Awareness is like air—take it away and you mentally, or even physically die.
You open your eyes in the morning and awareness is, hopefully, there. To be able to hope, you need awareness. You eat a juicy peach. Without awareness, there is no juiciness, no taste. Without awareness, you might eat forever or not eat at all. Hunger and satiation are particles of awareness. You look outside the window. A hawk swoops down after a dove. Without awareness, there is no hawk and no dove. Even when you sleep, awareness is close. In order to dream, you need awareness. Your cat cries out as you sleep. You wake up, run outside and chase away the fox pursuing it. Your cat rubs against you thanking your awareness.
Awareness is much more than a strength. Awareness is like air—take it away and you mentally or even physically die.
People might say, “I don’t want the awareness. It is too painful.” I’m sorry about that. Pain is awful. But often, the problem is not with awareness; it is not being aware enough. It is not cultivating your strength. It is not being aware enough of awareness.
To be aware necessitates, to some degree, knowing you are aware. You put your hand on your lover’s cheek and you not only feel his or her cheek, you know your hand is there. And this knowing awareness can be cultivated, educated. When you cultivate awareness of awareness, you notice a pain when it first arises so you know how to respond before it builds into a monument of pain. Often, the problem with pain is not the pain itself but what it means to you, how you think about or respond to it. If you think the pain you feel in your belly is cancer, it hurts quite a lot. If you think the pain is from eating too much, you take a pill.
You might be too afraid of discomfort. You interpret discomfort as an incipient threat and so resist it, block it off, push against awareness of it. Thus, you either augment the pain or turn it into a subterranean assault. By knowing what you are aware of, you stop fearing discomfort and so don’t hide it away or hold it close like an enemy you can’t let out of your sight.
You need awareness. You need awareness of awareness even more. Knowledge, understanding, mindfulness and empathy all can increase it. It is a strength. In fact, it is your greatest strength. With it, when a tree falls in your direction, you not only get out of the way but also know why you do it. By knowing, you can form greater and greater levels of understanding. You don’t just automatically react. You learn on multiple levels.
With awareness of awareness, you have choice. You know you can step back from the initial sensation or be swallowed up in it. When you feel anger, for example, it can take you over and limit your awareness to only what feeds itself. Your knowing and understanding of the situation is then limited. But this limit is only one possibility. You can also learn to notice the initial signs of anger, to let in the distress and thus know it for what it is. You can know what feeds the emotion and what feeds the cessation of it.
With enough awareness, when someone is suffering, whether it be you or someone else, you feel it as the world’s pain. You feel it because you are part of the world, too. You learn from it and do what you can to diminish the suffering and let it go. In this way you make your life, you contribute to making all life, more aware, more recognized, even loved.
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