A Deep Dive Into Awareness, Mindfulness, and Inspired Action

by Dian Reid-Jancic· Follow Dian on

The ultimate value of life depends upon awareness and the power of contemplation rather than upon mere survival.

~ Aristotle

Awareness and the power of contemplation. So much more powerful than mere survival, at least when you get past the whole actually being alive thing. So let’s move past that and talk about awareness, shall we?

Awareness.

This spring I took an online course on Buddhism and Modern Psychology, and really enjoyed it. It’s fascinating how much power the brain has on our actions.  If you want to know the science of it, I recommend taking the course when it’s available again on coursera (it’s free!).

One of the lectures is spent on the topic of feelings motivating and influencing behavior.

It got me thinking about my obsession with awareness, mindfulness, and inspired action.

Awareness is simply noticing. Bringing something to your attention. I don’t believe you can effectively observe something until you’re actively aware of it. Which is why I try and focus on creating awareness as a first habit when trying to figure something out.

Lately my mood has been up and down. I’d been feeling stressed out and moody for weeks, but I had’t really acknowledged it. Until a few weeks ago when I sat huddled in a ball, broken down in tears and crying over hitting my head on the dryer door. Twice. The first time was enough to send me into a rage. But the second time, that’s what had me lose it.

All my pent up feelings from the past few months where new clients have been scarce, money has been tight, and morale has been low finally caught up with me.

I slammed the dryer door shut and fell to my knees to sob. Quietly, so my wife wouldn’t hear me. I reflected later on there being a part of me that’s ultimately okay with allowing her to hear and experience my rage, but not my pain. I’ll get to that in a moment.

On the floor of our laundry room I pulled myself together and finished loading the washer for the next cycle of clothes to be cleaned. I walked through the kitchen and down the hall to the bedroom, avoiding the living room and thus, my wife. I quietly closed the door behind me and crawled into bed and began sobbing again, this time uncontrollably.

The sobs turned almost rhythmic and slowed to quiet, heavy breaths. With a pillow corner soaked in tears, I stared through the half-open shutters, out the window, and contemplated my existence.

That’s what it took for me to create awareness that I had fallen into a pattern of survival.

Wake up. Fumble through my daily routine. Sleep.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

No more. Awareness had opened the door to mindfulness. Now that I am aware of my pattern, I can mindfully observe myself within that pattern.

Mindfulness.

In awareness, you’re observing, focusing, feeling. There is no change in behavior, there is only awareness of the behavior itself. In mindfulness, you’re taking that awareness and being mindful about how you’ll choose to apply what you’ve become aware of to your current behavior. You’re also aware, but it’s a deep awareness that actively informs your decision-making process.

While I stared out the window contemplating my existence, my wife came in to check on me. She sat next to me and stroked my hair while I caught her up on my present state of mind. As we talked I became acutely aware of how uncomfortable I was in sharing my pain with her. Anger seems to be something easily explained away (I just needed to vent, I’m alright now), but pain requires being vulnerable just to feel it, let alone allow another human being to witness—or god-forbid, share in—it.

Awareness of my discomfort led me into engaging in mindful—and transparent—conversation around the discomfort, and more importantly, my pain. Mindfulness allowed my wife and I to be open and honest with each other about how we felt about each side of the conversation. And those mindful moments continue to inspire action to keep me in alignment with what I value about my experience that day.

Inspired Action.

Awareness and mindfulness are both about honoring what’s present. What’s present in and around us (awareness) and what’s present in our intentions in each moment (mindfulness). Then there’s using that awareness and mindfulness to take action. And the only action we can take at that point is inspired action. That’s really the only kind of action we take.

Our actions are always inspired by something, regardless of how deeply set that something is. Sometimes they’re inspired by habit, by ritual, obligation, trust, greed, compassion, desire. All action is inspired. Creating awareness and engaging in mindfulness only helps you make more conscious choices about the things you choose your actions to be inspired by.

Do you want to merely survive or something more than that?

When we focus on merely surviving, we leave way too much life behind us and not nearly enough ahead.

I get it, that sometimes focusing solely on survival is the only thing that has us actually survive. I look back on the months and years after my mom’s death, when survival was my only focus. It had to be. Otherwise I might have allowed myself to succumb to the notion that feeling nothing forever was better than feeling pain for even a little while.

Once I became aware that I wanted to live (not just survive), I needed something more than mere survival to inspire me.

I wish a few minutes (or even years) of reflection would help me pinpoint the moment that I moved out of survival mode and began to focus on actually living life. But it doesn’t. I feel like it just sort of happened, but the reality is that I had to do a lot of work with myself (and maybe a therapist and coach or two) to create true awareness that my life was actually worth living.

It’s crazy to me that we still have to sometimes make ourselves aware of this fact.

 

 

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