The standard narrative has us believe that self-awareness goes hand-in-hand with being human, but how much of the time are we really self-aware?
In the last few weeks, I’ve been working on becoming mindful in every day life. What repeatedly surprises me is how much of my day is completely automatic. From the way I stumble out of bed in the morning (well, actually I sleep on the floor now, but that’s a story for another day), to the way I get dressed, to the way I brush my teeth in the evening before bed.
All of this has become automated from years of repetition, and that’s well and good, to be honest. It saves me the energy of having to control every muscle in every instant.
But sometimes it becomes harmful. Negative patterns of behavior, like negative thinking, repressing emotions, addiction and compulsion are just as easy to imprint as positive patterns. For example, a mindfulness project of mine these last weeks has been to improve my posture, especially the way I carry my shoulders.
It amazes me how many times in the day I suddenly realize that I’ve tensed up my upper back, pulling my shoulders to my ears or rounding them forward. When I notice, I remind myself that this isn’t a healthy way to sit or stand, and I correct it consciously. Those moments of sudden awareness of my posture are glimpses of true self-awareness. And that implies that the rest of the time, I’m not actually aware, or at least not fully aware.
Mindfulness is the key to correcting any and all harmful behavior and compulsions, but realizing when you’re mindful and when you’re not is the tricky part.
The way I see it, the only time we’re truly self-aware is when we’re completely and utterly here, now. At the mercy of the present. Thinking is not indicative of self-awareness, unless you’re actually aware of your thoughts as the come and go. Movement is not indicative of self-awareness, unless you’re actually aware of the sensory input your body is picking up from its surroundings.
Saying ‘My name is Tolli and I live in Iceland’ is a script that I’ve repeated a million times, and thus is not indicative of self-awareness. Only when I actually am in the process of being Tolli from Iceland, am I truly self-aware. And in those moments of clarity and presence, my name and nationality are meaningless. My past and future is irrelevant. All I have is now. When I become truly present, I realize that the present moment is all there is.
Memory is fickle. Prediction is unreliable. Now is where it’s at. The past and future are concepts. They aren’t real, and they cannot be experienced. They feel real when we think of them, but we can only think of them in the present moment. Because that’s where we all are, and that’s where we’ve always been.
So now that we see that here, now is all there is, we can deduce that ‘not being in the now’ actually means thinking of past or future events instead of experiencing what is happening around and within us. Being outside of the present moment is literally impossible. Even if by some incredible scientific breakthrough a person manages to travel to a different time period, that will become his or her present moment. But I digress.
My goal in life is to become fully self-aware. I want all my behavior to be fully conscious. Conscious thoughts, words, actions. Compulsion has no place in the life of a fully conscious human being, nor does addiction or depression. I want to take full responsibility for my entire existence.
Consciously accepting and embracing the good and the bad. Consciously deciding to feel love and gratitude in every moment. Living a life of kindness and compassion. All this will come with increased self-awareness, as it has for countless others.
Much love to you all, until next time.