Investing In Awareness
Everyday life is mundane, habitual and mostly uninteresting. The idea of being aware of the daily minutia can seem like an exercise in futility- especially since that's not how our brains are designed. But that's where the power is at. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it already.
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The mind really isn't designed for constant awareness. All those gurus and spiritual types telling you "mindfulness is a natural state" are full of it. It's not a natural state, it's a learned practice. They sound so convincing, though, don't they?
Feeling Incapable Of Enlightenment?
I spent years devoted to meditating for that inner peace feeling, researching every mystic I could find to discover the secrets to enlightenment. That way of living seems so tranquil, so free of suffering, and so much better than what I was experiencing. I'll admit, I'd taken a few wrong turns here and there. Somewhere along the line, I must have fallen off the track entirely.
A religious friend of mine always told me how the Bible's "be as little children" was similar to the Buddhist wisdom of present-mindedness. We all start out with a constant awareness, so it should be a return to something natural, right? The more I tried, though, the more impossible it seemed. Maybe I was broken, enlightenment forever out of reach.
Hard Science For Harder Truths
According to The Power of Habit, the adult mind isn't wired for present living, or at least not the way gurus make it sound. The brain is fully present and active in new situations, taking in as much information as possible. Repeated experiences are formed into habits, ignoring info that isn't considered necessary for the task. This conserves energy, and is a necessary part of daily life. Without habits, our brain would be exhausted trying to sort through the myriad data all the time.
So if you're having trouble with the idea of being aware all the time, take heart- it's not only unnecessary, but isn't healthy or natural at all. Your brain is designed to tune out that other stuff, causing the hum-drum of the daily grind.
To be mindful in every moment then requires a commitment to constantly improving awareness. It's no wonder why that seems too difficult for most to bother with.
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One Step In A Million
It's everywhere: "one step at a time." It's thrown around like a huge revelation to those that need to hear it, and a mantra for those that already understand. There's a huge problem with the quote though: everyone already knows.
Imagine you're at the base of a mountain, looking up. You're exhausted by the thought of walking up it, aren't you? The totality of the journey plays in the mind from the perspective of after the journey has been made. It's one lump sum of effort, weighed against the presumed feeling of accomplishment at the top.
The motivational quote 'one step at a time' implies you haven't considered the steps it took to get there. It sounds silly; of course it took one step after another to get there. What the quote really means is you can take a break after each step; it's not necessary to walk those steps one immediately after another. When you imagine taking a five minute break after each step, the effort you can imagine changes. Maybe it takes longer, but it won't seem so exhausting to do anymore.
Investing A Penny At A Time
Today, maybe take a short moment to be fully aware of the moment or of something specific. Just one step, and then take a break. Come back the next day and take another moment. Or, if daily seems too much, then weekly, monthly, or even irregularly as the mood suits you. The important thing isn't how fast or even how well you maintain awareness: it's the commitment to keep trying.
And that commitment is worth more than a daily habit that burns you out after a month, or a weekly one that falls apart after a year. If you can release any preconceptions about how long it will take and how fast or good you should be at it, and just commit to trying to improve little by little as it happens, you'd see a huge difference. That applies to everything; not just awareness. In fact, the investment in awareness has the potential to change literally everything that is in your power to change (and even some that don't seem to be).
So take today and consider if you can make that commitment without the pressure of meeting a deadline or being perfectly consistent.
If you'd like some ideas for where to start using your awareness for immediate results, check out Everyday Energy Part One, or visit the Patreon page for weekly articles. Comment below your thoughts and experiences, I'd love to hear what you have to say about investing in awareness!