness-defined
- Meditation for Awareness - https://www.headspace.com/meditation/awareness
- A multi-method examination of the effects of mindfulness on stress attribution, coping, and emotional well-being - https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0092656608001682
- Rumination as a mediator of the effects of mindfulness: Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) with a heterogeneous community sample experiencing anxiety, depression, and/or chronic pain - https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2008-99100-247
- Mindfulness-Based Blood Pressure Reduction - https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0223095
- Mindfulness Meditation Helps Fight Insomnia, Improves Sleep - https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/mindfulness-meditation-helps-fight-insomnia-improves-sleep-201502187726
- The influence of mindfulness meditation on inattention and physiological markers of stress on students with learning disabilities and/or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder - https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0891422220300603