“Don’t always believe everything you think.” ~ John Fulton
Here are some modern maxims: You are what you eat. You are what you wear. You are what you do. You are what you think. Do you believe any of them? Especially the last one? If your thoughts are like mine, they’re always changing and sometimes have little to do with things that I’m actually doing or want to do. Quite often, thoughts can distract and sometimes capture our attention to the exclusion of all else.
In awareness practice, we become more aware of what’s going on within us and around us by choosing where to place our attention. We can choose to place our attention on our thoughts, or on our breath or our body. We can choose to just notice our thoughts without being them; without having to believe them, judge them, or take action on them. Then we are free to choose how we respond to life.
Awareness can be considered as a simple system which produces clarity around your emotions, thoughts, and feelings, and gives you more choices.
Taking this a step further, awareness can be heightened when coupled with intent. We tend to associate intent with complicated actions that require our full attention and effort to succeed. For example, walking a tightrope, taking a test, or taking a vow are all tasks that require us to be fully present and single-minded. Intent has the power to transform seemingly mundane tasks into significant experiences.
In today’s world, however, we are doing one thing and thinking of something else, or even doing three things at the same time. There is nothing wrong with multi-tasking, which is necessary at times. However, balancing this with doses of intentional activity can provide valuable insight into the benefits of focusing on one thing at a time; being fully present with whatever invites your awareness.
You can apply intent to any situation by simply saying, “I am aware that I am now awake” or “I am aware that I am driving to work” or “I am aware that I am preparing dinner” or “I am aware that I am breathing.” As you acknowledge what you are doing in any given moment, you own your actions instead of habitually performing them. And in owning your actions, you realize how often you act without intention and how this disengages you from reality. Imagine what would happen if you were intentionally aware every moment of every day?
As you intentionally focus, here are three ways to be more aware:
- Filter your thoughts through multiple lenses. Ask (for example), How would Einstein think? How would God think? How would my father think? This dialogue helps to broaden your perceptions, and open your own views on life and situations.
- Observe new things. We have so many habits and routines we become oblivious. Start by noticing everything you do with a new consciousness. Begin slowly and build upon this capacity.
- Take an honest look at yourself. Assess your strengths and weaknesses to gain knowledge and increase performance. An honest self-assessment allows you to identify with and understand the wants, needs, and viewpoints of those around you. This will help you excel at building and maintaining relationships, listening, and relating to others.