Awareness: How can being mindful affect your health?
“The unaware life is not worth living” –Socrates
Photo of Hannah Young
I have read several books on the concepts of awareness, presence, mindfulness, there here and now, being in the moment, etc. There’s a lot of great information out there. Jon Kabat-Zinn is often seen as the founder of the “mindfulness” terminology. Anthony DeMello and Michael A. Singer are two other great authors in terms of these concepts.
This brings me to a concept I read in DeMello’s book, Awareness. He doesn’t ever really lay out one definition of awareness, but rather dedicates his entire book to the subject. From reading it and from my own experiences, I share with you some of the ideas around awareness and how this affects our health.
To me, awareness means observing, self-observation without judgment or interference. Just simply observing and noticing. It is not labeling or thinking or remembering or any of that. It is not bringing in what we have already experienced or know. It is simply watching the present moment. DeMello writes:
“Self-observation means to watch everything in you and around you as far as possible and watch it as if it were happening to someone else. It means that you do not personalize what is happening to you. It means that you look at things as if you have no connection with them whatsoever.”
So how can this affect our health? What does this have to do with our personal and professional lives? Well, I don’t know about you but I hear things at work, have conversations with friends and family, and observe my colleagues struggles or challenges. Common themes tend to arise:
- I don’t have any time for myself;
- I’m just too busy for my health;
- I’m miserable, unhappy, or irritated with my career/situation/home life.
I believe that sometimes these issues are self-inflicted. People that are unhappy, dissatisfied, unhealthy, or restless (in their minds)… are more likely to choose certain paths when it comes to their communication, relationships, and activities. Again, “awareness” is not the answers to all problems, but it can resolve some.
Here’s an example: A nurse arrives at work and receives her assignment for the day. She looks around at who is working and thinks to herself, “This stinks; Sally’s not here today. No one is helpful. I’m all alone. I’m unhappy…” Well, that is not the truth. Sally is not “unhappy”. Instead, to be more accurate, she might say “I’m experiencing unhappiness right now.” She is not her unhappiness. We are not our emotions. Unhappiness may be inside of you right now, but it won’t last. It keeps changing. Our emotions always change.
What we want to do is passively observe our thoughts. We are not to interfere. We are not to repair or correct anything. We are just to watch and observe. Instead of trying to “fix” everything; understand things. Understand by observing. Understand them and they will change.
How can we try this? Well, a simple technique is to just observe you. Even as you read this, be aware of how you are feeling right now. What are you experiencing in your body? What is happening in your mind? Are you reading these words with concentration, focus, and a clear mind? Or are you thinking of what else you have to do today or tonight or tomorrow? What is your emotional state? Be aware of your presence in this room. It is as if you are outside of yourself looking at yourself.
Practicing this technique of observation each day will enhance your awareness of self. Once we are more aware of ourselves we are more able to observe our thoughts and how they are making us feel. We can take control of our thoughts and emotions. We can empower ourselves to enhance our experience. We can bring these techniques to our lives and our work so that we are healthier, happier, and more productive in our roles.
Nurse Coach Elizabeth Scala is a certified health and wellness coach, master’s prepared RN, and Reiki Master. Besides being the owner of Living Sublime Wellness and the founder of the RejuveNation Collaboration, Elizabeth is also an inspirational and motivational author and speaker. She presents workshops, educates organizations, and helps people live holistic lives of well-being. If you’re interested in finding out more, visit Coach Scala at www.livingsublimewellness.com and receive your special gift, her 3-Part Video Series: “Here’s Time for Your Health”.