“The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings, which are all part of one another, and all involved in one another.”
– Thomas Merton
To those who don’t have any knowledge, awareness might be a foreign concept. These are usually people that live a mechanical life; they cannot really understand such thing as awareness. We can define awareness as the ability to feel, recognize, or be aware of the situations and events that affect our lives. The only thing that will control the course of our biological diversity, species, and whole ecosystems, is awareness. Therefore, we need to think about our connection with everything and increase our awareness.
Let’s discuss more closely about what awareness is and its importance for humanity. There are three stages of awareness that we come across in our everyday lives. The physical that we live in is the first. Here we include our house and everything in it; carpets, decorations, furniture and all the objects we’ve collected. Then there is the other level outside our house; the whole neighborhood with our neighbors and the region we live in. Furthermore, there is a greater world we know exists but can’t really see it.
Maybe not all, but most of us are stuck in our own reality, ensuring that everything runs smoothly so we can keep going. Our awareness can only expand to our everyday lives. We don’t appreciate the main things that keep us alive enough; the biosphere, air, light, water, wind, temperature, rain, humidity, and a variety of species of animals and plants. Therefore, we become conscious of their value only when something bad happens and these very important elements of life are missing. Thich Nhat Hanh describes it perfectly:
“When I have a toothache, I discover that not having a toothache is a wonderful thing. That is peace. I had to have a toothache in order to be enlightened, to know that not having one is wonderful.”
This leads us to the question, do we as humans, have to experience this toothache (depletion of the environment) in order to appreciate the feeling of not having a toothache? Is this something that needs to happen in the natural evolutionary cycle of our awareness?
Why is it so difficult to attain awareness?
To wake up and become aware sounds just like recovery from a hangover. We sleep joyfully and feel comfortable lying in bed for the whole day. However, the difficult option that can hurt is to get out of bed. The simple choice would be lying in bed all day and having a long sleep. Just like a hangover, waking up from years of deep sleep at a certain stake of our life can be very unpleasant. It is so simple to go through the phases and be served a menu of thoughts on fast food and meaningless entertainment.
If we begin to feel, respond for ourselves, and think, it may interrupt our plans. Awareness requires change, and for many, it can be hard to change. Oftentimes, we become trapped, distracted with meaningless things, and we strive for something that’s impossible to accomplish. We seek material things and look for fulfillment in doing instead of being. Therefore, we ignore the world of nature and it becomes separated from our life; the problems arise from there.
Our existence is programmed for a good part of our lives because everything we do and feel is a result of our perceptions and beliefs. Most of the things we do come from routine; our relationships, jobs, desires, and needs all come from our programmed life. The bad thing about this conditioning is that it’s very difficult to escape from it; change is hard and therefore we struggle.
We get attached to things as human beings
Much of what we do in the world today is connected with possession; my house, my job, my life, my ambitions, etc. We usually stick to and surround ourselves with things that relate to ownership. It’s hard to become conscious of the problems facing mankind; most of our time is dedicated to keeping control over our possessions. Besides, as humans, we also become devoted to feelings, values, opinions, and attitudes.
We have watched this happen in the U.S. elections very recently. It is hard to let go and perceive things from a different viewpoint with such a strong connection to certain beliefs. So what happens? We remain trapped with our tested and proven views of the world and don’t accept new and interesting thoughts and ideas. This limits our way to really understand awareness, and therefore it is hard to move forward even when there is strong evidence confirming scientific data (climate change).
As the great Aristotle once said, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” Our lack of ability to stay detached from beliefs, expectations, and ideas has something to do with our unwillingness to foresee important environmental issues. In fact, we lack awareness and that is a result of our egocentrism and programmed mind. That leaves us stuck with wrong beliefs and realities, sometimes forever. Our detachment from nature and failure to experience awareness in the present moment is replaced by insignificancy and distraction; we look for satisfaction through materialism and enjoyment over a short period of time.
If we as humans want to move in the right direction and fix some of the important matters of the day, we need to reflect and examine ourselves. We can only comprehend the reason behind the things we do by analyzing ourselves. Why did I do that? What encouraged me to act that way? Are my actions affecting others and the planet? Once we become mindful of our experiences and behaviors, we will be able to perceive things for what they actually are. We become aware. We can see the simplicity, complexity, and essence of nature only through awareness. Let’s have hope that soon we will come to the realization that we feel amazing when we don’t have a toothache…