Honing Your Awareness Part 1: What is Awareness?
In this series I will be talking about what it means to have awareness and be helping you with practical ways to hone it.
What does it mean to be more aware?
"You need to gain more awareness."
This is said so often, but often the process of going about it are blurry and the results sometimes felt and other times not so much.
Let's focus on gaining awareness of your body for today.
To be more aware is to have what is happening come to your attention and perception. E.g. when we learn a new word and we start to see it everywhere. It has entered our realm of perception and we are now aware of its existence.
There are 2 main ways you gain awareness:
1) Something moves into your perception
Some examples: When you ignore pain signals for so long they become LOUD in the form of acute or chronic pain. Then you start to realise that there's something happening to an area in your body.
When you start a new exercise program and you get the oh-so-infamous case of DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness), where you feel achy and like it's difficult to move, like when you did squats for the first time in a long time and going to the toilet and going down the stairs was hell. It might make you think,"I didn't know I had muscles in that part of my body!" or "I haven't felt that part of my body in so long."
These are ways things can happen to you that then create an awareness of your body within yourself. 2) Conscious perceiving
Some examples: A therapist/trainer asks you to notice how you feel and the sensations that come up in a specific part of the body as you do a movement or an exercise. You start to realise that there are sensations you just never listened to and all it takes is focusing your attention to notice them.
You go for a meditation class. The teacher asks you to hum different tunes and focus on different parts of your body as you do. You start to become conscious of your head, neck, chest and belly and how they change with the vibrations as you hum and as you breathe.
These are the ways in which you can open yourself up to, and actively seek sensations in your body. This is where the intricacies of honing your awareness lies and what we'll be working on.
Why is this even important? What is the point of honing our awareness?
You and your body are in constant conversation with each other. You tell your body things (input) by receiving information from the world, moving, and responding to the world. Your body also tells you how it feels and what it thinks about these inputs. For example, if you need to change your position or the way you're doing something, your body will send out signals like aching, tightness and pain. With the different signals, it tells you something - whether you're safe or unsafe, prepared or unprepared, efficient or inefficient.
Creating more awareness also creates a clearer and more accurate body map. A body map is a representation of your body in your brain. For example, when playing the piano you will learn how far to move your hand to reach a note, and how heavily or softly to press on it for the desired sound, and perhaps, all this eventually without looking. You will know how much effort to use and how to use it efficiently. This is important as it allows you to use your body with greater ease and certainty.
Knowing how to tell these signals apart allows you to know what they mean and what to do with them and, most crucially, to tend to things before they get too painful or before you get injured.