The sound of laughing children pulled me out of my thoughts. I looked up and realized that I was almost back at my hostel. I was in Singapore. I had been sightseeing all day and it was my last day in the city.
Instead of taking the subway, I had decided to walk back so I could enjoy Singapore for one last time. But instead of being in the moment and enjoying the city, I was somewhere else with my mind.
I was thinking about the flight I had to catch to Bali the next morning. I was going to meet my best friends from home there and I was feeling excited. I was hoping that everything would go smoothly.
No, actually I was worrying about the things that could go wrong so wouldn’t arrive at the airport in Bali in time to meet my friends.
During that last walk through Singapore, I was creating all kind of doom scenarios in my mind, that could prevent me from seeing my friends. What if I sleep through my alarm, what if I take the wrong subway to the airport, what if someone puts drugs in my bag? In my mind, I was already living them all.
Did I notice all the wonderful things that happened around me during that walk? The great architecture, the friendly people, the delicious smells of food coming from food stalls. Hardly. I was just conscious enough to not bump into something. Instead of admiring the beauty of the moment, I was living a negative non exciting future.
Did any of the doom scenarios I pictured myself happen? Nope. A typical form of useless destructive thinking. Goodbye chance of happiness.
So what should I have done? I should have been aware of what I was doing. If I would have been aware of the fact that telling myself stupid untrue stories, I could have taken charge over myself.
I could have said, stop thinking these things. I don’t know what will happen. What will come will come and if something bad happens, there will be a solution. For now, everything is ok so look around you and do what you’ve promised yourself. Enjoy!
Luckily, I know better now.
What does being aware mean?
Does a story like this sounds familiar? Probably. This is what we all do (except for a few enlightened souls). We live too often in our minds. Instead of living the actual moment like it is, we live in pseudo realities that only exist in our individual minds. Unfortunately, often negative.
• Why didn’t I do this? I am useless.
• I would love to do this but what if something bad happens and it all goes wrong? No I’m too afraid, I won’t do it.
• I feel happy now. Ohoh, happiness doesn’t last for long. There is definitely something that will make me unhappy again. Hmm, what can it be? Oh yes, there it is. Good thing I found it so soon. Now that I’m unhappy again, I can’t be disappointed anymore.
We are trapped in the stories we tell ourselves and none of them are true. And with not true I mean, they wouldn’t exist without our thinking brain. We rarely live the moment like it is. We’re rarely aware of why we do the things we do or don’t do. The main reason is that we completely indentify ourselves with our thought patterns that make us do the things we do or don’t do. What did you expect, we say, this is what I always do. It’s who I am. Well is it? Was there truly no other option?
Often, the thought patterns we have, are also repetitive so if you wonder why you always do and get the same things, this is why. Picture it like we are stuck in a prison without walls but we can’t escape it, because we don’t recognize that we are in it. We make ourselves stay in it just because of the fact that we are not aware that there are other options.
So how can you escape something, while you don’t recognize that you are stuck? Well, simply by becoming aware. If you recognize that you are stuck and it’s not a prison at all, you can simply walk away and choose to do something else. You become aware of the rest of your surroundings and that awareness sets you free.
Easier said than done. Like I said, you can’t escape something you are not aware of. What if you never become aware?
Well, that’s where this post is for. A first step is reading this post. Try to notice it, it is already making you aware. The purpose of this post is to create an awareness. To show you who you truly are beyond your thoughts. Knowing this is already a huge step. I will explain it with a metaphor.
The records, the jukebox and the room
If I have to define unconsciousness or not being aware it’s completely identifying yourself with your thought patterns. It’s believing in the concept that you are your thoughts. This is a false and deceiving state of consciousness because you are much more.
You can picture a thought pattern as a record in a jukebox. Press a number and the jukebox will play the record and the song that is connected to that number. When we are not aware, this is what happens to us as well.
Our thinking brain can act like a jukebox, filled with a certain amount of records (our thought patterns) which we’ve collected over the years.
Now, external events can push certain combinations in our minds which can trigger one of these thought patterns to start playing. The result is that we show a kind of action or behavior (the song) that belongs to the thought pattern.
There is even a saying in English. Don’t push my buttons is what we say when someone starts to annoy us. Stop doing that or stop talking about that otherwise anger will be the result, is our warning.
This implies that there is only one option, do that and I will get angry. Push that button, and that song will be played. Just like what happens in a jukebox. Now you can imagine that if you’re stuck on this level, there isn’t a lot of freedom.
Of course, compared to a jukebox we have much more freedom in our mind and actions. The same combination of buttons doesn’t necessarily have to play the same records and/or make us sing the same songs. We can even choose not to sing at all.
We have something a jukebox doesn’t have, an awareness. We are aware of ourselves and therefore, we can take charge of ourselves. We have the ability to choose what we think and how we deal with situations. Or we can choose to not think at all and enjoy the beauty around us and the fact that we are alive from the stillness that we are in our essence.
You can picture awareness as the room or the space in which you can find a jukebox and its records. A jukebox needs space to be able to exist because where would it be without the space that allows it to be there? A form needs the formless to exits in.
Just like every single thought needs our presence to be able to exist, and our presence is in the essence also formless. With other words, our true being, our true us, is the room for all the stories of our lives and on our deepest level we are formless space. And we can train ourselves to enter this space. We can train ourselves to just BE as just a presence, without any thoughts.
If I go back to the metaphor this means that an infinite diversity of records can exist through us or none. And once you are aware of the fact that you are this space you can choose what records to play, or when to stop them. That is the freedom that comes with awareness.
What does awareness brings us?
So what does awareness brings us? It frees us from compulsive thinking (often negative, useless and destructive) and makes us realize that we do not have to live or relive our undesired thought patterns.
Our worries for example are only a record but at the same time, you can rather play a different tune. A happier one. From awareness you can choose what you think or you can choose to not think at all.
Awareness makes us look around us and enables us to observe the world without judgment. It frees us from our mental time travels and makes us live now, in the moment as it is. From awareness you can (re)build your life with positive things. You can fill your life with dreams, hope, love, wonder, gratitude and everything that will lead to a state of happiness.
From the state of awareness we can be the true designers of our own lives and isn’t that what we all want?
Want to know how you can practice awareness? Stay tuned for my next post.
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