“Awareness is the greatest agent for change.” Eckhart Tolle
There are two fish swimming along. They meet another fish heading the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” The two fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and says, “What the hell is water?”
Most of the time we are like the fish. We are swimming in a sea of possibility, but its too close for us to see it for what it is. Awareness is to personal growth as the Hubble Telescope is to space exploration. We zoom in and see the spaciousness of our inner life. We go deeper in order to see clearer whats right in front of us. Awareness is seeing life from a depth of 30,000 feet, where vision and purpose are born.
Without awareness, we flounder and drift through life. With awareness, we learn to see the potential and beauty in each moment. Like the fish, we need to both recognize who and where are now, and explore new edges of this reality.
There is a famous Zen saying, “You are perfect as you are, and you could use a little work.” The essence of an authentic life is to fully accept yourself AND seek to be more of who you are at the same time. There is always more YOU to discover and become just as fish never swim in the same water twice.
The same is true in relation to changing the world. It is what it is, the perfect culmination of all that led to this moment AND it needs a little work to become all it can be. So the challenge is to accept all that is AND to participate in creating a better future for all. Awareness is the key ingredient to discern the difference between surrendering to what is and changing what needs to be changed is awareness.
Awareness Asks Why
Awareness is powerful. With awareness, you see clearly; both the strengths and weaknesses in yourself and in systems. Awareness reminds you of what makes you happy, what enrages you and what gets you out of bed in the morning. In terms of change, wisdom is knowing what to do next, awareness is knowing why it’s important, skill is knowing how to do it, and integrity is following through and actually doing it.
Why is a powerful question. Why creates a frame for all your whats, whens, wheres, whos and hows. Think about the power of why.
If your why is clear, you WILL find a way.
If your why excites you, you WILL find a how.
If your why is clear AND excites you, you will solve any what, trust every when, meet all the right whos, find all the right wheres, and overcome any challenging how.
And if you feel like you’ve been clear about your WHYS, and the whats and wherefores have not gone your way, this itself is likely taking you to a deeper WHY.
Kids understand this well- why, but why, but why, but why…… Kids understand something that we easily forget as adults. The power of why.
Why can be used for good or ill. When its used for good, its directed forward. When its used for ill, its directed backwards. An insatiable why that is directed backwards wants answers to questions that only lead to suffering- like why me? Why then? Why did he do that to me? These whys lead to anxiety. A persistent why that is directed forwards seeks answers to questions that open up new questions- like why do I feel this? Why am I feeling this NOW? Why is this important? And why do I care? These whys lead to clarity which gives you peace of mind.
The power of whys is that they make you wise with awareness. They take you close to the essence of WHO you are, maybe even to the source of life itself.
Now back to the fish. David Foster Wallace picked up the same analogy in his commencement address at Kenyon College in 2005
The capital-T Truth is about life BEFORE death.
It is about the real value of a real education, which has almost nothing to do with knowledge, and everything to do with simple awareness; awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over:
“This is water.”
“This is water.”
It is unimaginably hard to do this, to stay conscious and alive in the adult world day in and day out.
Its hard, but not impossible. Start by pausing to feel this very moment, become aware of who you are and who you are becoming. Wake up. This is it. Life is right here and now. Make sure you are living it fully.