The phrase ‘aware of’ is important, because it offers us a sense of space around the emotion. We’re used being aware of what we’re thinking or maybe even feeling. But there’s a very subtle distinction that get habitually collapsed in most of us. We think we know that we’re not what we feel and think, but in our lived experience, we are usually operating from the unconscious assumption that what we feel and think is who we are. The thoughts in our head are often accepted as true (and what they mean about us is also true). By noticing and saying ‘I am aware of….[feeling, thought], we acknowledge and emphasize (and start practicing a new habit) that the one who is aware of such experiences is actually who we are.
Why is this important?
I didn’t always make such a huge point of emphasizing this with clients (or myself), because it seems so simple, almost silly. When I look at a wall and ask ‘Am I the wall, or am I the awareness of the wall?’ it’s like ‘duh.’ But when it comes to our internal world, by default, we often get overwhelmed by emotions, thinking we are them, and the thoughts that come along with them are true. So we put a manhole cover over them, bring all of our awareness up into our linear thinking, and try to solve everything from that place.
But the reality is much more beautiful than that. These sensations, images and emotions that move through us are profoundly intelligent. As awful as they seem, when given the space of awareness to breathe and unfold, something creative and unexpected reveals itself. It is revealed in its own timing, unlike the mental world of direct cause and effect that we’re used to assuming is the only reality. Because it’s a different kind of unfolding, it can take some time to acclimate to. But it’s worth it. And the discovery is so much fun. There is constant learning, experimentation and surprise.
Letting yourself feel the rejection of your ex-boyfriend for 30 seconds is the key to figuring out how to find fulfillment in your job and where you live? Sounds crazy, I know. But try it for yourself: Write your current practical life questions down in pieces of paper and throw them around the room. Sit down and slowly feel through the sensations in your body. Let yourself sink into the ground and feel the sense of space and stillness that opens up when you take time to let your awareness come into the sensations of your body. Then sit up and let your awareness rest on the sensations in your heart. Notice the very quiet, subtle empty space in the center of your heart (more in the center of your chest than the physical heart on the left), and let it expand a little bit. Notice what you’re aware of as you ask your questions from this state. Jot down anything that comes to you. Thoughts, sensations, images, emotions. Then give yourself 10 minutes every day to ask the question: ‘What am I aware of?’ Leave the papers with the questions somewhere around your house, and just for fun, don’t look at them again.
Give yourself at least a week to see what comes to you.