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Head shot of Patanjali Sokaris

Patanjali Sokaris

Pondering the universe

Self-awareness

Self-awareness comes from focussing one's consciousness upon the nature of one's own thoughts, feeling and actions, rather than just reacting to life's experiences and challenges.

We each have a consciousness, which by our free will we can focus on parts of the world around us that interest us, but also upon ourselves, and how we operate in the world. Mostly, we respond to external events, usually in fairly well-established ways, unless something has changed, requiring us to modify our response.

Many response patterns we learned through observation of those around us as we grew up. Others we were formally taught by our parents or as part of schooling.

While most of these learned patterns are beneficial, in that they allow us to live and work in the world without incident, some may not be appropriate because we applied them in situations that were not the same as we learned them in.

We pretty quickly learn what not to do if the consequences are immediate. If we think about it, there may have been similar instances in the past, and so we may think it might not be a good idea to continue doing the offending action in the future.

To summarise this process, we:

  1. 1.Experience in the present situation.
  2. 2.Ponder upon similar situations and their consequences in the past.
  3. 3.Choose to respond differently to those circumstances in the future.

Of course, this is an iterative process, as we will need to fine tune our future responses as we applied previously decided actions that ended up missing the mark. We also might notice subtleties in the differences between situations, requiring changes to some parts of the response.

Basically, we have become aware of of the multiple facets of an experience pattern and how to handle it.

In early times in our life, we may not have really noticed that many of our actions hurt others but we have been so wrapped up in ourselves that we don't become aware of that until someone tells us, or we remember those earlier reactions of others when we later experience those reactions ourselves. This is reflective awareness because it occurs after the fact, so we can only react after the fact.

Upon reflection, we tend to want to be prepared for the future, so we will think about the best way to respond. This is predictive awareness because we think we know how the situation will work out, and so pre-emptively decide the action.

Not all situations are predictable, so despite being aware of some of the variations that may occur, and having worked out the appropriate response, we still find ourselves caught out. Here we need to be aware of the situation as it plays out, and so respond in real time to what is actually happening, while deciding at each moment what we want to happen.

However, it takes a lot of experience – read: mistakes – to be able to truly respond in the most appropriately way to everything around us. Until then, we need to choose when to challenge ourselves, and when to be more careful.

So to formalise all this, the types of awareness, their time relationships, and the types of appropriate actions are:

#TypeTimeAction
1ReflectivePastReactive
2SituationalPresentResponsive
3PredictiveFuturePre-emptive

Mostly, we apply this process to how we react to external circumstances, but we can also apply it to what happens within us. By observing ourselves in various situations, and noticing what thoughts and feelings arise in each of them, we can approach them in the same way as external situations.

This taking of an objective view of our thoughts and feelings enable us to change them in meaningful ways, rather than just letting them overun our consciousness. We do this by deciding what thoughts and feeling we want to occur, not only when reponding to external event, but also on demand at times of our choosing.

We can choose how we want to wake up, and what we want to feel during the day. We will still continue to be challenged, but practicing such control enables success in more situations.

Some aids to taking control of your thoughts and feelings are:

  1. a. Mindfulness
    The allowing part of yourself to be an observer, in real time, of each situation and of your thoughts and feelings as they occur.
  2. b. Contemplation
    Taking time out to think about what you want to change or do, and what you can do to prepare yourself and your environment for that.
  3. c. Meditation
    Time and space to connect to your inner, free from [most of] the distractions of the rest of your life.
  4. d. Conscious breathing
    Relaxed steady breathing, giving you a sense of space and control.
  5. e. Relaxation
    Time to allow your subconscious to feed your consciousness with answers to all the questions you keep bombarding yourself with in the rest of your day.

You may make some of these a regular practice, but you can also do them on demand, as and when needed. Make them part of your life toolbox, accessible at all times.


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