What Being Aware or Conscious Really Is

There is a lot of confusion about what it truly means to be conscious, aware, or present as well as confusion as to whether this is even obtainable by the average person.  Images of spiritual leaders sitting cross-legged for hours have pervaded our culture.

When we think about obtaining a calm, focused, even powerful thought process it is often seen as something that is outside of us, something that is greater than us, or something we are not worthy of.   Also, this is often not thought of as obtainable without taking religion into consideration.

What Being Aware is

This gets a bit deep for a minute.  Hang with me because I will end with some concrete examples to bring the point home and help us understand why this is so important.

Awareness is re-introducing ourselves to a wide mental space that surrounds our thinking.  For most of us, thinking is this space.  Being aware is waking up to the fact that there is a huge vastness where our thinking happens, that is separate from our thoughts.  This space, this awareness, feels like who we truly think we are.  When we connect with it, we are happy.  If we can stay with it for even a tiny amount of time, it hits us that our thoughts are something else – not – us.

An overriding quality is that it is a completely natural experience.  It feels like the true you and it feels right when you are able to turn your thoughts off and hangout in it for a while.  It is always there and always unchanging.

Being aware is a process of doing less not more

This is hard to believe: that you can do less and have greater results.  It is easier to fill your time or energy with more activities/plans/organization apps/healthy foods, rather than doing less.  The forward step is very familiar to us.  Seeking, striving, changing. Always looking for peace, happiness, or love.

Taking control of your mind is actually a process of taking a step backward, not achieving or striving.  Just sit for a second and contemplate whether or not what you want isn’t already there.

“I want a million bucks!” you say.  And that definitely is not here.  But why do you want a million bucks? Security?  Happiness?  Is that feeling here? Will a million bucks really give you that?  Maybe.  Contemplation while you are “aware” has a different quality to it than just regular thinking.  Contemplation during awareness either gives you answers or action steps to get what you are after.

being awareBeing Aware is not inaction

So…, you just sit there right?  One of the greatest myths about mindfulness or conscious thought is that it leads to passivity or inaction.  Most people pass through a period of doing less or doing nothing.  But it is typically due to the waking up to how insane we have been acting.  Seeing how packed our schedule is with stuff we hate, stuff we have busied ourselves with to avoid the difficult but impactful tasks, and stuff that is not aligned with who we are.  This “stuff” stops when seen in the light of insanity. So in effect, mindfulness causes in-action.  But, only temporarily to clear the schedule to be able to pursue what really matters.  What happens in this big scary empty space?  Creativity, epiphany, and deep thinking.

The goal of awareness is not to forget everything

We want free and clear thought but we don’t actually want an empty brain.  We need all sorts of practical knowledge to go about our day.  Practical knowing is not the problem and not the thing we need to get rid of.   It is what is arising around or behind this practical knowledge that is useful to us.  Yes, you need to do things like book tickets for next week’s trip.  But do you need to fret about it for the next 7 days?  Do you need to get mad because you couldn’t apply your points to the flight?

being awareBeing Aware (to me) means…

Seeing everything the other way around.  Maintaining the practical knowing to do everything in our day that needs to be done, while becoming familiar with this quiet space that surrounds our thoughts.  Because in this space lies the bandwidth to enjoy deep thinking, creativity, and deep meaning.

Real – Practical Steps to Increase Your Awareness

Readers of Tai Chi Basics consistently ask for resources to start meditating or improve their practice. I have become a big fan of the Art of Mushin Meditation Study Course because it is accessible to everyone – everywhere and is a good blend of hands-on practice, explanation, and science.

Scott Prath

Scott has been practicing and teaching tai chi and qigong since 2000. He is a lead instructor for the Austin Chen Tai Chi Association. His interest in the internal martial arts began after traveling in India and Nepal, and he has since traveled to China to train. Scott has published over 100 articles on tai chi with a focus on research showing the benefits of practicing.

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