The inward journey is about understanding how to turn your attention inward. It’s one of the best ways to improve selective attention, memory, and awareness of self. It will teach you why self-awareness is important. Come and learn this valuable skill.
It’s a simple concept. Please take a few moments to read about it, then try this simple technique yourself. Your attention directs awareness, which helps the consciousness shift gears. If you learn to control attention, you can shift gears when you want to instead of being influenced by emotions or propaganda.
Ways to Improve Selective Attention
Why would we want to improve our attention? Because it directly affects our immediate memory. Selective attention is the capacity to focus the mind, even when other things happen. So, this is an important skill in learning, and it is a hidden benefit of meditation.
“The inward journey is the experience of higher states of consciousness. These states exist beyond waking, dreaming, and sleeping. It is a journey into the transcendent. Hence, an experience of awareness and existence outside of time. When you are ready, it may also include a journey into other realms and landscapes. This is the Shamanic Journey.” — Guru Tua
The mind wanders because conscious and subconscious minds are constantly processing data. We get data from our senses, memories, feelings, and imagination.
Some psychologists believe the subconscious mind is more powerful than the conscious mind. We see this in the power of hypnosis. Here, we see how subconscious suggestion overrides the conscious mind and makes the subject act without volition. In many cases, they are unaware of what they are doing and have no memory of the action. It is reported as a “blackout” and an absence of time.
So, a lot of processing is going on that may or may not be useful. Most people have had the experience of being overwhelmed by circumstances. It’s not just what is going on but our emotional response to what is going on. The emotional response complicates our response because it colors everything. In the final analysis, you can see why being able to select and control is important. (1)
In your thoughts, you need to be selective. Thoughts are powerful vehicles of attention. Only think positive thoughts about yourself and your endeavors, and think well of the endeavors of others. – Frederick Lenz
Why Self-Awareness is Important
Self-awareness is the ability to observe the inner world of feelings and thoughts while one is engaged in the outer world. This perspective is important because it allows us to analyze both the inner and outer worlds with the awareness of the filter of our worldview. We can see how changing our expectations and values affects our judgment.
We are more susceptible to the tactics of social manipulation without self-awareness. It is a huge problem in a world dominated by corrupt media outlets. Being more self-aware makes us immune to this kind of programming. This, again, is why self-awareness is important for rational thinking.
How to Turn Your Attention Inward
Bringing the focus of your mind inward is the step that makes most internal meditation techniques possible. It’s a fundamental skill of meditation, and these basic techniques also enhance your observational skills. When we close our eyes, our natural impulse is to fall asleep. So, we must use one of two basic techniques to keep this from happening.
All that is necessary to awaken to yourself as the radiant emptiness of spirit is to stop seeking something more or better or different, and to turn your attention inward to the awake silence that you are.” – Adyashanti
First, we can sit up. When the spine is erect, we have more of a tendency to remain awake and alert. Another method we can use when laying down is to engage the mind with sound and imagination. This second strategy is the essence of the Shaman Journey, or what some call Guided Meditation. Rebranding the Shamanic Journey makes it more marketable in the West. Here, the sound of a drum keeps the traveler from falling asleep.
These two methods are examples of how to turn your attention inward. (2) They teach how to reduce the interference of the active mind and self-talk. Alternatively, this also is one of the things to improve selective attention.
Another process that is beneficial for your wellness is mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness meditation has both seated and moving components that teach about the strength of silence. Mindfulness makes us more aware, which helps us think more clearly. So, here it is again, another reason why self-awareness is important. The moving method helps us to bring the power of silence into the waking state. The moving element in this process is the internal aspect of Forest Bathing.
We “miss” this opportunity because of our active minds. Our culture reinforces the idea that we must always do something productive. So, we train the mind to be in control. We forget the importance of inner solitude.
The Inward Journey Controlling Your Two Brain Systems
If you want to learn how to focus inward, you need to learn how to control the two main brain systems that control the bandwidth of attention. We have both involuntary and voluntary systems, or outward and inward. The involuntary system is fast and intuitive, and the voluntary system is slow and uses logic and reason. (3)
You’d think that the slower aspect of common sense and the reason is where the control lives, but you’d be wrong. The faster intuitive mind controls all involuntary systems, including the network in the brainstem, the limbic region, and the amygdala. These are our primitive brain systems, sometimes called the reptilian or money brain.
These involuntary primitive systems regulate everything from heart rate and breathing to releasing hormones and enzymes. Because the Ego controls personality and instinct, these have direct links to this primitive aspect of the brain.
If you can learn the techniques that help you control the involuntary systems, you can control attention and realization. Mastering how to turn your awareness and focus inward is a life-changing skill set we all need to possess.
Here again, you probably think you can use reason to control the mind, but you’d be wrong. It’s actually much easier to access the control through the body. These are outward approaches, breathing techniques are one way, and ocular control methods are another. The other access point is the inward journey. This is how we control awareness by guiding it consciously, which is what happens when we use mantras and sutras.
Meditation using a mantra is one of the most efficient ways to gain control of attention. Using a mantra is another way to improve selective attention. Studies show that even after practicing short periods of simple meditation techniques improves attention control, reduces stress, and increases sleep quality. (4) It’s no wonder people who have practiced meditation for years become accomplished thinkers. When you can control attention and awareness, you are more in command of your intellect.
Students and managers who practiced a short one-minute silence exercise before a problem-solving exercise were three times faster at reaching the correct solution than those who did not use the exercise.
You can learn this exercise in less than one minute, and it will serve you a lifetime. Here it is.
First, sit comfortably and bring your attention to your breath. When we focus on our breath, it moves our attention inward. You don’t want to alter the breath; just observe it. Now, move your attention to including the observation of the body. Start with your feet and move your attention up your body while watching your breath. Now you have complete control of awareness, often without the intrusion of the internal dialogue, which is why it is restorative.
Once you can monitor what’s going on with your physical body and your normally automatic breath actions, you can take it down another level. The mind is incredible. You can teach it to expand awareness to include inward and outward focus. It increases self-awareness. And self-awareness is important to our mental health.
Now, as a bonus, bring your imagination into play through creative visualization. Picture your spine as a highway filled with energy. And then radiate this energy to all parts of your body. While you are doing this, keep observing the body and breathing. It’s the easiest way to bring the silence of meditation into motion. It teaches how to turn your attention inward.
“Meditation has become a big part of my life these days. It’s more about taking some moments for yourself to deep-breathe and focus your attention inward. This has really helped me because, as a perfectionist, I used to think that if I couldn’t meditate on my idea of the perfect way, then it wouldn’t work. I now meditate even if it is for three minutes while I’m sitting in the car. Every little bit helps to slow the system.” — Renee Marino
Seated and Moving Meditation Techniques
When discussing meditation, they think of someone sitting with crossed legs, but this is only one of several kinds of meditation. We’ve already given you the first 1-minute meditation technique. There is a whole range that includes seated and moving forms.
The ability to control awareness and attention directly applies to all forms of moving meditation. For instance, Tai Chi is a system where one learns to transfer energy from the internal to the external. It is a way of expanding observational awareness.
When done correctly, you bring internal energy through the body. When we learn techniques for moving meditation, the natural tendency is to focus all our attention outward, but this is only half of the process. So, we are not grounded or connected. As the movements become automatic, we must learn how to turn our attention inward while in motion.
Almost all meditation techniques require some level of inward focus. It makes us present and helps shut off the inner dialogue and the outer world. Learning how to turn your attention inward is an essential life skill. All we need to do is remember to do it. You know why self-awareness is important and how mediation can enhance this aspect of consciousness.
“By connecting with the present, we turn our attention inward, away from all the chaos and activity, and experience our eternal, unbounded nature.” — Deepak Chopra
(1) The Unconscious Mind
(2) Editorial: Turning the Mind’s Eye Inward: The Interplay Between Selective Attention and Working Memory
(3) Thinking, fast and slow by Daniel Kahneman, 2013
(4) Meditation: Process and effects