Awareness is a slippery concept to grab hold of, but I like to think of it as cultivating our attention to the connections between things—actively exploring those connections in an attempt to gain a broader perspective—to see the ‘’bigger picture.’’
Awareness is both a blessing and a burden, at times making life significantly richer but also drawing our attention to the huge challenges facing humanity and our own individual shortcomings. Sometimes we may wish for a less keen interest in things, hoping that ignorance will be bliss. Unfortunately, once we become aware of, well, being aware—or more aware than we once were—it’s difficult to go back.
My journey to consciously cultivating awareness began a few years ago when I read The Moneyless Manifesto by Mark Boyle (free to read online and I’d recommend it). Prior to then I had knowledge but little awareness. Information was often compartmentalized and I was not particularly interested in drawing connections or thinking about the deeper significance of things, events or even the story of my life; I was ambling along like many people are.
But things changed. There was no aha moment as such—more a slow-burning aha emergence over a period of several months. Reading The Moneyless Manifesto had enlivened a curiosity within me—an attitude of questioning more completely what was presented to me, who was presenting it and why. I read more, researched topics that interested me and started to see more clearly things which had in the past seemed obscure and unapproachable. The world I knew was changing rapidly and my own story, my raison d’etre, felt less secure than it ever had.
At that time I had a good secure job in the oil industry. Although I had never particularly enjoyed the corporate world or that particular industry, it became intolerable. Other things changed also: what I ate, what I bought, how I spent my time, who I spent my time with—everything was coming under the microscope and with a clearer vision many things in my life started to feel soulless and dissatisfying. My life was changing; from the standpoint of where this journey started my old life had been ruined.
Fast-forward three years to the present. I no longer work in the oil industry and have returned to school to do a Masters in Environment, Culture and Society—far removed from where my focus was previously. I have continued to question, to explore, to attempt to draw meaning and am trying to figure out the best path for me to take next. At the moment that feels like a burden. I’m somewhere between two stories and often taking two steps forward and one step back. Trying to live life on your own terms in modern society is challenging and filled with disappointments.
Would I want to return to the “safety net” of my previous ignorance? Sometimes I feel like I would, other times certainly not. I see friends who are stuck in a life story which does not seem to be their own; it is the one that makes sense to them from their current level of awareness. Indeed, we are all just doing the best we can from our current level of awareness and that, I believe, is the basis for compassion and love—and self-compassion and self-love. By practising these we have a greater chance of finding deep contentment and our unique life purpose.
I will continue to explore and hope that tomorrow things make just a little more sense than they do today.
Author: Gary Thomson
Editor: Travis May
Photo credits: Pixabay