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Are you aware? Does it matter?

Ask a fish “How’s the water?” and it is likely to respond, “What water?” So you reach down, pull it out and point it at the water and say “That water.” And in that moment the fish becomes aware of its world – a world that, hitherto, defined its unconscious life completely.

The fish is now aware of two things; firstly, it is aware of its environment and secondly, that it is not its environment and can be separated from it.

So it can observe its environment and can use it rather than being used by it. ‘Use’ means being the cause in the matter of one’s circumstances rather than being at their effect (‘used by’).

We, like the fish, swim around in water, and unless we are aware of the water, are completely impacted and used by it also, to the possible detriment of how we want to live our life.

Our perception is our unconscious reality

What we swim around in is our perception. The perception of our circumstances that we wake up to each morning. We awaken to a perception of life that our mind presents to us and for each of us that perception - our experience - is how it is.

And each morning, we plan our day to deal with the concerns and circumstances presented to us by our perception, in order to succeed, because that is how we are conditioned. Every day of our lives we wake to our concerns and then attempt to deal with them successfully; human beings, sleepwalking our way through our lives, dealing with our concerns.

How it is, is how it is

Unless we are aware of our thinking, however, we are trapped in this daily cycle of suffering and problem fixing. Much popular self-development literature is directed toward dealing with our concerns and fixing our problems - yet all the while, remaining stuck within a perception of, this is how it is.

Except that 8bn people each wake up every day to a different perception, their own perception of, how it is, and not one of them the same as your perception. Of those 8bn people, whose perception is right?

Actually, how it is, is never how it is

Actually, none of them. No-one’s perception is how it is. No perception is the one; the truth, or it. All that you can say with certainty is that how it is for you, is not how it is because anyone else experiencing the situation would have a different, equally valid perception of it. And while at first, this may seem problematic, in fact, it’s incredibly freeing, for now you have another more powerful option.

With awareness you can transcend your perception

Once you are aware that your perception is just a perception your mind has chosen to present to you, you are not restricted to fixing that perception’s problems. You can transcend those problems by choosing another perception.

Practically, awareness of your perception doesn’t mean that the facts of the situation change necessarily, rather the meaning that you give to them, and/or the time frame that you apply (eg short term or long term) changes. This new meaning can lead to a complete transformation of the situation in your perception and therefore, how it impacts your life.

Whichever perception you choose will determine the thoughts that turn up in your head and, unless you are consciously managing how you respond to your thinking, your thoughts will direct your body’s activity, with your body responding accordingly.

Believing that their thoughts are who they are, most people live with this thoughts-action sequence. They perceive a situation and react in line with their thinking, whether or not their thinking is in line with who they really are.

You can also transcend your thinking

So, another aspect of awareness is awareness of your thinking – observing your thinking and being aware of where it is/will take you. Once again, being aware of your thinking rather than being your thinking, gives you choice and agency.

You didn’t create your thoughts. They are your mind’s reaction to perception and its best shot at hooking you into its repetitive cycle of problem/fix, problem/fix.

Attention powers thoughts and their generation

Your mind will continue to generate those thoughts as long as you give them your attention. Attention powers thoughts. Even negative attention such as resistance – “I don’t want that thought any more”; or suppression, which is consciously trying to repress or ignore it. You are still giving the thought your attention. This gives it power to return repeatedly with greater strength to engage your actions.

Not only can you be aware of your immediate thoughts but, as you get older, you can begin to be aware of negative patterns in your life such as always being poor; procrastination, poor in relationships, or sabotaging your success. Being aware of these patterns allows you to observe and manage the thinking that attracts you to these negative situations.

How to manage your thinking

How do you manage your thinking? The first step is just to observe it and be aware of where it is taking you. If it is not where you want to go, do not resist it, just accept your thinking and even be grateful for it for the thought is giving you information (as it is designed to). Being grateful will also bring you acceptance and control.

Then, give up the meaning you are giving, unconsciously, to your perception. What you think it means is not what it means. Look at the situation anew and seek to come from love. That is, what might be available for the greater good by looking at this situation anew: “As love, what shall I do now?” In my experience, with some contemplation, you will know what to do in a situation.

Identifying the ‘right’ course of action

Will it be the right thing to do? If it brings you inner turmoil, no. For example, retaining the wrong person in your team may bring you a quiet life but will cause you longer term anxiety. Letting that person go, however, may cause you and others shorter term disquiet but deeper and longer term inner peace, as you experience having done the right thing for that person and your team.

Be aware of Who you really are

The key aspect in guiding your life and leadership is being aware of what awareness is, and who you really are. For when you act in accordance with who you really are (see post ‘Who are you? Are you on purpose? Are you being true to your Self?’), you are being completely authentic. You will experience joy in your work, inner peace, and the fulfilment that comes from contribution and service to the greater good.

And when you come from who You really are, your team members will be able to respond in kind.

By Christopher Jones-Warner

Recommended further reading:

  • The Power of Now - Eckhart Tolle

  • A New Earth - Eckhart Tolle

  • Awareness - Anthony de Mello

  • The Little Book of Big Change - Amy Johnson PhD.

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