“The most common thing, particularly in Western society is we think we have to control everything; what we’re doing, the environment, people, even the information coming in through the sensory channels”, says Dr. Warren Stanton, founder of Self Awareness Training (SAT). “Most people find that if they let go, they don’t need to control anything, but end up with a sense of being in charge”.
Dr. Stanton’s approach has transformed the lives of many people. Part of his work is unique, combining Eastern and Western philosophies in a way that doesn’t clash, but rather complements each other. Dr. Stanton describes SAT as a health promotion program, which encourages people to explore their sense of well being as the source of all the things they want in life.
“I start by inviting people to confirm that their sense of being is in fact a wonderful, harmonious, and enjoyable experience,” he says. “When people confirm that this well-being is the one thing they haven’t created in their own mind, it becomes the perfect reference point to start addressing some of those issues that cause disharmony.”
The process can be described as an applied mindfulness meditation. There are different types of meditation which are about allowing your thought processes to become less active. Dr. Stanton’s approach is a matter of opening up to everything that’s going on around you and being aware. “So it’s an awareness based technique in which you stay mindful of what you’re experiencing.” The process is done as an open-eye, interactive experience.
Warren says a component of the process is to redefine our use of beliefs. While they’re important in how we make sense of the world, we tend to live by those beliefs rather than how things actually are (an experience of well-being). So the procedure works to suspend running all experiences through those beliefs. This usually gives a more balanced experience and sense of being in charge.
Warren started working in psychology in his early 20s, searching for things that he felt worked. Back then he really couldn’t make sense of much at all and felt there was more to life than what he was being presented with. He enjoyed exploring his mind. “I often joke about having a misspent youth studying people’s behaviour, but it just fascinated me. I wondered why people said what they said, what their action at the time had to do with what they were saying.” So he continued on his journey, and eventually out of perseverance and study increased his understanding of how the mind works.
Tina, group participant of the last five years is currently in training to be a facilitator of SAT. She is enthusiastic about her work and would make a wonderful facilitator thanks to her many positive qualities. She is grounded, centered, down to earth, caring, thoughtful, insightful, and extremely passionate. Speaking about facilitating puts her on a high.
Tina sees her facilitator training as similar to the sessions with Warren. “Facilitating is still about self awareness, but extending that to other people, and tuning into them.” She wants to be a facilitator because the process has helped her so much and she wants to be able to do that for others.
Tina says that ultimately our life experience is a perception of how we see life. “We can’t choose the situations that arise in our life, but we can choose to take responsibility for the way we interact in those situations.” She says to get balance and feel good about things, you really have to change thought patterns.
Tina says she used to get bogged down in really bad thought patterns, but it’s about knowing she doesn’t have to have these thought patterns and not allowing them to exist. It is good to learn how to turn things around to deal with things in a positive way. “Stuff still happens in your life, but it’s how you interact with it that counts.”
She used to be a uni student, and back then life was unsatisfying – she had low self esteem and suffered from depression because she didn’t have the tools to change things in her life. “I’m really glad Warren has made himself available because it’s turned my life right around, and if I can share that with other people, that’s great.”
Her ultimate goal is to be self aware and have 100 percent self esteem so that people will actually benefit from having interactions with her. “As a facilitator, using that focus and actually handing it to people is such an amazing thing. Most people have learned to compromise their integrity, but we all have the capacity to re-awaken it and live the beauty of our truth.”
Artist Kristy, 37, is a pensive and reflective group participant. She first saw Dr. Stanton in 1998 while she was in the middle of having a nervous breakdown. With deep thoughtful eyes and much care and deliberation, she recalls having had many pressures all piled on top of each other, which drove her to overdosing. “I almost died but didn’t, I spent three days on a bathroom floor.”
She recalls having panic attacks. She wasn’t sleeping, she couldn’t process all the memories that were coming up for her, she was hallucinating. “It was really intense. I couldn’t work. I couldn’t even drive my car. I was not okay; I was scared I was going to do something.”
She had completely fallen apart and was filled with acupuncture needles to calm down, and then taken to see Dr. Stanton. “That was the beginning. I painted for six months and had big sessions with Warren and just tried to put my psyche back together.”
She wasn’t handling things very well and it was difficult for her to be out in public. She had a few one on one sessions with Dr. Stanton, “just going there and being in that space for an hour, it had a really healing, calming, different feel to anything I’d been feeling for the last so many months.” she says. “I’d come out of there actually feeling like a human being again.”
Kristy regards herself as a highly sensitive person. During that difficult time in her life she had a lot of stimulus coming in, but because she’d completely lost her own centre she found it extremely difficult to cope. It was Dr. Stanton who guided her back to finding her centre.
Her brother died, which was the catalyst for her nervous breakdown. It forced her to stop. “I’d been barrelling on for years, almost workaholic, always taking on huge projects, doing them and having lots of energy, but never stopping and looking at things. When my brother died it fractured everything, fractured everyone pretending everything was okay.”
She says she remembers after her first session with Dr. Stanton she did a series of paintings of what she was going through. She visualised in colour the first realisation she had with Dr. Stanton. “I did a painting – gold coming in and red coming out, which was like letting the light in and letting all the crap out.”
Dirk has been a group participant for about 14 months. With his loud booming voice, and deep expressive eyes he tells of how he met Dr. Stanton at a time when he was ready to look at emotional issues that he’d been holding inside for 20 years. He tried to avoid most of his problems with a strong marijuana habit. Somewhere along the line he realised he started smoking so he didn’t have to look at some of the emotional problems that were going on back then. (Dirk had given up his marijuana habit 9 months previously).
“I was protecting myself, like putting a nice big cuddly blanket around myself. I’d just have a smoke so I wouldn’t have to look at things too much. And whenever anything painful came into my life, I’d get stoned and I wouldn’t have to think about it.”
Dirk wasn’t happy, he was distressed by a few things and a friend told him he should go to see Dr. Stanton. “I was on the brink of tears, but just talking on the phone I felt better straight away; he tuned straight in to how I was feeling. I’d spoken to him for three minutes and straight away I felt better and more hopeful.”
Dirk can remember in his first session when Dr. Stanton asked him to describe what he was feeling. “I felt like Euphoria was about to erupt, and the only other experience like that I’ve had was when I was on drugs. And of course with drugs there’s a lot of anxiety and uncertainty, but with Warren there was none of that, there was just total calmness.” Dirk says “it felt like my brain was being squashed like a sponge. You squeeze a sponge, you put it down and then it starts to open.”
Dirk says when he’s doing the meditation with Warren he notices a sensation he can feel in his body, which is a warm tingly sort of sensation. “Working with Warren has enabled me to visualise that feeling, so I can practice that technique myself. It’s literally a warm fuzzy feeling right in your belly. It feels like a warm teddy; it’s comforting. You don’t ‘need’ anything outside of you, you have yourself.”
Warren says being self aware is an ideal state. He acknowledges that a lot of people find it hard because they allow lots of things to get in the way. “But it depends on how much you value your well being, that’s the basic choice. If you think all the creations from your mind are more important, then that’s going to take you away from your innate sense of well being. It’s ultimately making a choice that what you do is going to support your sense of well being.”