Becoming Aware and Paying Attention
By Brian R. Martens | Posted 10/31/20
In my study of indigenous cultures, myth, stories, and creativity, there is a quality that is key to opening the gate to transforming your life. And, transforming your life is the key to mental fitness, to stay ahead of the conflict, strife, and discontent in the world today, which affects people's mental state, longevity, and happiness.
To unpack the word awareness, lets find out what it is and how it can affect you day to day. Awareness is paying attention to what is around you, what is happening to you, and what is happening inside your head. Let's start with what is inside your head, since that can be accessed any time, anywhere, that is, if you are willing to look and become aware of who is talking in your head.
You might say, "Well, I am talking inside my head, it's me." Let's think about that. Who are you? Are you your thoughts? Are you your actions?
Let's simplify … and start with the voices in your head, especially the critical voices. Are you aware of what the voice(s) are saying to you? Are those voices saying good things about you or are they putting you down? Are those voices judging you and your family and friends? If you just believe everything you are hearing, then you are not being aware enough. The straight answer is that those voices are not you. The critical voices usually start in your childhood as a defense mechanism to keep you safe, AND they critically harm you later in life if you don't reassess them when you are older and don't need them.
Becoming aware is about assessing, asking questions, and thoughtfully, you might say mindfully, finding out what is affecting your life. What are the things you don't like and that are having negative consequences in your life?
For example, when you start to think about your work or relationships, you notice (this is good that you are starting to NOTICE) yourself judging your boss or one of your friends. You have been seeing the friend less and less and feel more and more the distance between you and your boss.
Chances are, if you don't stop to reflect on your own thoughts and feelings about these situations, you will lose friends, your boss may fire you, or your family members will pull away. If you justify your thoughts and actions rather than looking at your own thoughts to see if they are serving you now, you will not gain the insight, clarity, and positive regard for yourself that comes from awareness and self-reflection. The critical voices in your mind can be about three things: yourself, other people, and the surrounding situation.
The first step in awareness is deciding which of these three to look at first. Choosing where your thoughts are focused is a good first step in your inner reflections.
As you start to look within, you can ask, is this alienation I am feeling about me, the other person, or the situation or circumstances? If the other person has not changed or the circumstances have not changed, let's say you notice that you have been under more stress and you have been blaming someone or something else for the worry and stress.
Awareness is having those thoughts. Awareness is listening to the other, quieter voice inside that may say it's time to take a vacation, read that book that's been waiting on the shelf, or take that exercise course that you know will help your attitude.
Awareness is listening to all the noise and finding the truth and the way to move through these uncomfortable places. No one else can do this, and you may resist if someone else points this out to you. This is about taking responsibility for your own happiness, and this leads to the next step, the Transformation.
Lets take care of the awareness first. Ah, you say, this sounds simple, what's the big deal? The big deal is doing it … and doing it all the time. No one said that life would be a bowl of cherries; some people may not like cherries, plus there are all those pits to take out. We can complain about the pits (this is where the critical voices will come in) or we can take care of our attitude by taking responsibility … pulling out the pits and saying, "Wow! These cherries are sweet and delicious!"
The mind may want to complain about the boss, or the friend, or those circumstances that suck, or even, "Gosh, I have to pull out those cherry pits again." Awareness is catching yourself, taking responsibility for your state of mind, and moving on. Just know that there is no perfection here on the planet. You may get tired of battling the mind on a difficult day, at the end of the week, but know that you gave it your best.
Next week, or over the weekend when you are with your kids or partner, you can reassess and give yourself a break, knowing that you are working on becoming more aware and that is making you a better person to your family, your partner, and at work, and even to your boss. Then, you will find transformation happening.
©2020 Brian Martens. All rights reserved.
Brian has always been a poet. …