Wednesday, March 7, 2012

How Aware are You?

I've been thinking a lot about Sree's post Monday regarding a Fascinating Encounter. In particular, I've been pondering the introspective questions Sree posted (and answered for himself).
  1. When am I the most alive?

  2. What brings me the greatest joy?

  3. What makes my heart sing?

  4. What do I really care about?

  5. What do I truly believe is essential?

  6. What does this world really need?

  7. Who needs me?

  8. How may I be of service?

  9. What are my bedrock beliefs?

  10. What is my purpose in life?

(I added the last two.)

I've come to realize lately how much self-awareness affects pretty much anything you do and that you can develop self-awareness just as you would any other skill.

For example, when working with a child with autism it's important to know whether he is at ease and ready to interact or in sensory overload and in need of help to quiesce his sensory systems; it's easy to misinterpret a child's actions as indicating one when in fact they're indicating the other. So, many people who work with kids with autism learn how to interpret a child's behavior regarding her readiness for interaction. They're taught to be aware of the child.

However, even when a child is at ease and ready to interact, methods of intervention may fail simply because the adult is not at ease and ready to interact. Because of this, many adults who've spent a lot of time learning to interpret a child's state have to step back and spend time learning to interpret their own states.

Another example that comes to mind is music, or more specifically performing music. Lots of great musicians experience what would best be described as internal trauma when asked to perform before an audience. They may know the music inside and out. They may have excellent skills. They may take great delight in playing. Yet their performances can be painful to watch. The delight they feel in playing is overwhelmed by other emotions like fear, angst and doubt. The problem is that they're not equipped to deal with the emotions in the moment because, in the moment, they lack the self-awareness to take hold of the fear, process it and be done with it.

Becoming Aware
Ideally, whether helping a child or performing a song or listening to a friend, you would be able to look at yourself, see that you're not at ease, identify what's going on and then remedy the situation, all without missing a beat.

Something's not quite right. You sense a tightness in your jaw or notice your hands fidgeting or hear your foot tapping. You pay attention to your sensory vital signs and ask, "Hmm, why am I rolling my fingers on the table?"

You recognize that your blood sugar levels have crashed or that you really need to pee or that you're worried about an upcoming meeting. Knowing what's bothering you, you either take care of it in the moment or decide to take care of it as soon as you're done. With the new clarity, you can focus again.

If you were to practice, I imagine you could become really good at recognizing and interpreting your physiological responses to changes in your sensory systems. Between the time your index finger hits the table and the time your middle finger hits the table you say, "Hey, I forgot to eat lunch."

The Other Side of Awareness
So, I was thinking that there might be a complementary set of questions to the ones Sree posted, ones that might help identify when you may get uneasy and why.
  1. When am I the least alive?

  2. What brings me the frustration?

  3. What makes my heart sob?

  4. What do I care least about?

  5. What are things in my life that are truly unessential?

  6. What could this world really do without?

  7. Who has no need for me?

  8. How am I of disservice?

  9. What are common beliefs that I absolutely do not hold?

  10. What is the last thing I want my life to be about?

I'm going to spend some time with both sets of questions and see where they lead me. Once I've done that, I'm going to practice, practice, practice. I'll let you know how it goes.

Oh yeah, one more thing that I think would be fun. After answering the questions ask yourself how much time you spend doing what you answered. It needn't be a specific number of hours, just a simple high, medium, low, none kind of thing.

Happy Wednesday,

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