Life is consciousness
In a book he wrote in 1978, Mysteries, Colin Wilson developed the idea of the robot. He describes the robot as the part of the mind that handles our habitual activities. The robot is a good term to use for our habit mind. When we are learning something, we approach it with full consciousness and attention to what we are doing. As we become used to doing it, we begin to hand the routine details of the activity over to the robot to take care of for us. We focus our attention and awareness on the parts of the activity that require creative action.Overall this is a good way to handle life. Hand the routine over to the robot, and focus on the creative aspects of living. Unfortunately, it can work too well. Over time we tend to hand more and more activities over to the robot, leaving us less and less to do. We use less and less of our consciousness, and live more and more out of routine. Often, when we say "I know how to do that", this is what we really mean is we have become so adept at something that we have handed all its details over to the robot and don't consciously participate in the activity any more. Take driving a car, for example. Who hasn't driven to the store, and have no idea when they get there what they passed along the way. We engage in the activities in life without actually being engaged in them because we have handed them all off to the robot. There is nothing that will end personal development and growth faster than this.
People have been aware of this problem for millenia. Buddhist meditation practices such as bare attention are aimed at putting full awareness into the present moment, so you take activities out of the hands of the robot and once more make each moment a creative act. To practice bare attention is not complicated, but it is difficult. All you have to do is carry out your current activity with full attention. Do not comment on it in your mind. Do not think of something else while you are doing it. Just do it. A specific exercise for this is to sit outside and look around you. Don't comment on what you sense, don't try to interpret what you see, don't judge anything. Just sit and watch the world around you with full attention and concentration.
Another exercise is breathing. Breathing is one of the most automatic things we do, and we usually do it with absolutely no awareness. In this exercise all you do is watch yourself breath. That's it, nothing else. Don't count your breaths, don't think about your breathing in relation to anything else, don't try to change your breathing pattern. Just watch yourself breathe.
Like I said, this isn't complicated, but it is hard. There is a reason the phrase pay attention is in our language. Bare attention takes a conscious focusing of your awareness. Don't be surprised if you are not able to maintain your focus for more than a few seconds in the beginning. We are in such a 'habit' of routinizing activities that it is very hard to be aware. Over time you will improve.
The benefits are well worth the effort. One of the first you will notice is that things become more themselves after a session. Each of your senses will be stimulated. Colors will be deeper, sounds more vibrant, the sense of touch more stimulating. You will feel more awake and alive. These are all signs that you have become more actively aware, and are relying less on routine to carry you through your day. Take a few minutes each day to do this, and the results will far outweigh the costs as you take control of your awareness and become consciously creative in your life.