02/10/2006 09:51 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Becoming Aware

It's so easy to be caught in the web of 'doing' of 'busyness'. By
constantly keeping the mind busy, we avoid quite well the necessity
of reflection, or stillness, or resting the mind - an opportunity to
be aware of awareness. What is it to be aware? Webster defines aware
as 'having or showing realization, perception, or knowledge'. Why
should we, as a human species, become aware of our awareness?
Because in this awareness is a kinder world.

Take a concrete example from everyday life. You have run into a huge
traffic jam driving home from work so you decide to try and maneuver
home on side roads and back paths. It's an area you know well but
even the side streets are crowded. You see a street you've never
driven on and in desperation you take the route. It winds behind a
cluster of homes to park and continues on a straight line ending one
block from your home. Reaching your destination, you relish in the
freedom this path gave you, beyond traffic, and suddenly like an on-
board GPS system, you visualize the new route in your map of the
territory, and are now completely aware of its newfound presence in
your life. This moment of discovery is alike a creative burst, you
want to share it with others, you feel a joyful delight in this new
knowledge. You are aware of a new route but more importantly, you are
aware of that awareness.

Each of us experiences such creativity day in and day out. It may be
a new car route or a scientific discovery, but we learn something new
everyday - we may or may not be aware of it. It is in the becoming
aware that one gains true knowledge, the kernel of wisdom. In our
current educational climate, there is little value placed on honing
our awareness. Information is provided, memorized, and regurgitated
for testing purposes. We do not attend to our awareness nor do we as
a society provide our children with tools for cultivating awareness.
Such tools have in common an element of 'non-doing' and element of a
'non-goal directed' process. They do have in common elements of
rest, observing and noting, kindness, and choice - attention to that
which is helpful or harmful.

In this hectic world, the information overload must be balanced by
practicing awareness itself - practicing resting, observing and
noting, kindness, and choice. Tools for cultivating awareness are
with us always. We can practice becoming aware using the most regular
activities - like breathing, walking, eating, talking, or listening
to music. By practicing with automatic functions, one learns to
increase awareness, returning to awareness as our minds drift away
again and again. As awareness increases, attention can be directed at
even more subtle activities, such as thoughts and feelings. The same
process is used but now choice has an even greater role, choosing to
attend to those thoughts and feelings that heal and help rather than
harm is possible. And through this process, practiced by each
individual, arises a joy of being alive, and the creation of a kinder