From the time you get up early in the morning, till you go to bed the same night we are in constant movement and action, we have a list of things that need to be done, yet we are always living in the past or future. As you brush your teeth, do you feel the toothbrush against your teeth or do you just rush through the whole process? You are meeting a friend, you start a conversation and yet all you can think about are the things going on at the back of your head.
How many times do you eat but don't realise the texture, colour, fragrance or taste of the food? Most of the time we simply gulp it down our throats without sparing any thoughts on it. Do you realize what we are missing here? Yes, all our day to day activities are performed without any awareness of the self or the environment.
To Be Aware
Osho amazingly said, “We are all capable of being aware and living in constant awareness but we turn to it not in our happy state but when we are stuck in difficulties and sadness, wanting to get out of the situation we seek answers for our problem and then become aware of life and environment.”
Awareness means you come with an inner light, you move fully alert. Each step is taken in awareness -- the walking, the coming, the sitting -- everything is done in full awareness. The experience of gestalt is understanding the formation and completion of various experiences (dynamic experiences) within each person’s experience. The initial goal of the client is to gain awareness of what they are experiencing and doing at that time in their life. “It is far more useful to be aware of a single shortcoming in ourselves than it is to be aware of a thousand in somebody else.”
- Dalai Lama
In Gestalt, the whole focus is on what the client does and how he does it. It puts an emphasis on the here and now and that direct experience is more reliable than intellectual speculation. Role of the therapist is to, in their best of ability, notice and give expression to where the client is at i.e. to communicate what they are experiencing and what they are aware of in the present moment.
The therapist will only ask questions like: What are you aware of right now? What are you feeling? What are you thinking? What are you doing with your right hand?
The above is possible because each person has all the resources necessary. Experience is more powerful than knowledge. According to Fritzs “Awareness is an interplay between individual and the environment, between the figure and the ground.” Awareness is shaped by what is important to you. Effective awareness is grounded in and energised but the dominant presence is the need of the organism. It involves not only self - knowledge but a direct knowing of the current situation and how the self is in that situation. Any denial of the situation and its demands ofones want and the chosen response is a disturbance of the awareness. Meaningful awareness is of self in the world, in dialogue with the world, and with the awareness of others.
Awareness is accompanied by owning, that is the process of knowing one's control over, choice of, and responsibility for one's own behaviour and feelings. Without this, the person may be vigilant to the experience and living space but not to what power he/she has or does not have. Awareness is cognitive, sensory and effective. The person who verbally acknowledges his situation but does not really see it, know it, react to it, and feel in response to it, is not fully aware and is not in full contact. The person who is aware knows how he does what he does and that he has an alternative and that he chooses to be as he is.
The act of awareness is always in the here and now, although the content of awareness would be distant. The act of remembering is now, what is remembered is not now. Fritz says,“ Keep coming to the Now, this is the best therapy (even for neurosis). It’s a state to be grounded and successful. One cannot be moved or disturbed or triggered when he is in the NOW - the present.”
Now is the immediate moment, full awareness is the process of being in vigilant contact with the most important events in the individual/environment field with full sensorimotor, emotional, cognitive and energetic support. Insight, a form of awareness is an immediate grasp of the obvious unity of disparate elements in the field. Aware contact creates new meaningful wholes and thus is in itself an integration of a problem. Awareness is in the immediate moment, not in aboutism. It is the most potent, most pregnant and most elusive principle. ‘Here and Now’ is the best therapy. Every time the client goes here and there in the past or future, as a therapist you got to bring them in the present. Whenever you are angry, sad, disappointed, humiliated, intrigued, exhilarated or overwhelmed, Be Aware!
“What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.”
- Abraham Maslow What’s the Difference Between Attention and Awareness?
Attention is a synonym for concentration. There is effort and it involves sensory perceptions and tense participation and it’s done by one or fewer parts of the body. The literal word meaning of attention would be notice taken of someone or something, regarding someone or something as important. Like for example, one would say writing this article needs close attention or that his/her business needs attention.
Whereas awareness is more diffused than attention. It is a relaxed state rather than tense participation by the person. We are all mystical and the more we slow down and get into the awareness, we allow the mysticism to work in us and that is when we become infinity. The now, the present moment and the immediate moment is the most illusion of gestalt to come into now. Every individual level of awareness is different, Milton says, even out of 5000 cases no two people’s awareness is the same. But we believe that there is similarity because we base everything on our past experience, unknowingly this past experience becomes our reference point. An example: There was a girl during college days who fell in love with a boy of a particular community. She was sure about being in love with him until she found out that he cheated on her. Since then, the girl formed a sort of stereotype, a generalisation against the whole community and judged them based on one unfortunate experience from past experience. She would be continuously suspecting or being threatened to date or make friends or work or deal with people of that same community, as the reference point, in this case, was the past experience with a boy who cheated on him. For every past incident, good or bad, keep the learning and not the events. Awareness - it is the interplay between an individual and the environment. (figure and ground) your awareness is shaped by what is important to you At This Moment. This is dynamic and it can change. For example as I am writing this, my need is to finish the chapter and if I have to work, I have to see the words I type and what is happening within my body, what are the thoughts or the flow that comes, what are my bodily sensations, am I completely into it or my mind has some thoughts of food or friends? Awareness is knowing how you experience a certain thing at that moment of time. Qualities of Awareness
Awareness has 5 important qualities:
1) Contact: When I come in contact with or exposed to the environment, I come in contact with my awareness. Example: When you lift a rose, you feel the petal and come in contact with the gentleness of the petal and when you touch the thorn you feel the prick.
2) Sensing: I try to make sense of the environment by determining the nature of the environment, for example, when I suddenly feel a prick or when something is poking me, I try to make sense and try to understand whether it is a pin that is poking me or a thorn.
The environment will trigger you to take some responsibility or express some emotion. Like if I feel the pain of the prick, I will shout Ouch or if I find that the prick I am feeling is from some harmful weapon or animal, I will shout for help or run with a scare to save myself.
4) Figure Formation :Awareness is shaped by what is important to you and that is how your figure gets formed, the figure is formed by what is important for you at this moment. Again, to give an example, if I feel a prick due to a pin, as it is a minute prick, I would tend to ignore it as my figure formation leans towards my goal: which is to get this article done. Whereas if the prick is felt by a rusted nail and I am bleeding badly, my figure is now to deal with the pain and see how I can prevent further damage and at this time, writing articles is no more my focus.
5) Wholeness: This is an optional step, as not all awareness will lead to closure (wholeness). Wholeness will depend on whether the task undertaken is completed or left in between. Here we find the role the blocks play and the level at which they are situated.
How do we know we are in a state of Awareness?
Ability to see the inside and the outside world, our own fantasy building or construction.
2) Hearing: Ability to hear words outside, inside, self-talk and construction.
3) Feeling: Ability to feel the external body, inside of your emotions, a construction or fantasy.
4) Smell: Ability to feel the smell in your external reality as well as internal, whether it’s your construction or fantasy.
5) Taste: Last but not least, the taste you feel in the Now . So, say when I write or type on the laptop, I feel the touch of the keyboard, as I am drinking coffee, I can taste the bitterness in its taste. Awareness is very different from thinking or introspection, you cannot give attention to two things with the same degree of awareness. Co-exist in the environment that you want to belong, bring the Buddha in the balance, don't go in search of the Buddha. Forget the people who are judging you, build the mansion and invite the Buddha in the mansion. For attention, we see that there is some kind of effort involved and often when we want to pay attention to certain things, we say words like “I am paying attention to my studies” or “I am trying to put all my attention to the part that is most painful.” The whole process of paying attention is full of effort and trials, whereas the awareness starts with being in the now.