Over the past couple of years I’ve moved from being disgusted with myself to loving myself and from having no freaking clue what I was passionate about to knowing very clearly what it is I bring to the world to share.
The loving and the knowing go hand and hand.
The tool I’ve used to do both I call open awareness.
I’ve spent the last year practicing and developing open awareness, and I’m finally ready to share it with all of you.
Drum roll please….
What is Open Awareness?
Open awareness is being aware of the maximum amount of stuff going on inside and outside of you, without judgment. Open awareness is noticing your internal and external sensation all at once, without focusing on any one sensation over another. Let’s define sensation as both sense-driven (hear, see, touch, smell, taste) and consciousness-driven (thoughts, reactions, emotions, feelings).
Open awareness means being aware of everything, all at the same time.
If there was a spectrum, laser-focus would be on one end and open awareness would be on the other.
Open awareness takes practice.
To better understand, think of open awareness in terms of peripheral vision.
Even when you are focused on one point in front of you, you’ve still got a fuzzy visual field extending out to the sides of your face. If you’re walking down the street looking down at your cell phone, you’re still able to avoid running into anyone. How do you do this? Peripheral vision.
As an experiment, keep looking at your computer screen. Bring your hands beside your ears. Draw your hands straight forward from your ears to the computer screen, keeping them moving in parallel lines, like train tracks.
Notice when your hands enter your field of vision.
You’re not looking at them, but you see them. You aren’t focused on them, but they are making an impression. Your hands have become a part of your external, visual environment. They are peripheral to your focal point (the computer screen).
We see most clearly that which is our focal point and we see less clearly that which is peripheral to our focal point.
That is, when we look at things, we choose to prioritize one point of focus and consider that point to be most important. The periphery is all still there, but not of equal importance. Photographers – think depth of field.
Listen up. Open awareness has no focal point.
The idea is to hold everything, all the internal and external sensation mentioned above, in your “peripheral vision” all at once. That is, allow everything to be of equal importance in your visual environment. Prioritize everything the same. No focal point taking the lead, just…everything entering your eyes at once. Everything is equally peripheral and equally in focus.
Try this, again with your hands.
Bring your hands in front of you so you can see them both at one time; keep space between the hands. Gaze at your right hand only. Without changing your gaze, notice how the left hand shifts out of focus. Now switch the gaze to your left hand. Notice how the right hands shifts out of focus. Now try to gaze at both hands at once.
In order to see both hands at once, you probably looked somewhere between the hands. As compared to gazing at one hand only, looking at both hands at once brings them equally peripheral and equally in focus. It’s like you’re at average focus on both hands. You can continue the experiment by allowing everything in your field of vision to average out – equally in and out of focus.
How does peripheral vision relate to knowing and loving myself?
Hopefully you now understand this concept of making everything equally peripheral and equally in focus. You’ve begun with visually soaking in your environment without attaching to any one focal point. You did this by gazing between your hands and allowing both to be equally in focus. But, why does it matter? What use does this serve?
Think about it in terms of your life, the decisions you make. If you are laser-focused on one outcome, some specific expectation of yourself, you may find you bulldoze your way to that goal. With this tunnel vision you unconsciously block off the goings on around you, your peripheral environment, the fuzzy stuff around the edges of your goal.
Maybe the fuzzy stuff is relationships that begin to feel strained, but you’re not noticing. Maybe it’s opportunities in unusual places you pass by without ever recognizing. And maybe, once you’ve reached your goal, you realize it wasn’t what you wanted anyway!
This happened to me in my first career, bee-lining towards corporate success and financial wealth. I got there and was like “What the hell? I hate this. I absolutely hate this job and how I spend the vast majority of my time.” Whoda thunkit? Not me, not with my laser focus.
Practicing open awareness helped me notice my own butterfly effect.
I noticed more of the ways I was affecting people and things around me, and more of my own experience of my environment.
What I noticed surprised me at first. My laser-focused goal was set based on very incomplete data on myself.
Practicing open awareness doesn’t have to be once a day for 15 minutes while you meditate, although this is a useful habit in many ways and will up your awareness game rapidly. But, it is possible to practice open awareness all the time.
Concrete Guidance on Practicing Open Awareness:
From the moment you wake up, notice your body. Notice your head, shoulders, chest, arms, hands belly, hips, thighs, knees, calves, feet. As you drive to work, notice your emotions – are you chipper or running slow today? Are you getting easily annoyed with traffic? As you eat your breakfast, notice the texture and temperature of your food. Notice how rapidly or slowly you eat. As you open your email, notice your reactions – do you get happy to see an email from your favorite coworker and immediately pissy to see an email from your incompetent boss (even if it’s a rare moment of intelligence on his part)?
The trick here is to hold all of the things you notice in your “peripheral vision.” Do not allow what you notice to become your new focal point. Just keep noticing, more and more, as it comes.
When you notice your right knee hurts, just notice it. Don’t start weaving a story in your head as to why, and what this means, and how its going to mess up the rest of your day.
When you notice you’re running slow today, don’t immediately start weaving the story of how you’re probably tired because you’re getting sick but you can’t get sick because you’ve got to get on a plane tomorrow for a work meeting in Boston.
You see? When you weave the story, when you extrapolate what you’ve noticed, you become focused on that one thing at the expense of all the peripheral things, and you will notice less. You become distracted from the ongoing sensations.
Distraction from the sensation is part of what I call “judgment.”
Remember, open awareness is being aware of the maximum amount of stuff going on inside and outside of you, without judgment.
Judgment can mean going off on tangential assumptions about why it is you are experiencing what you have noticed. Judgment can mean feeling bad or less than or like a piece of shit because of something you’ve noticed.
The “without judgment” component of open awareness is absolutely necessary. Having no judgment helps us move forward into who we want to be, rather than dwell on the things we want to change about who we are right now.
Dwelling is not productive. Noticing is.
The game here, when you’re engaged in an open awareness practice, is simply noticing. Collecting data.
If you have any experience with statistics or data collection, you know you can’t go making assumptions after only one person has responded to your questionnaire. You’ve got to wait until an adequate sample size comes in for the data you are collecting to be of any use.
Collecting data on yourself is the same way – hold off on making a judgment! In fact, notice you have a tendency to make judgments! And then just move on.
Keep noticing yourself and noticing your context. No stories. Keep collecting data and have faith that your personal patterns will emerge to you in the form of insight. You will naturally come to learn about yourself and evolve in the direction you desire. I promise you.
How has the practice of open awareness impacted my life?
Open awareness helped me to develop compassion for myself, as I stopped worrying about (and hating) who I was and started taking it in fully, without judgment. This, in turn, has helped me develop compassion for others. Compassion is hard to explain. Compassion is something you feel.
Open awareness facilitated an evolution towards the best me possible, buried out from under the layers and expectations and circumstances in my life. Open awareness ensures my evolution continues.
Through my own practice of open awareness, I have been able to find myself. Not a version of myself created from a set goal, a laser-focus point, from someone else’s dreams for me. Been there, done that, didn’t work.
Practicing open awareness has delivered me to my passion in an easeful and comfortable way, and it can do the same for you.
Stay tuned to insightinflux.com for a short, guided meditation that will help you develop a body-felt sense of the difference between a laser-pointed focus and a peripheral, broad focus. The meditation is designed to be quick and easy with maximum results.
More good news – I can teach you this.
If you feel ready to connect one-on-one and dive into open awareness with me in person in Portland, check out my private and group open awareness classes at this link.
Use the form below to send me a note:
You can also text or call me at 503-893-9563.