It’s always here, always available to us and it’s the essesnce of what mindfulness is about. Cultivating our ability to be aware, to pause and notice brings about a shift in how we relate to the various elements of our lives such as our problems, our relationships, our behaviour and our automatic responses.
EXPAND YOUR MIND
Technically speaking, I’m not sure I can expand my mind!? However, expanding your awareness, or to be more precise, becoming more aware of how expansive awareness is, is something you will be encouraged to do during a mindfulness training course.
It is very easy for our attention to become zoned into what is urgent or important or whatever is emotionally charged. These attention magnets, as I call them, can lead to our focus nucleating around problems and troubles or we become obsessed with certain elements of life e.g. getting the next big thing which will make us happy – new outfit, car, promotion.
This narrowing of our focus may lead to us overlooking the beauty around us right now – the colours, the scents, the textures, the sounds and the details of each interesting person around us (and we are all interesting in some way or form).
Mindfulness training involves practicing both constricting our attention to a very narrow and pointed focus, and expanding our awareness out to encompass a broad range of experiences and senses.
We all have agendas, we all want things to be a certain way. We strive to make things better and better in the hope that the future will be filled with better moments. There is nothing wrong with this at all, our striving is often nobly motivated but it can be exhausting and stressful. Pure awareness has no agendas. When we drop into awareness, we are able experience a stillness and sense of calm which cannot be felt while we are busy doing all that needs to be done. Occasionally, we experience a moment of pure awareness, and the stillness and calm which accompnaies it, when we notice a spectacular natural scene such as a sunrise, mountain-top view or a beautiful creature.
This stillness can be experienced whenever we choose.
SO WHAT IS AWARENESS?
This is such a difficult question to answer.
Some would say awareness is the essence of life, the most fundamental aspect of being human. Others may describe it in terms of consciousness and our ability to not only sense our environment, but to also ponder it and consider it – so not just awareness, but awareness of awareness. Some would say that awareness is ever present and will remain when the human form, our bodies, pass away – so for some, the subject is a very spiritual one.
The debate will, no doubt, go on.
Personally, I believe there is merit in all the arguments about the nature of awareness. One of the reasons why there is so much debate is because language is a flawed tool for portraying an experience which is so broad, complex and yet simple at the same time. The words we use can also have different meanings for different poeple, and so, written and spoken messages are easily misunderstood.
Maybe through your own practice, you’ll be able to define what awareness is for you.
THE TINIEST SHIFT
“Awareness is never not here” – this is another one of those phrases I hear a lot when listening to experienced meditators. It’s a very profound piece of knowledge which can significantly influence our experience of life.
It just takes the tiniest shift in our mental procesing to move from a place of being stuck in thoughts to a greater sense of awareness.
Awareness is right there, available at all times, accessible at any point. Awareness is attainable whenever we choose and never out of reach.
Mindfulness has been described as “falling awake”. When you first wake in the morning, there is a short period when you are no longer asleep but you are not fully alert. This inbetween stage is known as STUPOR. When you are drowsy, you might spalsh cold water on your face or take a breath of fresh air. Once alert again, you might attempt to maintain your alertness with a strong coffee.
Wakefulness is closely linked to awareness.
When we become wrapped up in conceptual thinking, it is easy to enter a kind of stupor. We can become completely unaware of what is going on around us or within us because our attention has nucleated around an element of the doing-mind. If your job or role in life involves or necessitates a lot of conceptual thinking, you may spend hours upon hours completely unaware of the feel of your body, the gentle ebb and flow of the breath, the beautiful colours before you very eyes or the subtle textures beneath your fingertips.
All that is needed is a tiny shift, the smallest of adjustments to move from unaware to aware, stupor to awake. It is like the flicking of a switch which illuminates a room with light. And when the switch is flicked, the magnificence of life is there to be noticed and enjoyed.