When it comes to working on being aware, frequently we look at what is going on in the world without.
I know this where I get drawn away. Everything about the current political landscape of the United States tends to draw my attention. It is so damned easy to get upset about Trump and his insanities, the concentration camps being set up in this country, the never-ending struggle between Israel and the Palestinians, and so on.
When I let that grab ahold of my attention, that’s where my awareness goes.
While it’s important to be aware of this sort of thing, there is very little that I can do about it. Mindfulness, and the awareness that comes of knowing what I am thinking and what and how I am feeling, is where influence and control can be had.
True awareness comes from within
In my twenties, I was about as unaware of myself as a person can be. I went through the motions, held jobs, had a place to live, got involved in seriously wobbly relationships.
Then, not long after turning 27, I got hit by a car crossing the street. Waking up in the hospital with a severely broken leg, nerve damage to an arm, and the prospect of multiple surgeries and therapies, I discovered what awareness of the self could be.
As the doctors explained to me what had happened, and what I could expect going forward, I considered my options.
Clearly, I could accept what they told me, let nature run its course, and heal as time allowed.
- Or –
I could curl up in a ball, suck my thumb, rock back and forth, and hope for death.
- Or –
I could put up a fight. Push through all the therapy I could get myself. No stopping, no pausing, keep on pushing to improve, get better, and recover faster. Visualize nothing but complete and total recovery. Accept no other reality but returning to how I was before.
In order to do this, I had to become aware of my thoughts, my feelings, and from there what intentional actions to take.
Rather than the 1–3 YEARS I was told it would take me to probably walk again, I was on my feet in about 7 months. The limp I was supposed to walk with for the rest of my life never materialized.
Now, almost twenty years later, unless you see my scars, you’d have no idea what I experienced here.
Making use of mindfulness
When you come to see that the only thing you can influence and control is your thinking and feeling, then you can also see how to employ this to better your life.
We are not just here to exist. Struggling, surviving, that’s not what the human experience is truly about. You and I are here to have adventures, to learn new and crazy things, and to have story-worthy experiences that we can share with one another.
Every experience you have can impact you. But that is wholly dependent on you. Sometimes, little things turn out to be big things, and big things become little things.
For example, relationships. I worried throughout my twenties and most of my thirties about getting relationships wrong. Of course, I dated, but I was really bad at it. One of the concerns I had was, well, what if I get really serious with her? What if that leads to marriage? But then, what if it’s totally wrong, and we have a kid, and we screw that kid up, and blah blah blah.
Marriage is a big thing. When I finally met the right partner for me and married her, it turned out most of my fears were pretty ludicrous. I made such a big deal out of it, and while admittedly it matters, it wasn’t all that big a deal after all.
On the other side of this coin, again in the same time period, I came to believe this really small notion that “writer” was not a valid career choice. Either someone told me that along the way, or I picked it up somewhere. But this little thing, in the end, was a big thing, because I felt invalidated…and even stopped putting all that much energy into my writing for a time.
Becoming aware of thoughts and feelings, ideas and emotions, gives you influence and control over them. But this is totally an inside job.
You can only be responsible for you
When you look at the world today it is way too easy to get distracted by what is happening. This, in turn, can make you feel as if looking out for yourself, and turning your awareness inwards is actually counterproductive.
That’s not true, though. Because your only real influence and control is about yourself, you need to use that focus to have any impact on changing the outside world.
If like me, the current political landscape of the US has you frustrated and angry, it’s important to acknowledge that. But then, once you do, become mindful of your thoughts and feelings, and note the actions available to you.
By and large, this is going to involve writing letters, attending rallies and marches, writing articles to try to make others aware of what’s going on, and of course VOTE. Do what it takes to make an impact, and feel that you are helping in the process.
I attended the first March for Science in Washington, DC on Earth Day in 2017. It was a wet, rainy day, but I have never felt so deeply connected to the process. There I was, participating in a march and using my freedom to protest wrongs I was seeing from the government.
This was what I needed to take part in for affecting change. I would do it again, too.
Awareness makes change happen
The more that you and I work to be aware of what is going on inside our heads, the more we can help to make changes in the world at large.
To change the world without, you have to start from within. This can be challenging, because if you have demons you are fearful to face, or other fears you feel could hamstring you, this is daunting.
Yet chances are, what you fear is worse than what you will find. I know that most of my fears of being abandoned if I fail or if I succeed are far worse than what HAS happened to me when friends ceased to be friends. Rather than some terrible, climactic event where my friends walked away, instead the friendships changed and faded.
What’s more, often those changes had little to do with me — they originated with changes in my friends.
Look to become mindful of what you think, and how and what you feel. This awareness will open you up to all kinds of possibilities. From there, changing yourself gets easier. When you can better direct change for yourself, you can work on making changes in the world at large.
You are worthy and deserving of using your mindfulness to find and/or create the reality in which you desire to live. When all is said and done, you matter. You can use your self-awareness to be your best AND work to better the world in the process.