Consider this a training guide for your brain.
A couple of weeks ago I was introduced to the word equipoise. And knowing the word for such a familiar feeling brought clarity to my mind.
What is it? It’s “the ability to serenely monitor the movements of one’s own mind and correct for biases and shortcomings.”
In plain English, this means awareness.
And awareness goes by many different names. It could take the form of knowledge, understanding, recognition, perception, consciousness, enlightenment, realization, or mindfulness.
The fact that each of us gets to define what awareness means is a beautiful thing. You’ll benefit from my understanding even if yours is wildly different.
Come with me on a journey into the depths of awareness and enjoy the resulting simplicity and organization.
Awareness is a powerful and amazing resource. It has a transformative nature about it, for both good and bad.
However, I believe you should be self-aware before trying to create awareness in others.
It’s like what people say about love. In order to love others fully and genuinely you must first love yourself. So it is with being self-aware.
I haven’t always valued self-awareness until somewhat recently. My continuing personal renaissance forces me into awareness and pushes me to pursue it relentlessly.
Here are some things I’m aware of today that, two years ago, wouldn’t have entered into my mind. I was probably too busy playing World of Warcraft to care anyway.
- What’s happening in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan because of Nicholas Kristof
- The latest scientific breakthroughs from around the world
- What an incision for a knee replacement looks like (thanks Facebook friends!)
So what’s the point here?
What’s at Stake
We need to define what having awareness or sharing awareness actually does for you.
Technically speaking, it provides the raw context to develop qualia.
Practically speaking, awareness experts like Leo Babauta might make this easier to absorb. I would present it a different way but this is a topic where multiple perspectives are valuable and needed.
Just to be clear, awareness doesn’t necessarily do anything for me. But having it allows me to explore my environment and interact with the world in a way I otherwise couldn’t. If I turned the question around, what’s the cost of increasing awareness except for some (hopefully) well invested time?
The Overwhelm of Awareness
No doubt about it, seeking out awareness can overwhelm. Just about everything good can become bad with too much. Exceptions exist of course, like for dark chocolate.
The problem about awareness is that, most of the time, there is no anticipated benefit. Why use our precious time expanding our minds when it’s almost impossible to draw the line of how much we want to expand it?
Here’s a technique I use to draw that difficult line. I ask myself:
Will this awareness give me the opportunity to make my life or the lives of others better?
I can’t answer that question frequently…at least not right away. But it helps me explore an increased range of possibilities and the skills or resources needed to achieve them.
The Benefits of Awareness
I know this sounds extreme, but what if I wasn’t aware the Internet existed?
My ability to learn, understand and interact with the world would be radically altered.
In a less extreme example, what if I wasn’t aware that Khan Academy existed?
Just having this awareness makes me think about an education revolution and challenges me to think about how learning should work. After all, I don’t want just to be educated. I want to learn.
But it’s also important and often more rewarding to increase your awareness offline. I do this by
- Asking my local librarian to share resources I would otherwise have no exposure to
- Making a new friend at Trader Joe’s and learning about his culture and personal history.
- Reading National Geographic and become aware of the magic of New Zealand. The article I read two decades ago planted the seed of awareness that grew into a tremendous vacation there a few years ago.
If you’re not sold yet on the benefits of constantly increasing awareness, let me introduce some Masters of Awareness to show you the value.
Masters of Awareness
Being a Master of Awareness is much better than being a Master of the Universe (sorry He-Man). These Masters will enlighten you to thoughts, concepts and movements you might otherwise never know about. Check out the one’s that resonate the most with you and tell me about your experience with them in the comments.
- Risk Taking and Better Living Through Uncertainty: Tyler Tervooren writes at Advanced Riskology and makes people aware of the risks they need to take. He is a wealth of knowledge and the first two sentences of his About page say it all: “The truest freedom is of the mind. A conscious act to embrace the unknown.”
- Becoming Minimalist: I’ve linked to Joshua Becker’s stuff a number of times and it’s no secret why his name keeps popping up. He writes beautifully about minimalism, what it means to him, his family and how he maneuvers through the world. It’s the kind of stuff that makes you want to slap yourself and ask, “why didn’t I think of that before?!”
- Mark’s Daily Apple: Mark Sisson runs an insanely popular blog about the Primal lifestyle so it’s not like this is a hidden gem. If you don’t already know about Mark, let his mission make you aware of how humans can improve all facets of their life through a “Primal Blueprint” and the lens of evolutionary biology.
- David Brooks: I believe David Brooks is the most important Op-Ed columnist in America today. Even if your politics don’t align with his, where else can you become mindful of so many topics in such a rich, disruptive way?
- Raam Dev: Another person who’s frequently linked to on this website. His recent income ethics series blew me away and his approach to life is so far from what yours and mine is that you gravitate to him. At first it might be for the novelty but soon it will be for the pure quality.
- Puttylike: I’m a generalist in ways both abstract and practical. Emilie Wapnick is too and she constantly brings awareness to alternative schools of thought. If you’ve ever felt like you might be a multipotentialite, you owe it to yourself to check her out.
- Live Your Legend: Scott Dinsmore knows how and when to ask the question “why?” better than just about anyone else. He’s all about passion and realizing the fruits of it in all parts of life. If someone can be an awareness machine, he would be that machine.
- Illuminated Mind: Jonathan Mead isn’t convinced he has it all figured out. I’m convinced he does though. He’s on a mission to make sure everyone gets paid to be who they are. Here’s a man who will lead you down a path that you’re just happy to know exists.
- Chip Conley: His Measuring what makes life worthwhile TED talk was so good I watched it for three consecutive nights. He’ll have you convinced that Buddhist kings can teach us more about awareness than any book you pick up on the topic.
- Sitting is Killing You: Want to know why I read the newspaper in the morning standing up at the kitchen counter? Consider this one a public service announcement.
- Terracycle: Do you want to outsmart waste or eliminate the idea that waste exists? Terracycle could help you do both. If you want more about them I write about it in an insightful Free Resource Friday.
Chasing down awareness is like a hunter seeking its prey. You may not get anything out of it and you can live for a while without success.
We all know starving your mind of awareness won’t literally kill you. However, your mental strength is sapped each day you don’t feed it with awareness.
I don’t know about you, but I’m still coming to terms with how much information – and therefore new awareness – I try to absorb each day.
Normally I decide my brain needs spoonfuls of the stuff to make me feel like I’m constantly growing.
The bottom line is new or increased awareness makes what I create here more valuable to you.
And that’s good enough for me.
Does increased awareness make you more valuable to the people you care about? Where is the happy medium between awareness and other worthy pursuits? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.