Developing Self-Awareness

Devel­op­ing Self-aware­ness  —  Self respon­si­bil­i­ty is nev­er about self absorp­tion. I use the term self-respon­si­bil­i­ty to describe self aware­ness. This requires dili­gent focus on what is going on inside of us, as opposed to end­less focus on externals.

Want to learn more about liv­ing a full and mean­ing­ful life?

Want to have the best rela­tion­ship ever?

Check out my books

We find ourselves, by finding ourselves.

We were brought up to look out­side of our­selves – for how to act, what to think, and to dis­cov­er what’s going on.

For exam­ple, many peo­ple, when asked about how they are or what is going on for them, imme­di­ate­ly begin to tell me what oth­er peo­ple are doing. How oth­er peo­ple are caus­ing them dis­tress, or con­fu­sion. How oth­er peo­ple are mak­ing them feel some­thing, as if that is possible.

tight jaw

One friend recent­ly men­tioned a con­ver­sa­tion with a rel­a­tive she had­n’t seen in years and years. She then spec­u­lat­ed on why he had made con­tact, and then asked me what I thought the rel­a­tive’s moti­va­tion was for mak­ing con­tact. She was total­ly unaware that our spec­u­la­tions were kind of… well… silly.

She had been there, and par­tic­i­pat­ed in the con­ver­sa­tion, and yet could only know her thoughts and moti­va­tions about her side of the con­ver­sa­tion. And I could only know what I thought about what she told me.

I’m unsure about how I could ever know any­thing about anoth­er’s moti­va­tion, let alone the moti­va­tion of some­one I’d nev­er met. But here’s the point. 

If she want­ed to know what his moti­va­tion was, all she had to do was ask him!

This is what I mean by self aware­ness. A self aware per­son does not spec­u­late about exter­nals, but rather exam­ines how “I” am in rela­tion to exter­nals.

Self aware­ness is all about iden­ti­fy­ing who I am, and how I am, as I live my life ful­ly, deeply, and with pas­sion.
Pas­sion is about enact­ing or engag­ing with what is impor­tant for me.

Because the word PASSION is typ­i­cal­ly linked to sen­su­al­i­ty and sex­u­al­i­ty, we mis-think about our pas­sions. Many think pas­sion is self indul­gent, or self absorbed. Oth­ers think that pas­sions are sort of like hob­bies, to be engaged in as time per­mits, and always after the real stuff hap­pens. Oth­ers dis­tract them­selves from their pas­sion by cre­at­ing dra­ma, or by col­lect­ing stuff to mess around with.

I said to a friend the oth­er day that she seemed to be buried under box­es of “col­lect­ed crap.” Old, unre­solved issues and rela­tion­ships, stuff packed away and dragged out incon­ve­nient­ly, strange things that have no prac­ti­cal use. This stuff, hid­den in the metaphor­ic base­ment of her mind, (as well as tucked away in her actu­al base­ment) was the dis­trac­tion, the focus, the thing that drew her away from self awareness.

The joke is that she is distracting herself from self awareness be being self absorbed.

She is focussed on past issues, and in that, miss­es the pre­car­i­ous, yet pas­sion­ate pull of the present.

I like to pro­mote the present as a real­ly great place to live. My focus on pres­ence lets me be ful­ly engaged in see­ing myself oper­at­ing with moment-by-moment awareness.

Self awareness is paying attention

kneeling meditation

Let me use med­i­ta­tion as a descrip­tion of what I’m talk­ing about. Many peo­ple expect that med­i­ta­tion will lead to some­thing else – peace of mind, calm­ness, tran­quil­i­ty, or “no problems.” 

Yeah, right. Med­i­ta­tion leads to med­i­ta­tion. Med­i­ta­tion is an activ­i­ty, in and of itself.

With­in that activ­i­ty, much is going on.

Your legs or back might be hurt­ing, you will be think­ing thoughts, and you may smell incense, hear out­side nois­es, find the light too bright or dim. In oth­er words, as you sit, you experience.

What you are expe­ri­enc­ing, if you let your­self, is the moment-by-moment aware­ness of being you. You are expe­ri­enc­ing your­self, being yourself.

If you begin to think – to have ideas about how the expe­ri­ence ought to be, then you are no longer in the expe­ri­ence. You have drift­ed off into your head, and are com­par­ing the actu­al expe­ri­ence with your imag­ined one, and find­ing real­i­ty lacking!

I would sug­gest that this is pre­cise­ly what we are doing, almost all of the time.
Just like my friend in the sto­ry above.

She had a real expe­ri­ence with her rel­a­tive, but then went into her head, there to won­der and imag­ine what is going on. She cre­at­ed a sto­ry about why he was there, talk­ing to her, and thinks that her sto­ry is either real or true. 

The sto­ry, how­ev­er, has noth­ing to do with the actu­al expe­ri­ence. The actu­al expe­ri­ence was: she was feel­ing her feel­ings and think­ing her thoughts, and also speak­ing words to her rel­a­tive. For her, that was the entire experience. 

Until she decided to exit the experience and start telling stories about it.

I’m not sug­gest­ing that we stop think­ing. That’s impos­si­ble. What I am sug­gest­ing is that, just like in med­i­ta­tion, we ded­i­cate our­selves to notic­ing what’s actu­al­ly hap­pen­ing. In this case, think­ing. But here’s the key. Notic­ing that I am think­ing, and then shift­ing to the next thing I do, is dif­fer­ent from think­ing about what I am think­ing about!

If I start thinking, by definition, I am “out of the experience and into my head.”

Pas­sion is active and total engage­ment in the present expe­ri­ence. This flies in the face of the cul­tur­al norm of end­less­ly ana­lyz­ing every­thing, (play­ing with the stuff in the box­es.) The wise soul notices the pull to fid­dle around, and then moves on.

No mat­ter what you think you are accom­plish­ing, up there in your head, it pales in com­par­i­son to actu­al­ly doing or pro­duc­ing something.

Pas­sion is engage­ment with the now. Even such a sim­ple act as “sit­ting” is ripe with mean­ing and depth. As you watch, moment by moment, you see your­self, and you see what is up for you. This process is an open­ing, and what opens is your eyes, your voice, and your heart. You become real.

I men­tioned med­i­ta­tion for a rea­son. I think that this prac­tice, done dai­ly, is what begins to open the door to pas­sion­ate engage­ment with life. I’ve heard a mil­lion rea­sons why estab­lish­ing a dai­ly prac­tice is impos­si­ble (I’ve used some of those rea­sons myself) and what I’ve dis­cov­ered is that when I do not sit, I do not have very much focus. It’s there­fore not one of the things that I make optional.

I encourage you to start meditating.

I also encour­age you to pay atten­tion to the sto­ries you tell your­self. Pres­ence and pas­sion require that you notice the sto­ries, feel­ings, eva­sions, and games that you are play­ing, all with­out pro­ject­ing any of it on to oth­er peo­ple or circumstances.

Once you notice that you are not noticing, you can, well, begin to notice.

Each and every time you turn your atten­tion to oth­ers, and to sto­ries and fan­tasies, sim­ply name the process, “Exter­nal­iz­ing!” and come back to you and your present expe­ri­ence. This is hard­er than you think. How­ev­er, it is the key process for find­ing and engag­ing your pas­sion.
Do it, now!

Scroll to Top