For most of the modern world, the word awareness, can be applied to various things such as: Being conscious or knowledgeable, for example. This understanding of awareness, however, remains somewhat superficial. There is more depth to it, than what meets the eye.
Awareness is in essence, a practice. One that begins with being fully present in the moment – whatever the moment is. It is a state of being, by which, we give full attention to everything that is surrounding us and happening around us. It also requires the willingness to stand in the midst of whatever is arising.
It’s quite natural to be present, or rather, it’s simpler to be fully present, when what we’re present to, is pleasant. However, it takes a particular kind of practice to remain fully aware and present in moments that challenge us, or are difficult.
For example: Let’s imagine there’s a big fight between you and your partner. Being present in that moment and aware of ‘the fight’ or rather, what’s really occurring, as is, for what it is, without drifting into the past, comparing it to similar situations that occurred before or sliding into the future and thinking you can’t take it anymore – requires a deep sense of awareness.
One that would possibly end the conflict then and there if both are present and aware. As soon as we let ourselves get carried away into the fiction of the argument, the story if you will – we’ve come out of awareness. In this specific example, it’s a challenging situation, because both people need to be aware simultaneously of what’s happening outside of them and the reactions of the mind (inside), while navigating the dynamic with the other person. It’s not an easy process, especially when our attack/defense mechanisms take the lead.
“Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around in awareness.” ~ Unknown
Awareness is a willingness to experience what is taking place now, observing every aspect of it and seeing it as new, in that moment, even if the mind thinks it’s seen it a hundred times or heard it all, before.
It’s literally waking up every morning and seeing your partner with new eyes, as she/he is right now in this moment – not with the stories of a shared past. It requires us to use all the senses at our disposal to take in what’s happening (sight, smell, sound, taste, feeling) – so as to get a deeper, clearer picture. Not just a one dimensional picture.
Learning awareness from children
For most of us, our senses have been dulled down by our education and domestication process. If you remember, as kids, one of the ways we’d make sense of the world, is by shoving every object in our mouth. And each time, we’d be told, to not do it, that it might be dangerous, that we might choke… Which is understandable and plausible.
However, it also takes us away of our natural instincts to interact with the world and understand it, through all our senses. Generally, we rely on our dominant sense (eye sight) to process the information that’s out there. This, makes it easier for the trickster mind to hook our attention because we are only perceiving the world through one source of information.
If like children, we use all our senses to practice being aware, it helps us stay grounded in the now rather than getting stuck in stories of the past. Again, children really show us what being in the now looks like…They can cry heavily or scream in anger and five minutes later be giggling about something else. They move from moment to moment, not taking notes, or taking stack of what happened in the remote past. They allow themselves to experience what they’re feeling fully, in that moment.
It is us who stop them, correct them, shush them, shame them, interfere with their process in order to domesticate them so that they may fit into our habits, beliefs, families, communities, societies. We mostly do it unconsciously, with lack of awareness, repeating what’s been done to us.
Awareness here, would allow us to see our child with new eyes while also allowing us to understand our own patterns, domestication, and possibly in that moment, make a decision to act differently. That way, children are light, unlike us, who carry all our past experiences in our minds, hearts and bodies; taking them along to every new place, every new relationships, experience, day, moment…
We taint the moment with the past, not being able to truly know what the present moment feels like, looks like, smells like, tastes like. We’re never really here. It’s funny really. We’re always busy thinking about the past or plotting the future, but spend very little of our waking hours fully aware and present, in the moment.
And each moment, now gone, becomes the past and we’ve not intentionally created those past memories with our full awareness, rather we’ve let the autopilot create them. And if we’re not really present and aware in the moment, and each moment added up, creates our future, then what future are we consciously creating?
Awareness of your inner chatter
A simple way to practice becoming more aware is to pause and ask oneself: What do I smell? What do I hear? What do I taste? How does this feel? This outward aspect of awareness is just one piece of the puzzle. The deeper practice of awareness is the capacity to see, witness, notice the mind’s reaction to the external environment – especially any labels, stories, beliefs that arise and activate our addiction to suffering.
“Awareness is the greatest agent for change.” ~ Eckhart Tolle
When we are aware of our mental patterns it enables us to see through the stories that aren’t true before they provoke a reaction in and around us. Instead of being in a constant reactive state (which is taxing), we can relax into responding – which is not rooted in fear.
To make an analogy, it’s as if our mind is Jerry and our awareness is Tom. In Tom & Jerry; Tom is always running after Jerry, trying to catch the little one. It’s pretty much the same, with our mind and awareness. It’s about trying to catch the mind’s habitual patterns that try to feed its addiction to suffering and like Jerry, the mind sidesteps the traps when they come up, much to Tom’s desperation. This awareness of what’s going on inside our minds can be helpful in different ways.
Let’s take a small and sweet example. Imagine a friend of yours compliments you with a ‘You’re awesome, you’re the best!’. This well meant compliment is seemingly harmless. And in fact, it is! The words don’t cause any harm, so long as the receiver (you) doesn’t invest too much of their happiness in it or any other compliment.
What happens if we do invest our happiness in the perceptions others have of us? If someone tells us the opposite or we don’t receive praise or compliments, without knowing, without being aware, we set ourselves up for unhappiness.
It may lead to disappointment as our identities slowly become weaved together with the approval of others. A simple exercise to unearth this and check-in with your patterns around compliments and lack of, can be noticing how you react to compliments or the lack thereof. It allows you to become aware of the mind’s need for adulation and praise.
This new found awareness is the first step in taking back the power we each have to control our own happiness! When we no longer rely on others to tell us what kind of person we are, our self-appreciation stops being conditional.
Let’s take an opposing example, to edify this further. Maybe you’ve grown up in a house that has heavily domesticated you to believe you are not enough. Maybe you’ve had unsupportive parents, or parents who tried to dissuade you from pursuing your dreams. If you are not aware of this domestication, you may choose for example, not to apply for that dream job, or never try to have a fulfilling relationship, or put aside any attempt at creating the things/life you love. Why? Because there is this relentless voice that whispers: ‘You can’t do it.You’re not good enough. Don’t even try’.
By becoming aware of the internal dialogues that pollute our mind: doubts, limiting beliefs, judgments, and their origin – we are able to see the world and ourselves more clearly, from a different perspective, which is not tainted, or at least less so, by the heavy process of domestication we’ve all undergone.
With time, patience and awareness, we will recognize the voice of our domestication (which speaks in our own voice but isn’t ours) and will remember that we have the power inside of us to create the life that we hold dear, that we envision – rather than following something we’ve been told we want.
The journey of awareness will make us take note of subtle feelings and energies we might have not picked up on before. It is also a beautiful practice when dealing with other human beings. Keeping in mind that every person makes their own choices and we each need to respect those choices while having the awareness to help us not get dragged down by those choices and/or the negativity, perceptions, ideals, judgments, views of others.
But, the true gift of awareness lies not in the outside forces, that we make come to face, sooner or later; Trials that will help us test our level of awareness, our capacity to stay in the moment, fully present. No…It’s true gift is helping us defeat our own negativity.
“Awareness is all about restoring your freedom to choose what you want instead of what your past imposes on you.” ~ Deepak Chopra
When one becomes a master of awareness, he/she taps into a source of power that can’t be understood by the human mind because it is beyond it. Growing awareness brings us in alignment with something much bigger, the unified force field of life. The mastery of awareness is a heightened state, where we take over the reins of the mind rather than allowing our mind to master us. And slowly, in time, with every false belief or story that we unfold, undo, put to rest, we make our way to freedom, step by step, each day a little more.
The Mastery of Awareness