Value of the Week — Awareness
“Rather than being your thoughts and emotions be the awareness behind them.”
Dictionaries usually define awareness as the mental state of being aware, conscious of something.
I am fascinated by the potential power of this value and have been reflecting on its meaning. I have been wondering how aware I am and can be? The opposite of awareness is ignorance — not knowing. What is it that I don’t know? During lockdown friends have been recommending books. One friend, Doug, recommended that I read the book Overstory, by Richard Powers, the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2019. I was soon griped by this brilliantly written story and whilst reading came across the beginning of a sentence which stated, “Two years after Appomattox…” I realised that this term meant nothing to me, so I looked up the meaning of Appomattox, to find it was the place in Virginia, USA, where Robert E. Lee surrendered to the victorious Ulysses S. Grant, after the last battle of the American Civil war on the 9th April 1865. I hadn’t been taught American history at school so I was unaware of the event. I now am able to understand the meaning of the sentence in Overstory — I have awareness.
This small example of my ignorance made me reflect on the incompleteness of my understanding of so many aspects of life and how my ignorance creates a biased personal lens on the world. As we journey through life our friends, family, schooling and culture all contribute to our own specific worldview; giving us at worst a skewed, biased, prejudiced and one-sided view of reality.
I am curious about how each of us can grow in objective awareness? I think one of the keys is to be curious about why we think and behave in the way we do? To listen deeply to others; being accurate in our responses, so that we act as far as possible from our authentic self, which is filled with innate non-judgemental positive human values such as compassion, empathy, cooperation and truth. To challenge our own dualistic attitudes and implicit bias that sees others as either good or bad, without acknowledging how our own thinking and behaviour can fuel such perceptions.
A number of years ago Jane introduced me to a book written by Don Miguel Ruiz called The Four Agreements. This simple yet profound book helps us to be conscious about our thinking and behaviour, and suggests four agreements that we should make with ourselves. The first is to be accurate with our words. Our words are the most powerful tool we have as they create our reality. Secondly, don’t take things personally. If you do you will feel offended and defend yourself, which leads to conflicts. Thirdly, don’t make assumptions because if you do it can quickly lead to sadness. Lastly, the fourth agreement is always to do your best, which helps the other agreements to become ingrained habits. The four agreements help us to raise the level of our own awareness, supporting our mental health and wellbeing.
To be aware about how and why we see the world as we do places us the on first rung of a ladder, which as we climb gives us, as Eckhart Tolle stated, the awareness behind our thoughts and emotions. I am convinced that bringing the value of awareness into our thinking will help us to live our lives more accurately and happily, which will also benefit humanity.