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  • Writer's pictureRandy Michaux

Awareness - Why is it Important?


woman practicing mindfulness and awareness

Awareness - Why is it Important?

Awareness has been a widely discussed concept for quite some time. I’m sure we can all remember a particular book or teacher that peaked our interest on the topic. What is it exactly though? And what does it really have to do with our health journey? Understanding and harnessing the power of awareness, not only puts you back in the driver’s seat of your life, but also allows for rapid and lasting physical healing.

 

What is Awareness exactly?


Awareness is the underlying presence that is always with you. It is the part of yourself that witnesses the events of your life. Have you ever been doing something that you enjoy, like watching a sunset, or reaching a beautiful peak during a hike, and your mind kicks in with a particular thought that causes you to realize that for just a moment, you weren’t thinking anything at all. You were fully present in that experience and observing things around you, and you also observed when the mind kicked in again. That quiet place from which you are able to notice the comings and goings of the mind, is your natural state of awareness.


What does Awareness have to do with Health?


There are many ways awareness is directly linked to our physical health. The ones we will focus on here have to do with stress management.

The Stress Factor

Most people have heard about the negative effects of stress on our physical health. We know what happens to the body when the nervous system gets stuck in fight or flight for too long, and we understand how cortisol in excessive amounts can damage the immune system. But what does awareness have to do with stress? To answer that question, we first need to understand that the pace and pressures of our modern way of living, is very different from the way people lived their lives thousands and even hundreds of years ago. Our innate stress response is a little outdated compared to how rapidly the pace of life has increased. We live in constantly high levels of stress and our nervous system has not had enough time to adapt. This is exactly why cultivating awareness is so important to our physical health. Negative emotions are the generators of stress, and it is our thoughts that produce emotions. Without the ability to ground into awareness, our thoughts can become disproportionately empowered and we end up experiencing life from the programs and stories of the mind.

The mind is an amazing tool, but it is only that. How can we determine if we are overly identified with the mind? And what can we do about it if we are? Ask yourself the following questions to determine if this could be occurring for you.
  1. How often do you catch yourself thinking something that deep down you know isn’t true?

  2. Do you have a difficult time falling asleep due to incessant mind chatter?

  3. How difficult is it for you to sit and think nothing at all?

1. How often do you catch yourself thinking something that deep down you know isn’t true?

2. Do you have a difficult time falling asleep due to incessant mind chatter?

3. How difficult is it for you to sit and think nothing at all?

If any of these questions resonate with you, you might be overly identified with the mind. What can we do about it if this is the case? We can cultivate our awareness.



How do we Cultivate Awareness?


Cultivating awareness begins by identifying that there is a part of yourself that is able to observe

your thoughts. There are simple techniques to accomplish this, and it only takes a little bit of practice.

You can start by just noticing your thoughts throughout the day. Do this impartially and without judgment. Have compassion for your mind and simply observe what it focuses on. If a particularly loud or expressive thought comes, pull back your attention slightly and notice it. You can accomplish this by visualizing a large ball that you are continually pushing. If you continue pushing that ball, it gains more and more momentum. But if you take your hands off and stop pushing it, it runs out of momentum and eventually stops. When you notice a strong thought, especially one that generates a negative emotion, visualize yourself gently pulling back and taking your hands off it. Watch it roll away from you, and notice that you do have a sense that you are not that thought. You are witnessing it from somewhere deeper. That will cultivate your awareness. You can do this as much or as little as you like. Be easy on yourself as you practice this, and offer patience and kindness to your mind as well. The idea is not to transcend the mind, but experience more joy in life because of your ability to interact with the mind in healthier ways.

Dr. Randy Michaux


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