Something that I’ve been thinking about quite a lot lately is the concept of awareness. In particular spatial awareness. This ties in a great deal with ideas of present-moment living which is another strong theme shared by the book on Practice and the movie I mentioned. (Note – this is because they both are strongly influenced by Buddhism). I’ll just briefly explain present-moment living for the purpose of this post as having complete control of your thoughts by keeping them on what is happening right now. An extremely simple yet incredible example of this was used by Socrates in The Peaceful Warrior, when he pushed the main character off a small bridge into the water.
Understandably Dan was pretty angry at first, but as he started yelling at Socrates, Socrates would ask each time things like ‘what were you thinking of while falling?’ ‘Were you thinking about school?’ ‘Were you thinking about groceries?’ Until Dan responds, ‘I was thinking about the present.’ And that is the lesson to learn and what Socrates wants Dan to realise, is just like when he was falling, his thoughts should be on nothing else but the present, no matter what task is at hand. Don’t look forward to the result, focus on every single movement at the present time and make every single movement count. By doing this, you free your mind and can truly master what you are doing.
Now I wanted to summarise that a little bit to, hopefully, illustrate what I mean by awareness and how it can help you in many ways. Stop and think for a second, without looking around, what is going on around you? Can you give yourself a quick summary in your head of things like people around you, objects, sounds etc etc. If you have to think really hard and maybe even cheat by having to look around better, then your awareness is fundamentally lacking. What I guess I’m trying to say is at any given point I’d like you to be able to be completely aware of your surroundings. You might think ‘what on earth is the point of this? I apologize if it doesn’t seem clear yet but bare with me.
I’ll now use a better example, because having an awareness that somebody has just jammed the printer or your boss is on the phone is not particularly ground breaking. Think about when you’re driving your car. I believe accidents could be cut drastically if more people drove both in the present and with better awareness. When you drive, what are you thinking about along the way? Most people are only thinking about what’s in front of them, or in the direction they are going, their destination.
What I propose is to step back a little bit. Be completely aware of everything around your car at any given time. If you’re driving through a green light at an intersection, what’s happening on the road you’re crossing. Are there any moving cars, or have they all stopped for their red light? When looking right to give way when turning left, is there anything to your left? Anyone behind you? You may not care for things like this, or may feel weird thinking about it. But just try it, even a little, next time you drive. Try to feel what is going on around you. Doing this takes both being in the present and being aware at the same time. A great deal of accidents could easily be avoided this way. This is regardless of who was or would be ‘in the wrong’. An accident is an accident. The event itself does not know right or wrong. We are the ones who label it so. But if an accident is avoided altogether, what do we call it?
The reason I have given those simple examples was really to give an easy way to practice awareness. The best use for this gained awareness, for me, is on the Futsal court (for you it could be any sport or hobby or anything). It allows me to feel the game in a whole new way. Instead of just looking at the ball, I am aware of everything going on at any time. The position of their players, the position of our players. If the ball is coming to me I’m thinking ahead of where to place it next. While that is generally what most good players do, the ability to do so is significantly increased when your natural awareness is stronger. While I’m not perfect at this yet it is always something I work on to improve.
So go forth and be aware.