Path To Self Awareness

Awareness Four, Five




I am told that Buddhist sutras open with the word Nyozgamon, which means ‘I heard it like this.’ 


What I like about these five words is that they make room for the listener to reflect back what was heard while still adding new depth and meaning. 


Many years ago I heard a wonderful talk by the Buddhist teacher Joan Halifax on the ten steps toward self awareness.  These steps are hidden from the eye but available to everyone.  We can practice each step separately but when joined together, they become powerful tools for transformation.




The fourth step is CULTIVATION.  


What are we cultivating? 


We are cultivating the capacity for moral sensitivity and judgment.  Self awareness is advanced when we recognize that right action is not prescribed for us; it is a personal act of conscience grounded in understanding.


When we cultivate moral judgment, we are going beneath the surface of things to understand the interconnectedness of life.  We are seeing beyond appearances or the simple duality of this or that.  Moral sensitivity leads us to continually ask how we are being affected by others and how are others being affected by our thoughts and actions. By practicing this form of careful discernment, we become more decisive in our actions and better able to articulate the basis for our decisions.




The fifth step on the path of self awareness is WITNESSING.  


What are we witnessing? 


We are witnessing, in the role of disciplined observer, our interior thoughts and reactions.  We are observing how our mind functions in response to others and our particular circumstances.  When we seek harmony, do we find ourselves more irritated?  When we wish to assert ourselves, do we notice  feelings arise of aggression or competition?  When we are praised, do we become shy or inflated?  A disciplined observer does not judge but rather, over time, sees patterns of behavior.


These patterns become part of a meta cognitive perspective, an ability to see beyond isolated behaviors to a web of relationships. This witnessing capacity functions as a kind of lubrication for consciousness, loosening our attachment to particular thought patterns or reflexive ways of defending a particular view of ourselves. We become more at ease with a “self that watches over” the mind’s activities.



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