We need to understand what awareness is. The dictionary defines awareness as the state or condition of being aware; having knowledge; consciousness. Yes, we want to be aware, but aware of what? “Knowledge” can mean a lot of things. Even “consciousness” is very difficult to define. An allegory from the book Awareness, written by Osho, can be helpful.

“If you are carrying stones in your hands thinking that they are diamonds, I will not tell you to renounce those stones. I will simply say, ‘Be alert and have another look!’ If you yourself see that they are not diamonds, is there any need to renounce them? They will fall from your hands on their own accord. In fact, if you still want to carry them, you will have to make a great effort, you will have to bring great will, to still carry them. But you cannot carry them for long; once you have seen that they are useless, meaningless, you are bound to throw them away. And, once your hands are empty, you can search for the real treasures. And, the real treasures are not in the future. The real treasures are now, here.”

Awareness is “Be alert and have another look!” That’s it. This is all we need to focus on. We are alert that there are illusions that cloud our awareness and we take another look to investigate them. We’ll focus on developing awareness of our bodies, awareness of our thinking, and awareness of our awareness. Each of these expands and deepens our understanding of ourselves and the interconnectedness of the universe. We’ll need a tool for being alert and looking deeper. That tool is attention.

Attention is the intentional directing of awareness. We intend to direct our awareness onto our bodies, our minds, and our awareness itself. It’s like a cyclical loop. We use the awareness we currently have to focus attention on being alert and looking deeper. This improves our awareness; it expands, it connects. Then, we use that expanded awareness to become more alert and look even deeper. It’s an on-going process and it’s this process we focus attention on, not renouncing the limitations of our minds or dropping stones that we realize are no longer meaningful. This process refines our attention so it’s effective in penetrating illusions.

We will begin this process through a series of steps:

  • Admit that we aren’t aware
  • Identify how to observe
  • Observe our bodies
  • Observe our minds

This awareness process will make us aware of the quality of our awareness. In fact, quality is really the defining aspect of awareness. We develop quality in how we use our attention; quality in how we move our bodies; quality in how we think with our minds. The first step in developing quality is admitting that we aren’t aware. If we think we are already aware we won’t take actions to begin this process. This is an important first step.

So, be alert and have another look. Are you holding onto illusions (stones) that are useless or meaningless? Realizing they are useless makes it easier to let them go. Now, here, with empty hands, grab the new awareness (treasure).

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Dina

    This article is so ON SPOT! I work in a job where focus and AWARENESS are VITAL to preventing injury and catastrophes. I constantly remind myself to be INTENSIONAL as well as staying in state for myself and others. I still picked up a ton of good stuff from this article not just for climbing but for my career and life! THANK YOU!

  2. Matthew Wikswo

    Funny you mention coffee. I recently bought a hand-cranked coffee grinder, thinking at the time that it would not only eliminate a noisy electrical appliance, but also serve as something of a mindful prayer wheel. Little did I know! I try to grind all the beans without stopping or lurching, which turns out to requires a lot more concentration (i.e., application of attention) than I had innocently supposed it would. It has put some meaning back into what had become pretty mindless.

  3. RT

    I’ve taken up improving my awareness seriously since mid last year. My main activity to improve awareness is through mindful meditation.
    In climbing, I use the exercise of focusing on specific things to improve my awareness.
    Its breaking the old habits that I find hard. I know they are there (eg not trusting my feet).
    Are there other strategies that I can use to improve awareness and catch myself before reacting with an old habit?

    1. Arno

      G’day RT, Thanks for your comments and question. The main point is that you will NOT catch yourself before reacting; you catch yourself after reacting, and this is fine. RWW and Espresso Lessons outline these strategies. Here are some brief suggestions taken from those books:
      Set an intention each day to focus your attention on your senses, not on thinking. Then, notice when you are lost in thinking and redirect attention to your senses.
      When climbing, set specific intentions on what you’ll focus your attention when you stop to think, and when you move.

      Again, the EL book goes into detail on all of this. a

  4. Kyle Stapp

    Very nutritional.

  5. Alex

    “Attention” = ‘a tension’. We need to be ‘aware’ of the words we speak and their particular resonant sound expression.
    Awareness is not a tension.
    Tension can only occur when something is attached to another thing, which is a statement of separation = illusion. It is not something the mind can attain or understand because the mind’s awareness – consciousness – cannot exist in the present moment. It exists only as a mental projection, in ‘the past’, which itself is an illusion that only exists in the mind consciousness system of human beings who only really exist physically in the infinite present now. The physical is the infinite. Consciousness – every thought, feeling and emotion – is an illusion.

    1. Arno

      Hi Alex, The words you use and the words I use and the words anyone uses are poor representation of reality. Thanks for your note. “Thought” “feeling” “emotion” “illusion”…are all words also. a

Leave a Reply