Recall the times when you were advised to “mind the step” or “mind your language”. It was a simple advice to be consciously aware of what you were doing or saying, an advice to be mindful of your actions. The words mindfulness and awareness mean very similar and almost exactly the same thing.
Awareness is to be conscious of your senses and what they perceive. You consciously recognize that you hear and see and taste and touch or feel something. So awareness is consciousness when doing things. You might also say you are mindful when doing things.
The opposite of consciously doing things is to unconsciously do things. For example, you can unconsciously hear the birds or hear the traffic. You can unconsciously make a cup of tea and drink it whilst you are busy doing something else. You hear, see, smell, taste or feel things but are not focused on those things.
They are still registered, sorted, analyzed, and acted on but you are not consciously aware of it happening. It will still build that rich database of experiences which influence your perceptions of the world, but you have not been an active participant in it. You have allowed your mind to be developed without your conscious knowledge of it happening.
Mindfulness is when you turn consciousness on when you consciously acknowledge that there is traffic noise outside or a bird singing. You could consciously make your tea and drink it. You choose to “manage” these inputs into your brain. It is when you do things consciously. Mindfully you could say. Remember that mindfulness is about your conscious awareness. Awareness training is founded on a set of principles and exercises based on those principles.
Training the Awareness
The main principle of awareness training is that we must be consciously mindful of our world and ourselves. The mind arises from our brain and the body is functioning in order to keep our brain alive and well. So the two key things to be constantly aware of are:
- our body and brain
- the world around us
Training our awareness means that instead of just going through life and missing lots of tiny but important things we must learn how to “see” in a clearer and richer way. We must become conscious of us and the things around us.
We must acquire a new way of exercising our senses, differently from the way we did in the past. Instead of automatically perceive the red color of the roses or hat the coffee is brewing, we have to acknowledge the red rose and the smell of the coffee brewing. We should not just let these moments pass without connecting to them.
To do this we will start by practicing conscious awareness whilst making tea. This is an exercise to train your awareness of your senses. The principles outlined here will apply to all activities you will engage in throughout your day. I have chosen tea because it is a simple place to start. This is the first exercise for you to undertake to start to build your conscious consciousness.
When you make your tea and drink it follow this process:
- Think about stopping all activity for tea. Don’t just run over to the kitchen and start to make tea. First be aware that you are about to consciously make tea and that this will be a long calming process.
- First, fill the kettle with water and as you fill it, observe the water running into the kettle. Hear the sound of pouring the water. Be consciously aware of the water running into the kettle. Now place the kettle on its stand and turn it on. Listen carefully to the kettle. You may not have listened to it before. Listen to its sounds and hear the sound of the kettle as it begins to boil the water.
- As the kettle boils see the steam rising from the kettle. Be aware of the shapes the steam makes as it rises above the spout.
- Carefully place a tea bag in your cup and add sugar (no sugar if you don’t take it). Hear the clink of the sugar cube as it hits the bottom of the cup. Feel the coldness of the cup on your hands and its smooth shape. Feel it with your fingers and know that the cup is cool and smooth.
- When the kettle is boiled, gently pour the water into the cup. Watch as the water changes color and see the steam rise from the cup. Feel the heat radiate from the side of the cup. Lean down and smell the tea as it begins to brew in your cup.
- Pour in the milk and see the color change again. Watch carefully as you stir. See the swirls of color changing until it becomes white with milk.
- Lift the cup and feel the heat from it.
- Smell the tea and then sip tasting the hot sweet liquid.
- Each time you sip the tea smell the tea, feel the heat from the tea and taste the sweetness and tea flavor.
Concentrate on only those things immediately with you in that moment in time. Do not try and imagine where the tea came from or how it was harvested or where you bought it.
Concentrate only on the tea. Use your senses of seeing, smelling, hearing, tasting and touching. Be conscious of your awareness of the tea. Turn this routine into a Zen ritual.
Repeat this exercise at least once every day. You will begin to develop a deeper calmness during these times. Remember that this exercise is just one of many you can do to build strength in your conscious awareness.
Any daily routine like washing dishes, making a bed or gardening can be transformed into a mindfulness exercise. By following these exercises you tune your mind to truly see, hear, taste, touch, and smell. Remember it is your brain which sees, hears, smells, tastes, and feels. You will become much more aware of your senses and the world around you.
Start developing your conscious awareness wherever you are and whatever you are doing. Take the time to really see the world, smell the world, taste it and touch it, hear it and be consciously aware of it around you.