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What Is Conscious Living? The Power of Living With Awareness

What is conscious living?

Conscious living is a way of living that is driven by the intention to bring attention and care to your inner world and to use that awareness to make purposeful choices about how you show up in society and in your life.

what is conscious living

Humans have the beautiful gift of consciousness: the ability to be aware of our emotions, feelings, thoughts, internal sensations, and environment. We don’t always exercise this ability though. Rather, we often act in a reactive and unconscious way to what we experience internally. This has a direct impact on our relationships with others and on on our communities and environment.

Unconscious reactivity also has an impact on our personal lives. What lies below the

surface of our awareness often becomes the powerful driving force behind our choices and life path without us even realizing it! The more “asleep” or unaware we are, the less we understand and have control over our behavioral and habitual patterns. This type of sleep-walking through life keeps us from accessing our deeper values and desires and from living a life true to who we are beyond the surface.

Be an empowered character in your own story: Turn off auto-pilot

Living on autopilot means pursuing your life without a conscious awareness of what you’re doing and why. Many of us are hurried along a particular life course without slowing down to understand the "whys" behind our "whats." We latch on to particular identities, religions, and beliefs without evaluating why. This can pull us into a sort of slumber where we ignore our deeper desires and feel a lack of purpose.

By living consciously, we turn off auto-pilot and embrace the important role we play as empowered characters in our own stories… characters with the ability to steer our sails in life’s shifting winds. It can be easy to get caught in the mundane, day-to-day tasks of life and feel that we’re simply a character in a story that we didn’t write. Though it’s true that life brings each of us scenarios and circumstances we don’t have control over, it’s also true that we always have a degree of choice within those circumstances. Living in a conscious way means to recognize this choice and to take action in making choices that lead to intentional outcomes.

The philosophy behind living consciously is that we can choose to become more aware of our internal experience and engage with life more intentionally. With practice, we can strengthen our ability to maintain awareness of our inner experience while also maintaining control of our behavior so that it doesn’t have unintended impacts on our lives or the lives of those around us.

Qualities of conscious living:

  • Mindfulness: the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental, moment-by-moment awareness of your thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment

  • Using mindfulness to strengthen your ability to refrain from habitually reacting from your internal patterns and emotional experience

  • Emotional intelligence: being aware of your emotions and able to maintain them

  • Choosing to make wise and intentional choices that direct how you behave and what choices you make in your life.

  • The willingness to better understand your behavioral and thought patterns, including: how they may have developed, how they directly impact your life and those around you, and how to develop new patterns in their place

  • An understanding and acknowledgment of your interconnectedness with other beings and the reciprocal influence that exists between the two. This also includes an awareness of what impact you want to have, and what choices and behaviors create that impact.

The power of asking important questions

Living a conscious life comes down to reflecting on your life, asking important questions, bringing a nonjudgmental awareness to the answers, and then actively participating in creating the answers you desire. In order to move toward conscious living, it’s important to see clearly the reality of your situation without judgment so you can go on to make conscious choices that align with your intentions.

There are many aspects of living a conscious life, but this is an important one: consistently and honestly reflect on your choices, ask yourself insightful questions, and then use that insight to make empowered and intentional choices to create a fulfilling life for yourself.

Mindfulness at the heart of living consciously

Mindfulness is the practice of bringing a moment-by-moment awareness––without judgment––to whatever is happening in the present moment, including thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, and the external environment. A consistent mindfulness practice teaches us to see deeply into things and receive insight into the true nature of those things.

The mind tend to wander to the past and the future, becoming hijacked by fears, regrets, what-ifs, over-analyzing, and other habitual thought patterns that pull us from the experience we're currently in. Mindfulness is a muscle we strengthen by continually pulling our attention back to this moment, waking up from the slumber of the mind and arriving in the current experience.

“Mindfulness has two aspects: receptive and active. Mindfulness is first a spacious, kind, non-judging awareness of the present. Second, mindfulness includes an appropriate response to the present situation.” – Jack Kornfield

Conscious living in daily life

We make hundreds of decisions each day, and our lives are paved in large part by these decisions. Some of them are minor and others are more important. What will you eat for lunch? What food will you buy at the grocery store? How will you spend your time after work? Who will you build a relationship with? Where will you live? What career will you pursue? What kind of lifestyle will you pursue?

When we live on autopilot, we make choices without taking the time to understand:

  • 1. The motives behind our choices

  • 2. The impact they have on our lives

  • 3. The impact they have on the world around us.

By making intentional choices, we dig below the surface and ask if what we’re choosing is in alignment with who we want to be and the way we want to show up in the world.

Practices that nurture conscious living

Self-awareness and conscious living are muscles that can be exercised and strengthened. Unless we grew up in households with caregivers that taught us how to be self-aware and showed us through example, we likely don’t naturally have this skill. We’re innately conscious beings, but we have to actively practice using this ability for it to have a direct impact on our lives. Here are some tangible ways we can start to become more self-aware, conscious livers:

  • Meditation. Bringing awareness to the breath and body moment-by-moment helps to break the tendency we all have to identify with our thought patterns and be overtaken by our inner experience.

  • Self-reflective journaling. Journaling helps to create a container where we can process our experiences and reflect honestly on the observations we have about how we tend to exist in the world. The process of journaling can also help us sort out or thoughts so we can see more clearly.

  • Therapy. There are a variety of forms of therapy, all of which help us become more attuned to our internal experience and helps to rewire our patterns.

  • Observing your habitual and patterned thoughts and behaviors during day-to-day interactions and activities.

  • Embodiment and movement practices like yoga, dance, and body-scan meditations can help develop a greater awareness of internal sensations. This bodily awareness supports us to live in a more embodied way, rather than just from the mind.

  • Becoming present and slowing down in the midst of strong emotional experiences to create space for the emotions without reacting from them nor suppressing them. Practices like RAIN (Recognize, Allow, Investiage, Nurture) directly support this.

  • Spend your time on the things that matter to you

  • Consume things that are nourishing rather than depleting (think: food, shopping, media)

  • Cultivate meaningful relationships

  • Take note of your values and how you can act in alignment with them

  • Slow down your day-to-day life

Building conscious relationships

Rising Woman defines conscious relationships as “a way of being–a commitment to understanding ourselves, our minds, our shadows, our thoughts, and our patterns” and then building relationships with others from that place of self-awareness.

Whether it be in familial, romantic, or friendly relationships, many of the challenges that people face arise from the inner worlds of both people. Meaningful relationships aren’t the result of not having challenges, in fact conflict is an important ingredient for relationship growth. Rather, meaning arises in our relationships when we show up with a desire to truly know ourselves first, and then when we use that awareness to build a healthy and supportive bond with another person.

We can also cultivate meaningful relationships and practice conscious living by making intentional choices about who we spend time with and how we show up in our relationships. Are you half-present with the ones you love? Do you truly see who the other person is and connect with that part of them? Is your life filled with relationships with people who don’t know who you truly are and wouldn’t actually show up for you if you needed it? These are a few questions we can ask ourselves to help us experience conscious and meaningful relationships.

The importance of self-awareness

Self-awareness is at the heart of living a conscious life. When you cultivate the seed of self-awareness and invest in personal growth, you begin to notice and understand the complexity of your being. This includes being aware of your inner thought processes, your social conditioning, your underlying motives, and especially your personal mission, or your dharma.

Your increased awareness then helps you to participate in your life with intention and integrity, pursuing a life’s mission that fills you with purpose and positively impacts the world around you.

Self-awareness empowers people to recognize the central role they play in making choices for themselves. When we slow down to be intentional about our career, our choices, our beliefs, and how we show up in the world, we naturally find more meaning in our lives, and in the process we contribute to a more mindful society.

Walking the conscious path

Conscious living invites us to explore the question: What’s below the surface of who we are and how we live our lives? It asks us to acknowledge the significant, finite gift of life and to fully embrace it. Conscious living reminds us to not merely drift through this precious life, but to pursue it with heightened awareness and to make intentional decisions.

When we choose to shine the light of awareness onto who we are, the choices we make, the impact we have on others, and the life we’re living, we experience life with a sense of purpose. Conscious living makes it possible to live a meaningful life.

The practice of conscious living is a life-long journey. It’s not a result of a single decision, but rather the gradual and continual expansion of life as a result of consistently showing up with presence and choosing over and over again to navigate life with greater awareness.

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