50 – Creating Moments of Awareness

3 simple questions are all it takes to create a moment of awareness. Where am I? What am I doing? What did it take for this moment to arise? In this episode, I will discuss how I use these 3 simple questions as a technique to allow myself to become more mindful and to become more anchored in the present moment. I hope you can pause and ask yourself these 3 questions from time to time in order to experience more mindfulness in your day.

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Transcription of the podcast episode:

Please excuse any typo’s, I use a transcription service to create a text version of the audio recording. If there are any issues with the transcription, please let me know.

Noah Rasheta:                      Hello, you are listening to the secular Buddhism podcast and this is episode number 50. I am your host, Noah Rasheta and today I’m talking about creating moments of awareness.

Today marks a fun milestone in the podcast. This happens to be episode number 50 and as of today, the podcast has officially been downloaded or listened to over 1 million times. So the podcast now has listeners in over 50 countries. The top five countries are the US, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and Germany. It keeps going down the list, and the 50th country is Kenya, with over 400 downloads. So, how cool is that?

I’ve been receiving countless emails of support and feedback from listeners from all over the world and I’m so grateful to each and every one of you for listening for supporting and just for being a part of this journey and being a part of this milestone with me. So, thank you, thank you, thank you.

Today I want to talk about the practice of creating moments of awareness, and here’s the thing about mindfulness, these amazing moments of clarity, moments where you glimpse the awe inspiring nature of reality as it is. They’re always there, and it’s just a matter of us becoming aware of what this moment actually is. How can we shift our perspective? How can we see or experience more of these moments of awareness in our normal day-to-day lives?

Well there’s a technique that I’ve been using that I would like to share with you, where you pause, and you ask yourself three questions. The questions are one, where am I, two, what am I doing, and three, what did it take for this moment to arise? In other words, what people or processes were involved with allowing this moment to exist just the way that it is?

Now I’ll discuss that in a minute, but before getting into those questions, a couple of reminders. First, remember the Dalai Lama’s quote, where he says, “Do not try to use what you learned from Buddhism to be a Buddhist, use it to be a better, whatever you already are.”. Regardless of which path you’re on, or how far along that path you may be, mindfulness can help you to be a better whatever you already are. Second, the mission of the Foundation For Mindful Living is to provide tools and content to help people live more mindfully, but I want to address that really quick.

What does it mean to live more mindfully? Well essentially it means that we are learning to be more aware of our thoughts, feelings, actions and emotions. It’s not about changing them. It’s not about changing the way you feel. It’s about understanding the relationship you have with your feelings. It’s about becoming a better observer of your thoughts, feelings, emotions, actions, all of this in order to live more skillfully with them.

Part of the mission is accomplished with the podcast by posting regular episodes like this one, where certain topics are brought up, that help you to understand Buddhist concepts or topics or teachings, ultimately again, to help you live more mindfully.

Another component has been traveling and doing workshops, where in a one day, all day workshop, I can teach all of the concepts of mindfulness. It’s like a mindfulness one-on-one workshop. In fact, there’s one coming up in Orlando, Florida on Saturday October 21st. There will be another one in Phoenix on Saturday November 4th, and you can learn about those workshops by visiting secularbuddism.com/workshops.

I’m also excited to announce that I’m working on an online version of the workshop that will be available to anyone, anywhere, at anytime. I think these are important tools that many people have indicated to me that learning this has helped change their lives in a positive way, helping people to cope with difficult things they’re going through, helping people to find more contentment and joy with day-to-day living, so I’ll continue doing these podcast episodes and producing them in this format, where it’s about teaching concepts or presenting ideas that ultimately promote mindfulness.

Now I did introduce a new format awhile back with occasional interviews. I’ve done a couple of these. One with Robert Wright, an author, and another one with Noah Levine from Refuge Recovery to talk about addiction and recovery. I will occasionally continue to do episodes that are that format, the interview format, where we discuss certain topics. I think that’s helpful, but that format is not replacing the original format. It’s just in addition to, so roughly once a month you can expect a podcast of that format, the interview. And also, occasionally I’ll introduce a format with the question and answer format, where podcast listeners can call in or email a question in and then I’ll answer those questions through a podcast. Those are, both of those formats are occasional. They’re not the regular.

The regular format is like this podcast episode and many of the past ones, where I just present a concept or an idea or a teaching to help foster this ability to live more mindfully. So, between the podcasts and the workshops, I think a lot of people can benefit from these topics and teachings. If you guys have any feedback or ideas or other things that the foundation can do or that I can do, feel free to reach out and let me know. I value everyone’s feedback. I read every email that comes in, even if it may take me some time to get to it, because I do receive a lot of emails now.

So, with that in mind, now let’s jump into this week’s topic. So moments of awareness, what are moments of awareness? For me, these are the moments when I feel like I suddenly have a bit more insight into the nature of reality of the moment I’m experiencing right then, in the present moment. If you were to imagine a giant sand hour, you know, the, what is it called, a sand glass hour? The sandglass, yeah, sandglass, so imagine a giant sandglass, but it’s flowing backwards. The sand is flowing from the bottom towards the top. It’s like at the bottom there are all these past moments and they’re all being funneled into the present moment, which is that little bottleneck in the middle, and after passing through the present moment, then they expand into every possible outcome of what the future could be, but we are stuck right there at that bottleneck and where there are only a few grains passing through at the moment. That’s the present moment.

This is the way I visualize it. Hopefully this helps you, but this is how this helps me. So I’m there experiencing this one present moment at a time and every now and then I fell like I see through this lens of impermanence and interdependence and I feel like inside a mindfulness arise. This process of the sand and the hourglass, it’s always happening, but I’m not always aware of it. I try to prime myself, or prime my mind to try to experience the present more mindfully from time-to-time.

I had one such instance of this, this morning. Some of you know that I’ve recently taken on somewhat of a new career path. I wanted to dedicate more time to the podcast and to the foundation, so after my business kind of collapsing, I haven’t been … The business allowed me to do that full-time and this part-time, and now I wanted to reverse roles and find something that I could do part-time and do this full-time. That’s been working out well with driving the school bus. I started driving as a substitute teacher last year, then I took on a full-time route this year, with school that started last week.

I want to insert a quick plug here for driving a school bus. If any of you are freelancers or entrepreneurs or your trying to build something on the side, driving a school bus is a really neat way to do it because you have this schedule, where you get up early and you drive a bus route, but you’re done by around 9:00 AM, and then you’ve got the rest of the day to go work on your own, and then you don’t have to be back until the afternoon to do another one or two hour bus route.

So it’s worked out very well for me to have this big block of time in the middle of the day to work on what I consider my full-time project, which is the podcast, but at the same time I don’t have to depend entirely on the podcast or tax it. I’m not an employee of it yet, because I don’t have to. I have a part-time job. It’s been a really neat thing, so you should consider that if you are in a position like mine or you’re trying to build something. Driving a school bus is a fun way to do that.

Back to what I wanted to discuss. I’ve had several items on my mind lately. Still kind of dealing with tying all the loose ends of everything that’s happened with my business and at times it feels like it can bog me down, because there’s just so much to think about. Today was one of those instances, where this morning I was thinking of all the things I’m gonna have to do later today and the people I need to call and the emails and just the messes I’m trying to clean up still, and it’s a lot.

As I sat there on the bus this morning, you know, you get the bus ready before you go out and do the route, where you start picking up kids and you do what’s called a pre trip or a pre inspection and your checking all the air in the tires and all the various parts of the bus. By the time I’m done with that process, I sit there and I have roughly 10 minutes or so before I need to start my route. Then the route consists of making designated stops at designated times, so I can’t go too fast, I can’t go too slow, you need to stay on track because the kids are expecting the bus at a certain time.

These are moments, I’m sitting there with 10 minutes to go, these are moments, where you can create moments of awareness and I do this by asking myself the following three questions. These help me in any moment. Any moment, where you can pause and ask yourself these questions, where you’re, I guess you’d have time if you were stuck at a red light, but you could do this in a lot of places. If you’re stuck in line at the bank or find time in the day to do this, but these questions help me to become really mindful, to become present to the intricate connections that allow that present moment to be exactly what it is.

Here are the questions. First I say, “Where am I?”, and this helps me to ease my mind with all the thoughts that I have about all the other places. We’re always somewhere and thinking of somewhere else, so rather than thinking about work or the email that I’m gonna have to get to once I’m done, like all these other places. I thought, where am I, I’m right here, sitting on a bus. What am I doing, second question. This helps me to anchor myself in the present moment. To recognize that yes, I have a lot on my mind about this or that, but right now, I’m doing this, you know, what am I doing, reminds me that what am I doing right now. Sure I can be doing things later, but right now, I’m driving the bus. That’s what I’m doing.

Once I allow myself to anchor in that present moment, then I ask the third question, what did it take for this moment to arise? In other words, what people or process were involved with allowing this moment to exist just the way that it is. For me, I paused, I looked around, and I started looking at all the components on the bus. I was looking at the radio that I use to communicate with the school, the school and the other bus drivers. I was looking at the mirror, thinking about what all it took for that mirror to be created. I looked at the rivets in the ceiling of the bus and the different panels and how they connect. I was imagining the various factories, where each of these metal pieces were coming from and the electronic components that allow me to open and close the doors I started looking at the little LED lights around the stop sign that comes out when the doors open and thinking, where did that LED come from, where was that created, the lettering on the bus.

This process goes on and on. There are so many things to look at, so many components. Just for this bus to exist the way that it does in that present moment, and as if that’s not enough to think about, then I thought, well what is it, what are the processes that are taking place right now, all across this valley, where I’m about to go pick up kids. Kids are waking up. That required alarm clocks. It required smart phones. It required, maybe the coffee that they’re drinking or that their parents are drinking to help them wake up and where did those come from, and I was thinking about the farmers and about the watering and this complex process that’s been taking place for a vast amount of time, so that in this moment, it’s all gonna culminate in the one moment, where I interact with the culmination of every single one of those processes.

And yet, that’s exactly what happening right now, as I’m sitting there on the bus, like it’s taking place everywhere, but the way that I was thinking of it, it will culminate with the moment as I stop and I pick up someone there standing on the side of the road. There are so many parts of this, right? I could continue to imagine, you know, the shoes that I’m wearing, the shoes that they’re wearing, the backpacks that their using, the books that they have in those backpacks and the pages and the paper and the trees that made the paper and the stitching that went into the backpacks and on and on and on.

This process really doesn’t end. By then, it was time for me to proceed to drive the route and at that point, I’m on the route, but I’m so much more mindful now of how incredible this moment is. The moment of picking someone up and everything it took for each stop, each child to be standing there, ready to get on the bus, and then to think this process goes on for the rest of the day, their classroom and their teachers and their desks and their books, where does it stop? Suddenly, you’re left with this realization that this is one incredible moment taking place, one after the other, after the other.

I was grateful to be able to be mindful of it, even if just for a moment. I’m sure I’ll pause and do this again later in the day about other things, other places, other processes because that’s how it works, but this is a process, a series of questions that can allow you to at least glimpse for a moment the intricacies of what it took for this moment to be what it is.

I thought about this as I reflected on the milestone to the podcast. I already had this in mind that I wanted to talk about creating moments of awareness, and when I came in and started preparing everything for the podcast, and I was checking the podcast, I realized, hey, today’s the day that I hit that milestone of 50 episodes. Jenny, one of our podcast listeners, you guys probably may recognize some of her work, she’s done a lot of those really cool sketching drawings that I’ve shared on the Facebook page, she in the UK. She had sent me an email saying hey, you’re coming up on your 50th podcast episode, this is a time to celebrate, and I thought, huh, I hadn’t even thought about that. I was just gonna record number 50 like it was no big deal.

I thought, how fun to just pause for a moment, apply these same three questions to realize all the work, all the processes that it’s taken for this moment to be what it is, and suddenly I’m left there feeling just humbled to be a part of this present moment. I can’t help but to feel gratitude, gratitude at the prospect that I get to share in other incredible moments in the future. I’m not thinking way out, I’m thinking 30 seconds from now, one minute from now, five minutes from now, each one of these incredible moments arriving and what may seem like such an ordinary way, and yet with just a little introspection, I realize there’s nothing ordinary about any of these moments.

Every moment is the extraordinary culmination of everything that’s ever taken place. To realize that, even to glimpse it for a moment, I’m grateful for this technique. This is a technique that I enjoy using as I try to live more mindfully of the beauty of the present moment, more mindfully of the fact that whatever the moment is, whether it’s pleasant or unpleasant, whether it’s a moment I enjoy or a moment I’m disliking, it’s unique. It’s a unique moment and it’s beautiful in and of its own, regardless of the perspective that I have of it. That’s a fascinating thought for me because it allows me to go through the day with a greater sense of gratitude, a greater sense of awe at everything that’s taking place.

This is, to me, what it means to live more mindfully, to create the space for awareness to allow there to be more contentment and joy in everything that’s taking place because of my perspective to look around and think, wow, it took everything. I hope that you all can take a moment to pause sometime today to ask yourself these three questions and then see how it makes you feel. Ask yourself, where am I, what am I doing, and what did it take for this moment to arise, and see how that changes how you see that one ordinary present moment in which you created a moment of awareness by looking, by allowing yourself to try to see beyond the limitation that we have sometimes of just being here, but not really being here, being now, but not really thinking of now. We’re caught up in the future or caught up in the past, but to really be present for a moment and to realize what all it takes for this one moment to exist.

Then, that quickly, watch how that moment passes and it’s replaced by another moment and then another moment and another moment and this process goes on and on and on and that the nature of our lives and how our lives can slip away through our hands, moment after moment. We’re always looking back, wishing we had been more mindful of something that took place and yet, there we are in the present with the opportunity to have that mindfulness. To have that anchoring right then and there and to start that process now in this present moment. You can do that with those three questions, where am I, what am I doing, what did it take for this moment to arise.

I hope you can each find time to ask yourself those three questions today. Notice how it makes you feel, and then enjoy that moment, just enjoy that pause, enjoy the feeling that you have as you increase your awareness, as you create your moment of awareness.

Thank you, that’s all I have for today. If you enjoyed this podcast episode, please share it with others, write a review, give it a rating on iTunes and if you would like to make a donation to support the work that I’m doing with this podcast, the work that I’m doing with the foundation, please visit secularbuddism.com and click the donate button. That’s all I have for now, but I look forward to recording another podcast episode, episode number 51 soon. Thank you, until next time.