Being Aware

Awareness is a term that has been haunting me for the past few weeks now. It all started one afternoon when I was thinking about how mechanically we do certain things.

I am sure all of us would have faced the situation sometime or the other when our mind wandered off or we day dreamed or when we were busy building an argument in our mind while the other person was talking.

I felt I was never ‘present’ and was always lost in some thought or the other and I was feeling as though this was becoming a habit.

To fix this, I decided to be as involved as possible in whatever I do, for a few weeks. Before I share my findings, I would like to share my perspective of how “stimulus-storage-response” cycle seems to work within us. This helped me to understand why I felt I was never present. I feel our awareness framework is divided as follows:

There are 3 distinct functions along with a memory element :

  1. We have a memory element where all the thoughts get stored. Think of this like a computer hard drive or a storage
  2. We have a segregation function ( I would need another post to talk about this ), which sifts through the incoming stimulus data, extracts information from it and stores it in appropriate places inside of the memory element
  3. We have a thought function, which receives input data from the mind function and searches for data in the memory element and returns the appropriate data back to the mind function ( loop )
  4. We have a mind function that seems to receive data from external stimulus and send it to the segregation function. The mind function also uses the data it has received to call the thought function so that it can build out a response to the stimulus. The process of sending the data to the segregation / thought functions could be done while being completely aware or on an auto pilot.

The problem was with how my mind function operated, I felt. The calls to the thought function was on an over drive and my mind function spent very less time to actually be aware of the data it received from the external stimulus. The problem was even more accentuated by the fact that my thought function spent a lot of time processing data from accumulated memory. This resulted in a feeling of being overwhelmed. I felt that I was not in the ‘Present’ and was never ‘aware’ of what was going on around me, most of the times. Let me explain.

What a spiritually trained person or a small child experience is probably pure awareness. Their ability to remain present gives them the blissful state. They focus almost all the time on the awareness component. It felt like I have literally forgotten the bliss I experienced as a child because of all the accumulated knowledge and the pressure I have put on myself to respond to stimulus almost automatically.

I spend majority of my time ‘chewing’ on thoughts in the thought function. This causes some sort of a tension to build up. Happy and joyful thoughts processed by the thought function take me on a happy and jolly trip in the mind function that provides the response. But bad and anxious thoughts processed by the thought function reflect as anger, sadness, fear or rage in the mind function. This loop between mind function and thought function where the external / internal stimulus is now sent back to the thought function along with the emotion seems to cause an “emotional thought chain”. The result is pent up emotional thoughts and I end up feeling overwhelmed, distracted or feel things are “eating me” from within.

I realized, to get over this problem I would have to train my mind function to constantly be in the present and be aware of incoming stimulus and ongoing experience. I felt the problem was because of the fact that my mind function seemed to be on an overdrive with its communication with the thought function that it literally put an equally important role it played in experiencing external stimulus ( being present and being aware ) on an autopilot! The trick thus is to learn ways to reverse it. Spend most of the time in being “aware” of the external stimulus instead of putting it on an autopilot.

I am exploring ways in which I can get my mind function to be more aware and more present in the moment. I have turned to meditation as a solution to my problem and it seems to be helping me immensely.

After about 1200 minutes of meditation in the last 100 odd days I feel less overwhelmed, more aware. More importantly, it has given me a few techniques to shift back to the awareness zone when I feel my mind function is on an auto pilot.

My learning continues. Kaizen.