When the Buddha started to wander around India after his enlightenment, he encountered several men who recognized him to be a very extraordinary being with a deep self-awareness. They asked him: “Are you a god?” “No,” he replied. “Are you a reincarnation of god?” “No,” he replied. “Are you a wizard, then?” “No.” “Well, are you a man?” “No.” “So what are you?” They asked, being very perplexed. Buddha simply replied: “I am awake.” Buddha means “the awakened one.” How to awaken is all he taught.
Being Awake Starts With Self Awareness
Being awake first starts with awareness, and awareness starts with being self-aware. SA or self-awareness is defined in psychology as the ability to identify thoughts and emotions, and how they can influence your actions/behaviors. Daniel Golemen, author of Emotional Intelligence, states “Self-awareness means the ability to monitor our inner world – our thoughts and feelings. Mindfulness is one method for enhancing this essential capacity – it trains our attention to notice subtle, but important signals, and to see thoughts as they arise rather than just being swept away by them”.
Being self-aware also includes becoming aware of your body or sensations in the body. Learning how your mind and body influence each other, and how thoughts or especially emotions produce a physiological response becomes central in becoming more self-aware. Through persistent self-reflection and introspection, you can experience or learn much of how your own mind works and the nature of the mind. What is the self? “The self” is our ego, our story of who we are, our beliefs/values, our memories and experiences and of course, our bodies.
Awareness of our Body
Many times our bodies have stories, and those stories are usually around pain. Pain can be an interesting teacher, but many of us have one method when it comes to pain, I don’t want it, so get me out as quick as possible. There is physical pain, but it’s our internal resistance to pain that causes suffering. Suffering can linger long after the original “pain” experience has passed. This awareness is a helpful one, and as a person becomes aware of emotions, thoughts and even pain. We then stop identifying with these experiences as subjective and start seeing them as objective.
Are you on the Path to Awakening
The path of awakening should be very practical, and many times this awakening can happen little by little. In some cases it can come with bigger insights. Much can be said on spiritual awakening, but for now many of us just need to focus on being awake – not on automatic pilot or a victim of the world. Awake to the fact that what we perceive is many times our reality that we consciously or unconsciously choose. 90 percent of life is not what happens to us but how we respond to what happens to us. Make the mind still, and you will find the illusion that the mind creates!
Insights from the Founder, Erik Leslie