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What is Awareness to you?

It's a buzzword that's being bounded around all the time it seems at the moment, by so many people and the media.

'Awareness Day' this and that, and not to take anything away from any one of these, (before someone takes offence,) but it's the almost over-use that is diluting its meaning with its intention.

For example, I am sitting here writing this blog and very aware of if I put the wrong phrase or say something in the wrong context, or if it's taken out of context by someone else's misinterpretation then I could offend someone. I am only trying to help! How it's received is not in my control.

I am also very aware of my slight ache in the lower right side of my back, the deep blue muscle rub heightening the hot and cold sensation as it gets to work on relaxing the muscles. I am also very aware of how I sit and hold my posture in my chair as to how my back responds. Not the most comfortable of chairs to be writing in, but it is what I have.

I think you get the drift, but let's go to another level again.

I am also aware of my surroundings. I am sitting in my lounge with sunlight coming in, the warmth being generated by the sun against the glass and I have the air movement from the fan. I am aware of the safety and comforts within this room and house. The furnishing and fixtures. I am and have had to adjust and change over the last 4 weeks to accept this new environment and can now move about with ease, knowing where things are. Moving house and changes are a stressor for us as we all know.

I am also aware of the air pressure, the stillness of the winds and the calmness of the surrounding fields and landscape. A sense of feeling of what wildlife and plants are there. I am in tune with nature.

You may be thinking, how can I be saying or thinking all this? And some may have already switched it off and labelled it as rubbish, hey I'm not offended! I am aware people are entitled to make their own choices and decisions

But I am very aware of my body, my health and my mindset. Even more so than I used to be.

How can I help explain?

Let's try these 2 examples:

In Karate, when I was training in club sessions, ( I do miss these greatly,) we used sometimes get into groups of 5. Stick one person in the middle and have 4 surrounding you. The one in the middle closes their eyes and the 4 would be numbered off, 1-4. Only when the Sensei called out an appropriate number could the person in the middle open their eyes and at the same time the number called, this person would shout 'Jodan' (face punch) and then move as fast as they could to punch you in the face, with control.....well sometimes lol. The person in the middle had to block this punch, instinctively and with reaction.

It was a very good incentive to move and to move fast.

Why did we do this you may ask?

Picture yourself as the middle person. You've closed your eyes, the reality of being punched very real and everything in you is alert. You may or may not notice your heart rate has dramatically increased with a boost of adrenaline, the fight or flight response to keep you alive is working. But if you have the awareness, you will also have the ability to calm your mind. To trust your ability to block and move faster than those about to attack. You are heightened in your other senses. Your sight has gone but your hearing has multiplied. You may even begin to sense how close people are to you. They try to shuffle around as silently as possible to change their angle of attack to outwit you. Having this 'awareness' and confidence allows you to feel into your breathing, take a deeper inhalation and steady your breath. Calm the inner you. This you are in control of this remember.

Ok let's look at another example that may be more relatable:

You are staying at a hotel on vacation. It's a much-needed holiday to escape all the stresses from work and living costs. Now, that can all wait, you just don't care, you just want to relax.

But as you lay in this strange bed, you may be aware of the density or hardness/softness of the mattress. Or maybe the light coming in through the shutters. The new noises from other guests and holidaymakers like yourself. The banging of bin lids as the drunken person does the decent thing and recycles. Making more noise and congratulating themselves with a cheer for dropping a bottle in the hole, (yey, well done, it must take you back to your childhood days of pushing the different coloured shapes into holes, lol.) But are you then aware of if this irritates you or have you just switched off and disassociated from it all?

Maybe now laying flat you are aware of that extra portion of food and beer that is sitting far too heavily in your digestive system. The awareness of the uncomfortable feeling and nausea churning away as your body attempts to process what you fed it. But finally, you give in and you're asleep.

Then after a few hours are you aware of the smoke alarm going off in the corridor? Your senses are trying to make reason with where are you and your new surroundings. You gather your thoughts and sit there upright trying to work out what is going on. The focus, blink and rub your eyes and finally, your vision finally comes in and the brain has caught up, trying to rationalise the situation, 'oh yes, I'm on holiday in a hotel.'

And hard reality kicks in, 'shit' the fire alarm is operating. You stumble over to the door and open the room door onto the corridor. It's got a hint of smoke. Your sense can taste it, smell it and feel it clawing at your skin.

(Apologies as this may be a trigger for some, but it's also highlighting awareness.

If you feel you have to stop, please do. Take a moment, breathe and remove yourself from the experience, either by stopping reading or going outside. You are safe and in control of your surroundings and responses.)

Are you now aware of your family and their locations? Importantly the nearest Fire Exit escape route. You may notice the change in the smoke as you move towards the exit doors, there may be a drawing of fresh air from the outside. You may be aware of other guests calling and moving around the hotel.

Are you aware of the floor surfaces? Is it carpet or tiled? ........... the point is to be aware of your surroundings too so as to keep you safe if needed.

I really could go on, but the message here is that when you begin to notice the small things, especially in ourselves and how we respond and react, we can learn to focus on our breathing and be even more in control. Taking a deep inhale of air allows the mind to be oxygenated. To think clearer. Breathing into the belly or chest. Is it deep or shallow, slow or fast?

This subject is massive and as with any mental health issue or physical health issue, it is most likely complicated. There is no right and wrong way to deal with any individual's problems as we are individuals and each case should be dealt with as such. What works for me may not work for you.

Having awareness of what we do to ourselves and how it makes us feel, then has an effect on how we respond.

Having an awareness of how things make us feel, and where in our body we can feel it, (trauma and emotions are held and stored in us,) can give us a better understanding of how would it feel to be on the receiving end of, we will say a flippant comment or jibe from a loved one or work colleague. Hey if you were in the middle of the Karate circle, you would have an appreciation of timing distance and reaction. But the knowledge of how it makes you feel about a situation or comment can enable you to see how it would make others feel too.

If you exercise then you are very aware of your limits. How fast you can go and how far. If you can be aware of twinges before they become sprains or break, then you are in control. Knowing when to ease off or push on. I pushed my body harder in my Karate and Fire Service career than I could ever imagine and yet without pushing I would not have achieved what I did.

I am aware I can think myself 'out' of a situation or I can think myself 'into' it.

We do so much automatically, react, think and rationalise, yet almost take it for granted.

Being aware takes skill and training. Time and effort. Training and conditioning. To listen and to learn.

To research and seek the truth.

If we are aware of ourselves then we are better prepared to help others.

But who is coming in to rescue you? The best person is you.

Be aware of how incredible you are and how far you have come already.

Be aware of how we do affect others and how others affect us back.

Be aware that you can give yourself time and space to 'just be,' to sit and be still.

So to ask again, 'What is Awareness to you?'


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