There is the attention you may pay to things allowing you to develop awareness. There are these moments of insight when awareness suddenly seems to be there. And yet, awareness is only a small piece of the puzzle. It’s never stable and never complete, even as it becomes part of our experience.
In a conversation with Heisenberg, Einstein once explained that theory is what will determine what we can observe. It’s the same with awareness, with the drawback that we also need to make ourselves aware of the theory we are using.
In most cases, our awareness will be influenced by several of our biases. Take for example the selection bias that lets us see more of what we are interested in. As we are automation experts who constantly establish habits, we create biases of our own. It helps us to quickly associate a situation we are in, with experience. At the same time, it makes us blind to those things outside of our experience we cannot categorize as easily.
The habit to categorize serves us in saving energy and time. We know that putting a letter into a letterbox will bring it to its destination, we also know that the clerk will hand us our credit card back. Having experienced that often enough, we’ll trust that it happens again without overthinking it.
This makes us lazy as we rely on it and start taking things for granted. It leads to reducing our awareness by generalizing the things we become aware of. We’ll find ourselves noticing emotions for example while keeping it broad. It becomes “I’m anxious” when it actually means “I fear to go down that street at night as it is a dangerous and dark street” or “I fear to pass by that house where the dog always barks aggressively”. After a while, the different anxieties become one and it’s only the sense of unease that remains. With all the information mixed up in that feeling, it loses its ability to effectively warn us of something happening within us and our ability to act becomes obscured.
It’s time then to do the reverse work and make ourselves aware of how we are reducing our awareness. Allowing ourselves to settle into the moment and listen with all our senses to the here and now does the job. It will take some time to get rid of the stories we tell ourselves, but every time it works is a win.