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The Transformative Power of Awareness

The Transformative Power of Awareness

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Published by Andrew Marshall
An article by Andrew Marshall, author of self-help books "The Great Little Book of Happiness" and "Awakening Heart: The Blissful Path to Self-Realisation" on how we can change our awareness of ourselves and the world around us so that we become happier.
An article by Andrew Marshall, author of self-help books "The Great Little Book of Happiness" and "Awakening Heart: The Blissful Path to Self-Realisation" on how we can change our awareness of ourselves and the world around us so that we become happier.

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Published by: Andrew Marshall on May 26, 2012
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07/10/2013

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 THE TRANSFORMATIVEPOWER OF AWARENESS
 
Andrew MarshallMarch 2011www.joyousness.org
 
 1
THETRANSFORMATIVEPOWER OFAWARENESS
There is a magical quality to awareness. We maynot give it much consideration, but our awarenessdictates not only how we are but also who we are – or at least who we
think 
we are, as illustrated inthe traditional tale of the ugly duckling.It follows that, if we take charge of ourawareness, we have the power to transform ourlives. Although we cannot control nature ordetermine the circumstances that life will bring tous, we can choose to be in control of ourselvesand, by doing so, maintain inner stability. Evenwhen everything around us seems to be goingawry, it is possible to retain clarity andconfidence.For most of us, the awareness is easily distractedand our mind is often filled with thoughts, ideasand memories that are irrelevant to what is goingon in the present moment. How we focus ourawareness is similar to shining a torch beam – weare conscious of whatever we shine it on. Childrenplaying with a torch will point the light in almostevery direction, constantly moving it, seeing whatis lit up and then aiming at something else. Ournormal state of mind and awareness can often belike that, flitting from one thing to another.Conversely, it can be the case that somethingfascinates us and then the focus is held withouttrying. Once the fascination is gone, however,more distractions arise until something else ourattention. Producers of television programmesknow this tendency – observe how quickly camerashots change, often every two or three seconds,and in advertisements within a split second.If we are to enjoy a calm and clear mind, we needto be enchanted by everything we see, hear,taste, feel and think. That enchantment can onlycome when we fully appreciate the people weinteract with, and the things and circumstances inwhich we are engaged, in any given moment. Wehave to develop a richness and fascination for lifeand every aspect of it. Then we are in a position toturn our focus in any direction we choose and bydoing so have the opportunity to significantlyimprove our quality of life.One of the main causes of unhappiness is that ourself-identity tends to be governed by how ourmind is habitually focused – as in the ugly ducklingstory. It is human nature to identify ourselves withour environment and with the conditioning thatmakes up our personality. For example, manypeople identify themselves with their mainoccupation, their sex, home, family orrelationships, social connections and so on – and,of course, their name. So John may say, ‘Hello, I’mJohn – I’m a graphic designer from London. I havea partner called Jo and we have a small child. Atweekends, I play for a local ice-hockey team.” ButJohn cannot be all these things at the same time.When he is working, he is a designer – but he isnot an ice-hockey player. When he is playing ice-hockey, he is not a graphic designer. When he iswith Jo, he is neither of these things but becomesa partner or lover and, when with their child, afather. If he is fully present in whatever heundertakes, the ‘John’ aspect of him will alsodisappear. We only are what our awarenessmakes us in any given moment.One of the strongest forms of identification wehave is with the physical body. It is a rare personindeed who does not associate their identity withthe body at least to some extent. We live in aworld of form, so it is natural that we tend toidentify with our own outer form. Naturally, too,we recognise others principally by their form or
 
 2outer appearance. There are limits to this, of course; in talking on the phone, we recognise aperson by their voice, for example. But, by andlarge, it is an individual’s appearance that weregard as ‘the person’, with the thoughts, feelingsand behaviour that they exhibit as being their‘character’.This tendency causes us problems. Bodyconsciousness can make us feel unhappy if wedon’t like what we see in the mirror – too fat, toothin, insufficiently developed here and an excessthere – and notice how easy it is to regard thereflection as real. “
I’ve
put on weight,
I
look older,
I
look wonderful” and so on. Fooled by thisillusion, the perception of being separate fromothers, and the complex emotions that stem fromit, are reinforced. Body consciousness underlinesour vulnerability, too, as we suffer, or see otherssuffer, from sickness, the effects of ageing anddeath. Because we see the body as real, itsdeterioration and the prospect of its eventualdemise can be frightening.Another, and perhaps more significant, problem isthat body consciousness confines our awarenessto a three-dimensional world, where what weperceive through our physical senses is taken tobe both the beginning and end of reality. So theworld we live in is seen as the only source of enjoyment – and as nothing in it is safe fromchange, any fulfilment can only be temporary.Happiness is easily threatened unless we take ourawareness beyond the three-dimensional andrealise that what is usually perceived to be realityis nothing but a magical display.How can we raise our awareness in such a way? Akey to this is the natural tendency for the mind toremain with those things it is enchanted by. Weneed to release the grip that holds it to the worldof form. As the strongest hold is the illusion of thebody being real, this makes a good place to start.All we need to do is reflect on the nature of thebody – it is an appearance that is in a constantstate of change. Nothing about the body we hadas a child is with us now. A river appears to be apermanent feature of the landscape, but it isactually flowing water that changes from momentto moment. The cells in our body are constantlybeing replaced and the forces and energy patternsthat mould the appearance of the body are alsochanging – energy is dynamic, not static. We mayeven reflect on the fact that nothing of our body ismanmade; every cell is composed of matter thatcomes from numerous elements. So it can behelpful to reflect fairly frequently on the nature of the body –
“this body is not me, it is not mine, it isnot myself.” 
As we become used to seeing the body as beingan appearance that is in a constant state of change, the mind becomes freer. It is a smallextension of this practice to see that all formsshare the same quality of being temporaryappearances. Realising that everything is amagical display can release a great deal of innertension. For a good while, we may only have anintellectual understanding – in other words, wehave to think about it or imagine it – but graduallyour perceptions will change. Incidentally, it isimportant to remember that this approach is notsaying that the body and other forms do not exist – simply that they are not the fixtures that theyare usually taken to be.By releasing our awareness from the apparentsolidity of everything around us, we are ready torelease ourselves from the thoughts, emotions,desires, beliefs and traits that make up what wecall our character or personality. It is notuncommon to think that these are real andpermanent but, like the body, they are continuallychanging. Reflecting on the nature of the mainfactors that comprise the personality does notharm or destroy our character but instead frees usfrom the grip of believing “this is me”. Using theanalogy of the torch, we focus the beam so thatwe can see more clearly and, with increasedunderstanding, become liberated from the idea of a little self. If we are angry, for example, we feelthe feelings that are present in us without trying

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