There lies within us the power of great responsibility. This responsibility comes with a choice, a choice to control your life, or not.
The human experience is the most unique experience in that we as humans are able to fully experience from beginning to end only the life of a human. Your life, one that might last another 50 years or be over tomorrow, is completely yours. Our bodies are capable of miraculous activity, and each and every one of us has peculiarities that make our activities unique. The possibilities of action that are present in our world are limitless. In order to reach or obtain those experiences that we desire, we must take the first small step. An awareness of our self is that first step.
It is one thing to be aware of what is going on around us, but another to be aware of ourselves. Plants, animals, and infants are all aware of external stimuli, but are they self-aware? In this article, we will be discussing what an awareness is, with a focus on self-awareness in regards to human beings.
There are two distinct aspects of our human experience, our mind, and our body.
Awareness has several different definitions but can be understood simply as our perception of something. That something can be anything we can pick up through any of our senses. This is also called consciousness, which is how we most easily recognize the “aliveness” of ourselves. While there are many areas of the brain that deals with judgment, awareness, reasoning, learning, and many other cognitive functions, the frontal lobe, For now, we will focus on the small part that controls how we watch ourselves.
Here in the western hemisphere, we are brought up to view the world very objectively, meaning that most, if not all of our attention is on how the external world interacts with “me”. We even tend to view our bodies as separate from our consciousness, our aliveness, and to an extent, that is true when we die. Our bodies stay but who we are moves on. But that is for another discussion, as our concern lies in understanding what it means to be aware of ourselves.
The area of our brain responsible for our consciousness is the frontal lobe, which houses various parts in which consciousness is divided into. The prefrontal cortex is an outer layer covering the frontal lobe. In other words, it is closer to your skull and skin than the center of your brain. It plays a critical role in our executive function, which is like our mental sketch pad. It is connected to our memories, especially short term, which allows us to base our current decision making based on our stance of what has happened in the past few hours, days or weeks.
Awareness comes in when we look at the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, which is where our meta cognitive evaluation occurs.
What does it mean to be aware of being aware?
Meta cognition is also known as higher order thinking skills, where we are aware of being aware, thinking about thinking, or knowing about knowing. Meta means abstract or beyond, and in this sense there are is a spectrum of observing with no limit. Think of it as watching a tv show where the character is watching tv. It can go on forever.
This evaluation can be understood as a short equation, in which A—>BC. (where A=attention, B=behavior/judgement and C=emotional response. Something grabs our attention, and simultaneously we associate an emotion along with a judgment or behavior to act upon it. the judgment of what we are attending to depends on the emotional response to it and the emotional response depends on the judgment we have of the focus point.
This double interpretation of our environment is also true for watching ourselves, (not necessarily with our eyes, but can be) where we perceive ourselves based on our past knowledge and experience of ourselves. When we are focused on what our body is doing, what our thoughts and feelings are, what is going on around us ceases to be an issue. That is not to say that it is not important, but rather regardless of the external environment, our internal dialect and the actions we carry out are in tune with what our body is doing.
“You create your thoughts, your thoughts create your intentions, and your intentions create your reality.” -Wayne Dyer
When we learn to control what our body is doing and thus our thoughts and feelings, we can then learn to shape our environment. Often times I notice myself and those around me focused on trying to change others, and getting frustrated when that change does not occur. If we instead turn our focus into how we are responding to what our environment brings us, what is happening can no longer bother us.
Awareness stems from a control of our attention, and that can be brought about through an awareness of our bodily processes. If you haven’t already noticed, the understanding of how we operate comes from the realization of the simple fact that we analyze and decipher the tools we use to do just that. Confused yet?
Long before we knew what our body was doing or how it was doing it, our body knew how and what it was doing. For thousands of years, human beings have walked, talked, and slept without knowing exactly how they did it. Humans have studied our brain and our body for quite a long time, although we are still in the process of understanding how we work.
We are creatures teaching ourselves how we function, and we can only teach each other and ourselves by trying, failing, learning and trying again to understand. The fact that we are aware of this forward moving mandala means that we can not only understand it but also work with it.
All that stands between you and the results you wish to see is a choice; that choice is to pay attention to what you are doing.
We become aware of our actions and thoughts by a choice, a choice to observe the action (thought, feeling, etc) at the same time we carry it out. Ask yourself to focus on your breath, and you will do so, that is until you forget that you are breathing, in which case you remember that you have forgotten, and thus focus on breathing again.
Breathing is required for any other function to work, and while all functions are interconnected and dependent on each other, breathing is the central factor in our awareness. How we breathe affects how aware we are of ourselves, and shifting into a desirable and effective state of awareness comes from being aware of how we breathe.
If we have short, fast, shallow breaths, we are most likely in a hurry or partaking in a strenuous activity. If our breathing is long, slow, and deep, we are relaxed, in control and very much aware of what we are doing. Once we learn to control our breathing regardless of the activity we are partaking in, we can then learn to control our heart rate. From here, the doors really open, and we are then on the path to shaping our bodies, minds and thus our lives into whatever we please.
Once you are aware that you are responsible for yourself, you cannot unlearn this; it creates a vacuum of kind people working to make their immediate area a happier place to be.
Responsibility comes from being aware of our actions and taking kindly to the fact that it is a learning process. Being patient with those around us and our life situations, especially ourselves, is a crucial choice we make every single moment. Without patience, we are frustrated and uninterested in being aware of our behavior, and thus do not make rational decisions.
Erratic behavior, clouded judgment, irritable moods and even physical pain can occur if we do not make choices in taking the right steps. There is a myriad of issues in the world, a plethora of problems, and every single one can be traced back to how aware we are of ourselves. When we are aware, we are in control of our movements and words, as well as how we respond to the environment.
This awareness starts with breathing, and once this simple task is set into motion, life simplifies itself.