These five aspects of awareness come from the excellent book Spiritual Solutions: Answers to Life’s Greatest Challenges by Deepak Chopra. Understanding them provides different ways of introspecting and identifying problem areas. Knowing our blocks enables us to remove them and removing our blocks allows our awareness to expand. In expanded awareness, problems disappear into a smooth flow of consciousness as spirituality. Everything becomes simple and easy when we are liberated from the chains of our egos.
I’ve taken these five aspects of awareness and added my own comments and suggestions to them. Also, I’ve reordered them generally along the lines of depth in mind, which I think makes them more sensical than the presentation given in the book, but don’t mean to present it as though our minds are layered cakes. I’ll start with a short version in case you’re pressed for time, but the longer version below has links to many useful and relevant articles.
The Short Version: Questions to Ask Yourself
I didn’t write this so that you can draw some schematic of the mind. Instead, this is my suggestion to you: take the problem or focus that is concerning you most in your life right now and write down the answers to the following five questions:
- How do I feel about problem or ambition, the people involved, and myself?
Am I angry or irritated at someone – and if so, is that a reasonable anger or irritation from their point of view? Do I have fear or anxiety that clouds my thinking – and if so, what am I afraid of? What’s the worst-case scenario, and is it really that bad? Am I working from a place of positivity or negativity, and do I take full responsibility for my emotions?
- How do I perceive the situation? What does it look like to everyone else?
Are other people helping me, if they are, out of kindness or love? Sometimes we forget to be grateful when our awareness constricts down to just ourselves, just as sometimes we forget the ulterior motives of others who might perceive our ambitions and problems as opportunities for gain. How does the problem or goal look to people completely detached from my situation? Am I making a mountain out of a molehill?
- What do I expect from myself and other people?
Are my expectations of others necessary, or am I laying burdens on others and using my relationship with them to carry some of the weight? Ultimately, am I expecting that the resolution of the issue or goal lays on me or someone else? Am I taking full responsibility for my life?
- What am I assuming about myself, others, and the causal relationships?
What is the expected sequence of events here, and why do I expect that they will follow this pattern? Are my expectations guiding the problem or issue to a specific result, and if so is that specific result the one that I hope for?
- What are my underlying beliefs about this problem or ambition?
Am I striving for happiness, but just marking out a place on the map where I think it might lay instead of finding it where I am? Is the problem really a problem, or is it just that I want things to be in a certain way and they’re not? And if it’s really a problem that needs to be addressed and requires movement, is my approach based on some sort of prejudice or sense of entitlement?
The Long Version: Aspects of Awareness
Aspects of Awareness #1: Feelings
Our feelings are closest to the surface of our minds, as they directly change our appearance and are usually readily detectable by others. Deepak notes that many of us spend a lot of time working on our feelings because of this social impact our feelings can have, but that’s not my experience. A lot of people seem to be perfectly happy going about emoting feelings of misery and unworthiness, complaining about their heavy load. The mark of expanded awareness for feelings, per the book, is the ownership of feelings – that is, recognizing that nobody and nothing else can be blamed for how we feel.
- Is this really just a misunderstanding in me about my desire for happiness? Do I just feel incomplete?
- Do I feel limited, and where are the cages coming from? Is it just a matter of feeling overwhelmed, as though God gave me a burden that I am not able to carry?
- Am I acting out of enslavement to addiction, or is this coming from outside of my habits and compulsions?
- Am I acting out of negativity? How can otherwise resolve the fear, deal with the depression, or stop feeling lonely?
- Am I properly motivated? If not, is it because I doubt myself or feel resentful? How can I move past my self-centeredness toward a solution beyond this immediate situation?
Aspects of Awareness #2: Perceptions
Our perceptions are the way in which we relate to the events of our lives. One man’s trash is another’s treasure, as they say. When our perceptions come purely from the limited sense of self in pride, social esteem, and power manipulations, then we easily become angry, embittered, or depressed by the transient cycles of wealth and poverty, health and illness, and popularity and obscurity. In other words, our perceptions of things frequently drives our feelings about them.
- If there’s a struggle to learn involved, is that struggle perhaps the best way for me to learn? Is my obsession really about learning?
- Can I take this opportunity to be happy without certainty? Or to learn from the mistakes of others?
- At the very least, can I make progress in the art of humility or leave my comfort zone as a way of making personal progress while dealing with the greater concern (assuming that those aren’t the greater concerns)?
- If there’s grief involved, can I keep the light lit for those who have left us behind?
- Is this a chance for me to do the impossible?
Looking at events objectively means seeing them as someone else, someone not personally affected by them. While Deepak notes and it’s absolutely true that there’s no such thing as completely objectivity (your understanding is always going to be muddled by your history and incomplete knowledge), objectivity helps us have expanded awareness.
For example, one good thing (among the many bad) about reading the news of day is that we move a limited sense beyond our egos in our understanding. Being a Californian, I’ve heard many people grumbling about the rainy weather in the last few days. Understanding that we’re in a drought can, for some, help them appreciate the pitter-patter and puddles.
Perhaps even better, we can gain perspective by asking ourselves if whatever the concern is will matter to us in a week, a month, a year. That’s especially important parents to impart to kids, who tend to see a single situation as the entire course of their lives. And even for the worst things, this holds true. That which is true does not cease to exist; there can be no beginning or end at the level of spirit. The most we can be bound is but a single lifetime.
Aspects of Awareness #3: Expectations
Our expectations are the things we expect out of desire or fear, according to the book. I add to this that our expectations also come out of what we’ve experienced, that we expect that events will generally follow the same course as we’ve seen them take before. Things tend to unfold in the same patterns.
- Do I expect others to do something for me? No sense of entitlement actually bears up under examination.
- Do I have expectations for relationships that discount the individuality of the other people?
- Can I reapproach my expectations of others from a stance of faith?
- Do I expect myself to do certain things out of some codified sense of self? The best things can happen when we relax out of some limited definition of ourselves.
Aspects of Awareness #4: Assumptions
Our assumptions are the definitions we give events, people, and things. Deepak’s example is the assumption of a negative encounter when a police are pulls you off the road. These are frequently unexamined within us, arising out of conditioning and our beliefs.
- Do I have a sense that people will be a certain way without knowing them? How can I challenge the stereotypes I hold?
- How are all of my assumptions turning into limited expectations? How can I become aware of my assumptions and challenge them?
- What assumptions am I making purely out of past experience? Would it be worthwhile to revisit the lessons I’ve learned and see whether they’re still true?
- How can I directly seek unconventional thinking?
Aspects of Awareness #5: Beliefs
Our beliefs are closest to the self-definitions our egos give us, out of all the aspects of awareness. Beliefs are fluid and evolve as we grow, but people with firm convictions tend to think that’s not the case. The most powerful beliefs, in terms of guiding behavior and thought, are those that are not questioned or examined within us. These unexamined beliefs come from our culture, from our childhood, and from the prevalent or most vivid experiences of our lives. All beliefs are limiting in some sense and we must always have beliefs, in this life.
- Are my beliefs ultimately negative? What new beliefs can I introduce to counteract my negativity?
- What limiting beliefs do I have that prevent me from resolving my problems or fulfilling my goals to an astonishing degree? Do I believe things about myself or other people that stop me from being effective?
- Do I have a false sense of invincibility that could cause a house of cards to come tumbling down if I don’t take steps to secure my position?
- Do I ultimately believe that I can get to a position of complete independence and freedom in this life? Even if that were desirable, how can it be true? Conversely, do I falsely believe that healing must come from outside of myself?
Keep on keeping on,
You may also enjoy:
- Spiritual Solutions: Answers to Life’s Greatest Challenges – the book that inspired this post, on Amazon
- I’m Happy Anyway – programminglife.net
- Feeling Limited versus Setting Limits – programminglife.net
- What to Do When You Feel Caged: The Key to Lasting Freedom – tinybuddha.com
- Three Weapons Against Addiction – programminglife.net
- When Our Fears Feel Bigger Than Our Faith – stevenfurtick.com (video)
- Dealing with Depression: 10 Ways to Feel Positive and Peaceful – tinybuddha.com
- When You’re Feeling Self-Doubt & a Lack of Motivation – zenhabits.net
- When, And How, To Let Learners Struggle – anniemurphypaul.com
- 5 Spiritual Lessons I Learned From Obsessing Over Food – mindbodygreen.com
- How I Learned The Art Of Humility – mindbodygreen.com
- 10 Reasons It’s Your Fault People Let You Down – programminglife.net
- Failing on Purpose: Shark Mountain – programminglife.net
- What We Should Really Expect From Others – stevenfurtick.com (video)
- 15 Powerful Beliefs that Will Free You from Negativity – marcandangel.com
- 5 Myths About Self-Help That Too Many People Believe – mindbodygreen.com