Chapter Sixteen


last updated 1.1.23

Another tool we can add to our arsenal is awareness. Like a blind person's ability to hear, awareness becomes a powerful instrument far exceeding what we once believed it was capable of the more we use and rely on it. Awareness is like water. It spreads to fill its container. The more aware a person is, or becomes, the bigger that container needs to be. Carrying the world on our shoulders is exhausting, especially if you're someone who is aware of a lot more than your own little world which is hard not to do in the times we're living in when we're bombarded by so much information from so many artificial sources. This is why "it takes a village." A village helps us bear the burden of the world. Without a village, that burden becomes too heavy. This is why having a proper intermediate world is necessary for a person to reach their fullest potential in the healthiest manner possible. Though we are bombarded by a seemingly endless amount of information everyday, there's a difference between understanding this information and being aware of it.

I remember hearing once in school that the human mind can only think of one thing at a time. I don't know whether it was a scientist, psychologist, psychiatrist, etc. who said it first, but I got the point that my teacher was trying to make in regards to certain things like math. It seems impossible to think of more than one number at a time no matter how fast a person is at adding, subtracting, multiplying, etc. In this way, our brains are very much like a computer, but in other areas of thought and consciousness, I don't think this notion applies. Try telling a drummer who is using one foot to play the pedal on the bass drum, the other foot to open and close the high hat, one hand to play the snare and the other to bang the tom toms that they can only think of one thing at a time. There's a lot going on and it's all happening at once. The drummer could never accomplish this if he or she was only thinking of each action at a time. It all has to happen simultaneously. Some drummers can even sing while doing all of this. The drummer has to be aware of what each part of their body is doing. The question is where does awareness stop when we apply it to other areas of our lives.

When I was a child and was first introduced to another idea which was that outer space does not end, it was difficult for me to grasp. To be honest, I wouldn't say, now, as an adult, I have any better of a grasp on it. It's just something that I came to accept and put on a shelf in the back of my mind and forgot about because it wasn't particularly relevant to my day to day life. I understood this as an idea, but I wouldn't say that it crosses my mind a lot within a 24hr period. In fact, if I thought about too much, it might drive me crazy because how could outer space never end?! Nevertheless, I accepted it as true for the time being. I had bigger fish to fry like learning how to tie my shoes. This is a perfect example of understanding something compared to being aware of it. When I'm walking down the street, I'm usually not thinking about how I'm on a giant rock hurling through outer space which, yes, apparently does not end. What I'm usually thinking about is whether I'm on time for wherever it is I'm going and probably what I'm going to be doing when I get there. In fact, there are so many additional things that go through my mind or any person's at any given moment that it would be almost impossible to list them, but these are thoughts. What about awareness? I'm aware of the temperature outside as I'm walking down the street. I may even think "Geez, it's freezing" or "Man, it's hot", but this would be a result of feeling it, first. We understand information, but we feel awareness. Like I said, I may be thinking of whether or not I'm on time for wherever it is I'm going. This is a fact, but if I'm running late, I not only know this, but I feel it, too. I don't think that I'm anxious about running late. I experience anxiousness. To take this example further, unlike objective information awareness is subjective to each of us. If two people are walking down the street, they may both think of the details that I just mentioned regarding where they're going and the time, but they would, also, be aware of countless other facts specific to their individual lives. One person might be a man, the other a woman, one black, the other white, one rich, the other poor or somewhere in between. Each person is aware of these details about their personal life much more than they're aware that outer space doesn't end.

So where does awareness end? Where, how or why does something go from being simply a fact that we can know and then temporarily forget to a fact that is directly relevant to our life at any given moment and thus something we are constantly aware of? Is this level of awareness different for each individual? Chances are most people aren't thinking about the limitlessness of outer space on a busy city street at 9am on a Monday as their walking to work, but chances are someone somewhere might be. There are a lot of brains on the planet, right now, with a lot of thoughts inside them. To use the computer analogy, awareness is like programs actively running on a desktop while many other programs are installed on the computer in a folder somewhere, but not being used at the moment. One of the programs running on the desktop is most likely being used at any given moment while the others are still opened and running in the background. Some programs which aren't opened may never be used. Which programs are used the most depends on the person using the computer just like which ideas are thought about the most by the person whose mind these thoughts belong to. It's sad to think that something as advanced in technology as a desktop computer might only be used for solitaire....or facebook, instagram, tik tok, etc. It's even sadder to think that a human mind might only be concerned with thinking about these same things as well.

Which programs are running on your desktop? You have a lot of information in your brain and a lot of concerns about your life. Which ones occupy most of your awareness while others hardly ever get thought about? Your work, your love life, your children, your car that's in the shop, right now, and you're wondering how much it's going to cost to fix it, your bills, a vacation trip your planning for next month, the list goes on. We might only think of each of these topics one at a time, but we're aware of the important ones all the time. You may be at work doing your job, but if you're in the middle of a bad divorce this is going to affect your mood even if you're not thinking about it at that very moment. Where as just the opposite is true. You could be working the same old dead end job, but you just met someone very special and you're in a much better mood than you were the day before. You're aware of these details about your life even when you're not thinking about them. As a person I can have knowledge of many things, but I may only be aware of a select few depending on my capacity for awareness.

How is awareness relevant to the big picture of life in our times? Depending on how aware you are, once any information lands on your table it is, now, something you have to deal with, carry or ignore. You cannot unrealize something. This is why I offer a healthy warning in the introduction of this book for those who are already hyper aware like myself. Everyone has a different level of awareness, but like I, also, mentioned it is an ability that can be improved on or neglected depending on the individual and the choices they make regarding what they focus their attention and efforts on. Whether or not a person has a healthy supportive intermediate world, also, affects whether or not a person chooses to cultivate their ability for awareness because they may be too occupied with taking care of themselves. The statement "Ignorance is bliss" is relevant to every single one of us. We are, all, blissfully ignorant of many, many things. The Sun is going to come up, tomorrow morning, and the Earth is going to keep spinning. If either of these things didn't happen, there would be complete disaster and devastation in all of our lives, yet none of us spend much time worrying about this. There are, however, other things that are closer to our realm of everyday thoughts that we still block out easily. Who made the road you drive on to get to work everyday? Who supplies the electricity that powers the house you live in? Who grew the food that you eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner? Chances are the answer to all of these questions is "Not you", yet you don't seem too worried about these things either. Or are you? Just because you didn't think of these issues all day doesn't mean that you aren't aware of them? They do affect you. The drummer didn't wake up one day with the ability to play the drums as well as he or she does, right now. It took a lot of practice to develop the ability to play an instrument using all parts of their body all at the same time, but they were born with this potential. Yes, some people are more musically gifted than others, but we all have the same relative potential. It all comes down to how much a person practices one ability or another. We all respond to good practice and we all, also, respond to bad practice. When it comes to awareness, we are all much more aware of the world around us than we think.

If we are aware of much more than we allow ourselves to think about, our acknowledgment of this awareness will allow us to grow into the world in which we live as it becomes more familiar and less scary to us. This will, also, allow us to see that by taking responsibility for the needs that we become aware of, we can become more powerful. The more powerful we become the less threatened we will be by one another. We may only see the world through our own eyes, but we can realize that everyone has a different perspective. We can't change the world to reflect every single person's view, but we can acknowledge that others can see it differently than ourselves and this is where a middle ground and a wholer picture can be found. If we never talk or make ourselves available to see that someone else might see things differently than we do, this gap between people and their different perspectives will never be bridged. Pretending that everyone sees the world the same way we do and secretly judging others for not living like us or secretly ignoring the struggles that others have because there must be something wrong with them only perpetuates many problems we are facing as individuals and as a society. Instead of taking sides, maybe what's wrong is our refusal to acknowledge that there's more than one way to look at something because this might reveal that we're not as right as we think we are about a lot of things. We can't adjust our perspective until we adjust our thinking. We think facts. We feel awareness. It's much easier for a person to cling to facts than it is to feel through uncertainty. If we're not right about everything then we might have to change and grow which is were the real refusal lies because a lot of us might be too afraid to do this. Changing in such an uncertain world is too much of a risk, but maybe it's time to look at who is making the world so uncertain or, to be more specific, who is making the world seem so uncertain. The sun still comes up every morning. That's for certain. The Earth still takes 24hrs to spin around. That's for certain. We're all a lot more aware of the same things than we are of different things and this is where we need to start.

Ask the drummer. He or she knows that it's not about thinking. Thinking has got nothing to do with executing an act so complicated and nuanced as playing an instrument. Your heart is an instrument and your awareness of the outside world and of your inner world determines how well you play it. Your heart is the source of your instincts and expression. The drummer has to let go of his individual thoughts in order to sense what his hands and feet are doing. This is awareness. It's a sense, an instinct, not a thought. It can turn into a thought if we focus our attention on one specific thing in our field of awareness, but try playing the drums while only thinking of one thing and see what happens. You'll lose your awareness and mess everything up. For starters, try something easier. Rub your belly and tap your head at the same time. At first, it's a little hard to do, but after some effort you should be able to do both actions simultaneously. Thought is linear and specific. Awareness is non-linear and vast. You are not a computer only capable of thinking about one thing. You are an aware being which is capable of reaching out as far as you are capable of allowing it. I'll never know how many times my awareness has saved my life, nor will you, but I'm sure we can all recall moments in our life when we sensed something was wrong instinctively allowing us to avoid danger in some way, not because we thought it, but because we felt it. Just like playing an instrument, the more a person cultivates this ability the stronger it gets. Trust.

One night, I woke up to a very loud crash and the sight of a giant inferno of flames that lit up the windshield of my truck. Within minutes, there were police cars and fire trucks blocking the street trying to put the fire out as their red and blue flashing lights added to the spectacle. What was even more shocking than being woken up in this way was that about an hour earlier I was parked in the exact spot where the collision had occurred. The incident took place along a city street where one car, probably driven by a drunk driver going way too fast, plowed head on into the side of a parked vehicle. Lucky for me and my dog something told me to move my truck just as I was falling asleep earlier that night. I worked on a boat in the city's harbor and my girlfriend, at the time, lived 20 miles north so a lot of nights if I got out of work late, I'd just crash in my truck rather than drive all the way to her house if I had to be back at the dock by 4am. I didn't know why something was telling me to move my truck, that night, and I didn't need to know. By this time in my travels, my trust in this relationship with something other than my thoughts was rock solid and I never questioned it even if I didn't entirely understand it so I backed up about 15 or 20 yards and went back to sleep. If I hadn't, my dog and I would have been in the middle of that inferno. It would have been my truck that the car plowed into.

The difference between ignorance and denial is that denial is a choice. Ignorance even though it typically has a negative connotation is not a derogatory word. It simply means unaware while denying something is to actively refuse to recognize its existence. Had I denied the existence of the feeling that something didn't feel right that night, I probably wouldn't be alive, right now. I'm sure if you thought about it, you've had experiences in your own life when a split second instinct kept you out of harms way, as well. It's time we started applying this ability to more of our lives.