observe your mind
The first foundational step is to become aware of what kind of thoughts you habitually think, especially negative thoughts: irritation, anger, impatience and perhaps even some kind of sadness. You might, for example, complain about yourself, how useless you are. If you start to hear these repetitive thoughts, then you will suddenly realize, "I've been thinking these same thoughts again and again almost every day without really knowing it."
distinguish between the voice of ego and the actual situation
Awareness is the beginning of becoming free of the ego because then you realize that your thoughts—and the negative emotions they produce—are dysfunctional and unnecessary. For example, let's go back to the supermarket line. As you stand waiting, you aren't actually irritated because it's taking a long time to get through to the checkout, which is the situation. You are irritated by what your mind is telling you about the situation—which is that all this waiting is bad and a waste of your time. But you could actually be enjoying that moment if you say, "This is simply what is. There's nothing I can do about it, so why not breathe in deeply and look around and enjoy the world around me?"
let go of limiting stories
Sometimes the danger is not even pessimistic thought. If, for instance, you have been let go from your job, you might so resist being negative that you say, "It's a great thing that I lost my job!" That kind of willful optimism is not necessary. We hold on to the fairy tale of supposed happiness—that we should be happy. But this keeps you stuck where you are. Instead, try to describe only what is happening, without judgment: I do not have a job. I must look for one.
bring in your awareness
When you see the difference between your voice and the reality of the situation, that's the beginning of awakening. This is often a moment—a flash that sizzles and disappears. Initially you still lose yourself again, and the old thoughts arise, but gradually, you gain awareness, and the dysfunctional thoughts subside. It's a gradual transition, this bringing in of your awareness, because the ego doesn't want to change. It doesn't want to disappear, so it will give you plenty of reasons why you cannot be present.