3a-6-ten-steps-to-self-awarenessAlan Briskin | Jo Lee Magazine





Path To Self Awareness

Awareness Six




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 sixth step is the ability to DISTINGUISH.  


What are we distinguishing?  


We are distinguishing self from others.  We are becoming more fully aware of our  boundaries, how we are separate from others yet deeply interconnected. By distinguishing well, we develop a capacity to moderate excessive distancing from others without collapsing into some form of false merger with them.  We become aware of differences between empathic over-arousal, compassion, and being so distant we simply become numb or uncaring.


The Dali Lama tells the story of a man, walking in the forest, who comes upon a person trapped under a huge boulder.  The man trapped under the boulder is beginning to panic and has trouble breathing.  Empathic over-arousal would mean that the man not trapped by the boulder also begins to panic, has trouble breathing and ultimately is unable to help.  Alternately, a person distancing him or herself from the situation would simply keep walking on. Compassion would mean helping to remove the boulder.  Compassion suggests a degree of distance, close enough to connect us to the suffering but not so close that we mistake ourselves for the person suffering.





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