The development of an Aware Ego Process depends pivotally on awareness. Awareness is also called mindfulness, non-judgemental awareness, the witness or just paying attention.
Awareness is the ability to observe without judgement or a call to action, to adopt a neutral perspective with respect to one’s life, to be neutral in observation. The very idea that there can be watching without judgement is extremely novel for many people.
A torch beam is a useful analogy: it illuminates without reaction. Another one is standing on a bridge watching the river flow underneath. A third one is a projector screen that accepts all films yet is unchanged by the films themselves. A by no means final one is a window that allows sunlight through without deviation. Prior to the emergence of awareness we have experiences, notice them and sometimes reflect on them. These activities are done by the primary selves. This is not what I mean by awareness though it is difficult to see that until awareness itself arises. The mind, a primary self for most of us, observes incessantly. Additionally, many of us are brought up not to judge. We identify habitually with a strong accepting voice. With these Primary Selves the person will often refuse to judge, finding it frightening and ‘wrong’. This is also not awareness, just identification with one side of a polarity – accepting – and repression of judgement and reaction.
The first step in the development of awareness is often the conscious, deliberate development of a witness or a witness state. We intentionally develop the capacity to attend, a new tool. At this stage it is natural to say there is a witness or that I am developing mindfulness. It’s like a new personal quality. This opens up the possibility of several new kinds of insight and action.
- We begin to witness the primary selves, as well as their behaviours. This means we can let the contents of experience be. Seeing the rules rather than being the rules provides a breathing space for control and correction to subside and curiosity to develop.
- This transitional arrangement allows a virtuous circle to develop as awareness, curiosity and innovation (as new options in moving, sensing, thinking and feeling become available) co-evolve.
We continue a discussion of awareness in the next section.