Awareness may be the greatest asset of sentient beings. It doesn't come easily. Actually, it does; and, it's the very reason sentient beings are sentient. It comes easy because it's always there. However, we have become really good at distraction.
The first step of awareness is to stop and take inventory. We get distracted even before beginning this first step because we immediately try to fix all that doesn't seem quite right amid our observations. This step, though, is too important to overlook or to forego in distraction. Thus, we must exercise discipline to curtail our tendencies and to make a way for this process of awareness to ensue.
Taking inventory is nothing more than making observations. Have you ever seen one of those folks in a gas station or store walking the aisles, typing non-stop on that machine strapped to their leg? It's an amazing thing to see, really. These folks are hired in from the outside. Store owners don't need fixers. They need to see what's actually the situation in their store, so they hire these folk to observe.
How do we take inventory of ourselves? I think this great first step of awareness happens much the same way as those folks taking inventory in stores. They seem to take inventory without making judgments, without getting trapped in thought, and with utmost honesty.
If we are ever to become people awake and aware, then we must take inventory of ourselves without judgment. We find a space in our lives inviting us out of our distractions. That's different for everyone. It could be a quiet room, a golf course, on a lake, or the escape of enjoying some other hobby. This space is one that puts us in direct confrontation with our current selves. In that space, we begin to reflect and anticipate. This happens, of course, within our consciousness. When this confrontation with self arises, we begin to simply point to and acknowledge whatever feelings or memories emerge. Typically, when these memories or feelings come up, we immediately label them. "That's good." "That was awful." "That should not have happened." "I should have done this." "I should not have done that." "He or she is such a jerk!" Nope. We take inventory just like the person walking the aisles and typing as fast as the eyes can scan. No judgments--there's only acknowledgement and just being with whatever is observed, with whatever arises.
To become truly aware, we must take inventory of ourselves without getting attached to thought. There's only one thing you can do well while thinking: and, that is to think. You don't think your heart into beating or your body into standing or breathing. When we try to think ourselves into doing something, the thinking itself becomes a distraction and the very stumbling block making the task impossible. If the person in the store began thinking about how to type numbers into the machine or whether or not items were priced well or arranged correctly, that person could no longer do their job. They would lose their rhythm and flow, probably eventually go insane and have to pick a new line of work. When we take inventory of ourselves, we allow thinking to happen; but, we do not follow the thoughts or get attached to them. Rather, we simply look at what arises as we would the ocean from the beach or the mountains from a trail. Our senses pick up the information--the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and feelings--but we just simply rest in the vast, watery mystery or the peaceful, cloud-topped beauty. This happens when we turn our intention upon ourselves, as well. We'll see a sea of memories and mountains of emotions stirred; but, we simply rest in the sensations without getting attached--without following the thought spraying like a ruptured waterline from all the stored-up pressure.
Taking inventory of ourselves requires the same honesty as one of those amazing folks taking inventory for a store. The reason these folks can have rhythm and flow in their work is because their process of observation carries the brutal honesty of numbers. An item is an item. Its price is its price. The person translates that observation into numbers entered into a machine. Sure, the person may err, but his or her work is absolutely honest. Why? This person is not interested (or paid to) make judgments. Nor is this person at all benefited by vesting thought into the process. Actually, thinking impedes the process. When we take inventory of ourselves, we must observe with this same honesty. Since we're making no judgments and are in no way interested in thinking amid the process, there is no benefit whatsoever in trying to re-create or do away with anything observed. We just simply observe.
I write all this to whet your appetite. Christ spent his life leading and teaching First Century Jews a way to engage YHWH, themselves, and each other in this awareness. At New Kirk Presbyterian, we want to offer such a space to engage in a disciplined way to do this self-inventory. You can join us each Tuesday night, beginning May 12, from 6pm-7:30pm. We'll call it Sacred Listening, and we'll do just that, exploring ways to listen to God within ourselves as we create safe, sacred space for others to share. However, even if you are unable to participate with us, you can still--anywhere, anytime--move your intention towards simply observing what is actually there within you. You can make those observations without judging them, without getting attached to all the thoughts that arise, and you can be honest about what you observe.
For awareness, at least to begin the journey, nothing more is required. To be where we actually are--which is probably the best definition of "awareness"--is truly the greatest and rarest gift of each moment.