Awareness is a quality of being awake and present to the moment.  I know that sounds like some  Zen or New Age practice, but any great athlete knows that awareness powers high level performance.

How do we tap into awareness in our everyday life? Surely, this is not something you can do in 30 seconds. People give their lives to practicing mindfulness, awareness, being in the moment.

Last month, I reconnected with a friend that had once attended the same meditation group that I joined. We practiced. We meditated.

It worked. Sometimes. I let the practice fall away.  My awareness drifted in and out, but I lacked the time and the discipline to keep it going.

Over coffee (artificial awareness), my friend told me that he still tries to practice awareness, but he does in very short burst all day long.

Once we can identify and understand what this quality of awareness is, we have the key to self-mastery in virtually every area of our lives.

He said that the technique he was taught a few years ago has been a way for him to instantly bring himself into awareness and it also helps him to relax. He said it won’t work after one or two tries, but by practicing this technique regularly, it became woven into his days.

He said that he feels more in control because he knows if he needs it, he can access a state of relaxed awareness.

What is his technique?  He knows I like to walk. Try it while walking.  Try it working at your desk, or working in the garden, drinking coffee at a cafe table, or folding your laundry.

While you are engaged in any of these activities, stop suddenly.

Freeze. For the next 30 seconds force yourself into the present. Check your breath. Take one deep breath and exhale. Run a quick check of the way your body feels from the top of your head to your toes. Close your eyes. Listen.

Don’t allow yourself to think about the past or the future for those 30 seconds.

Then, start moving ahead again.

He said the hardest part was doing it in 30 seconds. That takes practice. At first, it will take longer. A minute or more. But practice will cut that down. Don’t put a stopwatch to it though. It will happen with practice.

I have tried multiple times each day since he told me about the technique to use it.  I have been traveling and working this past week, so there were plenty of opportunities and plenty of times I needed to pull myself into the present. Not into the moment exactly. Into 30 moments.

When I met up with my friend again a few weeks later, he wanted to know if it worked. I admitted that it seemed to help. It hasn’t changed my life, I joked.

He said that I can use all the training I went through over the years – Zen, meditation, playing sports, writing, yoga, tai chi etc. “Remember how we learned to tense up each muscle from head to toe in order to learn how it felt to relax each muscle? Go back to that if you need it.”

From Lao Tzu and Buddha, you learn that most of us sleepwalk through our day. We are not present. We can’t recall what we did for those 16 hours we were supposedly awake. That state makes it easier to become irritated, angry, sad and depressed.

Can you pull yourself into the present during the day in short burst and make a difference?  The experiment continues. Give it a try. Report back.