Cultivating Awareness

Meeting ourselves with acceptance, curiosity, and love, has a magical way of enriching our lives. Sometimes a resistance to life can develop when we do not exercise our awareness and deep listening skills. But what exactly is it that we are attempting to do? Mindfulness has become a buzzword that can be so general that it loses potency, and the direction for practice can become muddled. Refamiliarizing ourselves with our ability to feel can be a beautiful way to enrich our lives and deepen our understanding of others and ourselves. I cannot imagine a more pertinent time for an internal practice than in this time of social isolation. Deepening our relationship with ourselves can transform the world around us. Becoming curious about our experiences and getting to know ourselves means learning to feel, and feeling can come in many forms. We can feel with the five senses and we can feel with the emotions. We can also feel the more subtle exchange of energies. Connecting with spirit becomes a perspective through which we are able to embrace our life’s experiences, and it does not require that you follow a religion in order to participate.  Each aspect of our experience comes together to paint the landscape of our life, and how deeply we choose participate is up to us.

The five senses: sight, touch, taste, smell, and hearing connect us to our environment. An external stimulus from the environment is perceived through our senses and guides us in making sense of the world. Hearing the echo of an empty room, smelling the fragrance of freshly cooked rice, or seeing fresh green grass in the springtime offers us understanding of our environment. The five senses open us up and connect us to the external world.

If the five senses are a gateway to the external world, then the emotions are a gateway to our internal world. Anger, joy, worry, grief, and fear, all become internal sources of stimulus. But our internal world does not remain isolated from our experience of the external, as there is an exchange between the emotional and sensual aspects of our awareness. Emotions can cascade outwards and influence our senses, just as sensual experiences can stimulate an emotional response. We can experience this overlap between our sensual and emotional worlds when an external stimulus transforms into an internal stimulus, such as the sun shining on our skin transforming into a feeling of joy. We can also experience how an internal stimulus can influence our perception of an external stimulus; it is in this way that sadness can influence our ability to taste our food. Understanding the exchange between these two spheres of awareness, we can start to see how we are co-creating our reality.

Energetic perception continues to occur even in the absence of stimulation from the five senses. Take for instance, walking into your home at the end of day and finding it empty. There is a feeling when the house is empty compared to when someone is home, and you may even feel it before you open the door. Another example of this is when you are thinking about an old friend and then they phone you out of the blue. Energetic perception can easily be dismissed as coincidence. Empathy is the cross over between energetic and emotional perceptions. The stronger of a connection we share with another person, the more energy exchange there will be between us, and the more we can be influenced by the way they are feeling.

Spiritual perceptions can be understood from a universal perspective. This way of perceiving can bring a sense of peace or understanding to a situation. It can also help bring light into challenging times, as it is a more holistic way of experiencing the world. Spiritual perception has a wide frame as it can hold our other experiences inside of it and provide us with a sense of belonging. 

Throughout our life experiences we transition through these different modes of perception. As individuals it is common to lean more heavily into one of these areas of experience than the others and different activities tend to sync more strongly with one mode of feeling than the rest. For instance, the muscle burn associated with exercising stimulates us on a physical level, while watching a good movie might stimulate us on an emotional level, and meditation can stimulate us on a spiritual level. Living a balanced life means welcoming all of our feelings into our awareness. We will most likely favour some feelings over others but if we listen carefully to our experiences we can develop clarity of where we lean more heavily and where we are missing sensations.

There is a chance, that as we practice building our awareness, we will find certain areas that are numb. This may apply to parts of our body, our emotional states, or possibly some of the more subtle modes of perception. A lack of feeling is also relevant, and with some awareness, self-love, and patience we can bring those places back to life. As we practice we may also encounter physical, emotional, or energetic discomfort. Discomfort, or pain, is how we understand that something is out of balance and needs some care and attention. Pain does not mean that you are doing something wrong, it is a message, and if we listen, it can teach us how to lead a more balanced and joyful life.

In cultivating a relationship where we respectfully listen to ourselves, we will begin to understand how each of these perspectives influences one another. Often it only requires embracing our experience for us to understand and learn how to adapt. It is in the acceptance of our experiences that we are able to feel our way through challenging moments and deeply enjoy our lives in all that they have to offer.

Written by Sijie Jessie Zsolt