By Adam Zwig, PhD
Here’s a simple exercise to strengthen your capacity to stay centered and aware, especially when you experience difficult emotions. Do this every day for 5-10 minutes and you’ll notice a change in your consciousness quite soon.
You can't change what's going on within you if you aren't aware. Awareness is something we all have, but we don't always use it in the most productive way. It usually uses us instead of us using it. We tend to be on automatic because we let our awareness go wherever it wants.
This exercise teaches you how to take control of your awareness from a special vantage point called the meta-observer. Learning this will enable you to stay centered and give you a foundation for processing what's going on inside of you.
Let’s get started.
Step One: Sit in a comfortable chair, straighten your back if you can, close your eyes, and focus you attention on your breath. You don’t need to breathe in any specific way. Just observe yourself breathing. Breathe in....breathe out. Simple. Do this for a few minutes.
Step Two: After a few minutes, take your focus off your breath, and begin to observe your thoughts and feelings. But don't get involved in what you're experiencing. Just observe without participating. Watch yourself from the outside. If you feel tired or bored or numb or sad or scared or frustrated or angry… just notice your experience. Don’t try to fix it or find a way out. If your mind starts thinking certain things, observe yourself having those thoughts but don’t join in. If your brain races from one topic to the next, or even if you think this exercise is a waste of time, just watch yourself thinking these things. Be aware of your mind thinking thoughts and your body having feelings but don’t enter the process. Just observe. This power of detached observation is known as the meta-observer.
If you notice that you you've lost touch with your meta-observer, and are again lost in the flow of experience, gently bring your focus back to your breath and begin again. Watch your breath, and then observe your thoughts and feelings. Be the silent witness of your perceptions and experiences without identifying with them.
Great work! You’ve just learned how to use your meta-observer. You did this by sitting quietly, closing your eyes, following your breath, and then observing your thoughts and feelings from a neutral, detached perspective.
Dr. Zwig—psychotherapist, singer-songwriter, educator, and author holds a PhD in clinical psychology, is an internationally renowned workshop leader and lecturer, and has had 9 Top Ten hit singles on the U.S Adult Contemporary charts. He has been featured in Billboard, Huffington Post, CNBC, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, Forbes, Gibson, and many other publications, and has over 75 million views on YouTube. Dr Zwig has released 7 albums and his songs can regularly be heard on NBC, Fox, and Fuel TV. His forthcoming book, Music in the Mayhem: Tales of Total Transformation from a Rock n Roll Psychotherapist, arrives soon.
DISCLAIMER: The content contained herein is for inspirational, educational, and entertainment purposes only. Nowhere in this Exercise does Dr. Zwig diagnose or treat a viewer with any kind of psychological, mental, emotional or physical disorder as might be diagnosed and treated by a personal psychologist or other professional advisor. The content is not intended to be a substitute for working with a therapist but is for the purpose of educating the viewer about new approaches to working on personal problems. Viewers should use this Exercise at their own risk, with the understanding that Dr. Zwig is not liable for its impact or effect on its users. Viewing this Exercise does not form a practitioner/client relationship between the viewer and Dr. Zwig. Dr. Zwig is not responsible for any action taken by a viewer based upon any information in this Exercise. Never disregard professional medical advice or stop taking psychiatric medication based on something you have read in this Exercise without a doctor’s supervision and ongoing therapeutic support. Dr. Zwig is an educator, author, and life coach in the U.S., and a psychotherapist in Switzerland. He holds a PhD in clinical psychology. He is also a rock n roll musician.