Awareness as compared to Non-awareness — not only is paying attention a challenge, what we miss far outweighs what we pay attention to. Nevertheless, it’s worth working toward more awareness.
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One of the odd things about Samara, the beach town we live in in Costa Rica, is that it’s difficult to get fresh seafood. There are people fishing commercially, but almost all of their catch goes to restaurants.
So, being that we are back n Ontario for a bit, we decided to take Darbella’s mom out to Red Lobster for a belated birthday lunch. And, bonus, I could eat lobster!
So I did. And I really enjoyed it. And about 3⁄4 through the meal I thought about coming back here to my computer, and this article. And poof. There I was, gone — non-present. Un-aware.
A mundane example, for sure.
But an ages-old issue for Buddhists of all stripes. Awareness can only be moment-by-moment, because now is all there is. Of course, now can include thinking about the future or ruminating about the past — so long as you are doing so consciously.
That’s one on the main reasons to meditate. Meditation, like nothing else, show us how easily diverted our minds are. Raising that diversion to consciousness is being awake.
And then, there’s the whole issue of how little we are aware of in the first place.
Turns out that the mental process of perceiving, and perhaps to a greater extent, interpreting experience not only affects mood and motivation. It affects us at the cellular level.
Bruce Lipton is a development biologist who has been writing about this for decades. He writes that only 5% of dysfunction is genetic. The rest is the organism’s response to the environment.
For example, if an organism “perceives” a stress that is actually not there, the mis-perception can actually change the genes to accommodate the “belief.”
“Perceptions” lie between the environment and cell expression. If our perceptions are accurate, the resulting behavior will be life enhancing. If we operate from “mis-perceptions,” our behavior will be inappropriate and will jeopardize our vitality by compromising our health.
In other words, what we perceive, and more importantly, how we interpret what we perceive, is chiefly responsible for our health and well-being.
Today’s topic is awareness as compared to non-awareness. Another way of putting this is, the more aware we are regarding what we are thinking and how we are interpreting our experience, the healthier we are. The more we “miss” (non-awareness), the more we think “stuff” is happening to us — we think we are governed by “stuff” that seems to be out of our control.
Simple, right? Well, not really. The question is: if awareness is crucial, what, exactly, are we aware of?
Every second, the brain is being “hit” with 4 billion signals. Of those 4 billion signals, we are only aware of around2000 bits of all that information.
Here’s a picture. Imagine it’s made up of 4 billion pixels.
Now, let’s look at what the brain is actually conscious of. Remember, it’s 2000 bits. Here, the dot represents what we are conscious of at any given time.
Except it’s enlarged 1000 times, so you can see it.
So, let’s imagine you want to shift a behaviour. You think about it and think about it. And you discover that nothing changes. Why?
Because the “reasons” for the behaviour are likely buried in the “missed signals.”
Let’s do an experiment: answer me this — what does what your butt feel like, right now? Hadn’t been aware of your butt before I asked, had you? Despite the fact that your butt nerves were sending messages to your brain, your brain chose not to bring it into your awareness.
Until you chose to pay attention to your butt. You are what you attend to. All the rest is somewhere in the background.
Here’s the killer: The vast majority of your “rules and beliefs” about how to be are buried in the 99.999999% “cloud of un-awareness.”
These are the things I call Rock beliefs in my book, Living Life in Growing Orbits. They are firmly fixed beliefs you created out of thin air. Once you made them, they faded into unconsciousness, yet continue to determine your behaviour, out of your consciousness.
If you are not aware of the belief, you can’t change it. Even when you become aware of it, changing a Rock, core belief is hard, hard work.
Lipton says something like, “The behaviour won’t change unless you change the core belief.” But… but… you have to be willing to dig deep and extract that core belief.
Let’s say you’re having trouble with your husband. You try different approaches: for example, you might decide to learn and use a communication model. But nothing much changes — the troubles continue.
This is a good sign that the real issue lies with one of your “core beliefs.” Perhaps, growing up, you decided that people should treat you “special.” Or, you learned you had to fight every time you felt threatened, in order to stay alive. Or you were taught that you had to get sick to get attention (this is a biggie!)
If you do not change the core belief, your day-to-day behaviours are not going to shift.
If the core belief remains out of your awareness, the only alternative the “system” (your body) has is to get your attention by making you sick or making you ache. If that doesn’t work, the cells begin to break down and you get deeper, more serious illnesses.
Awareness is the ability to focus your attention on what is really going on at the deep, core level. Bodywork deals with this same process, allowing core issues to emerge.
Un-awareness is thinking that your life is out of your control, as opposed to simply out of your consciousness.
Awareness is knowing what’s up at the core level. Unless and until you take core work seriously, nothing will change.
The good news is that what is in our cloud of un-awareness is simply unchosen data. It is available, so long as you are prepared to do the work of extracting it.
Give my book, Living Life in Growing Orbits, a try. It’s 365 days doing the hard work of self-exploration, at the core level.