In the last decade mindfulness has made the transition from a spiritual niche practice to an accepted mainstream norm, popular with anyone looking to enhance their life and wellbeing. But could our focus on mindfulness be leading us to miss out on something else, something bigger and all-encompassing… like awareness?
Gary Douglas, thought-leader, author, and founder of Access Consciousness believes so. Here he speaks about the difference between mindfulness and awareness and importance of self awareness in relationships. He shares how accessing awareness allow us to access infinite possibilities in our life, and in our relationships.
Erica: So, Gary, your interpretation of mindfulness is a little different to the one held by the world at large — can you tell us more about that?
Gary Douglas: Sure, I can. First, know that I’m not here to judge mindfulness or label anyone who practices it as ‘wrong’. I’m simply inviting you to ask, could mindfulness be limiting? I happen to think it is — but you don’t have to.
One of the limitations of mindfulness is in the term itself. In doing mindfulness, the emphasis is on using the mind to pay attention to everything in our environment. From my point of view, this confines us in two ways.
The first is that the mind only ever allows us to perceive and experience what we already know. By definition alone, that’s a limitation.
The second is that the mind functions from judgment — in other words, it’s very good at discerning what is right and wrong or good and bad. It keeps us in an endless state of trying to feel, think, do or be the right thing or not do the wrong thing.
That’s not true choice and doesn’t give us access to all of our capacities. Awareness is what allows us to access all of those capacities.
Erica: How does awareness allow us to access all the capabilities that you spoke of earlier?
Gary Douglas: Awareness is the natural ability we all have to be totally present with every detail of a moment while also being completely aware of the environment around us. It’s a space of being rather than something thing we do. When you are being aware you get to do and be everything without cutting off any part of you what is true for you.
Crucially, in awareness, there’s zero judgment. Everything exists, and nothing is judged. Once you function from everything is just an interesting point of view possibilities become available. Choice is creation and that’s the key to freedom everyone has but no one wants to know they have available.
Erica: How does awareness tie in with relationships? Can it improve them?
Gary Douglas: Absolutely. When you’re in awareness, you’re out of judgment. You have no burning desire to be right about anything. Instead, you choose to have an interesting point of view about everything. Without judgment you actually get clarity and a sense of ease in moments of conflict.
So why is self awareness important in relationships? Letting go of judgment is hard for some, especially those who are addicted to being right (or even wrong) about things.
The bottom line is this: you can be right, or you can be free. Which choice will create more for your future? Which choice will create more for your relationship?
The other contribution awareness can make to a relationship is that it keeps you in the present. The past no longer holds the same validity and you can be with your partner moment by moment, choosing them moment by moment. You’re not there out of habit, or routine — but choice. Hence as an individual you should develop self-awareness and improve your relationships.
Erica: How can we develop our awareness?
Gary Douglas: Step One has to be to stop dividing the world up into good and bad, and start seeing everything as an interesting point of view and ask what does this choice create?
Saying, or thinking, Interesting point of view, I have this point of view to every judgment you encounter — whether that judgment is yours or someone else’s — will get you present with what is faster than anything else I know. It will get you into that space of presence where you perceive what’s truly available to you in any given moment. That’s awareness.
Step Two is a lot easier when you’ve got Step One down. Step Two is to live as the question. Naturally that’s easier when you’re no longer doing judgment because judgment is all about answers and conclusions.
Erica: How do we live as the question?
Gary Douglas:Living as the question means being willing to look at what our choices will create, away from any sense of them being good or bad for us. It’s when we stop categorizing that we open the door to true choice and possibility.
Practice by looking at any situation in your life from the perspective of, If I choose this, what will my life (or relationship) be like in five years? Or ten, or twenty?
Living as the question might be a strange concept to get your head around… so don’t! If your head could have figured everything out it would have done so already. Just be willing to ask and forget trying to find answers.
Ask, and perceive. Try it now:
What would you like to create in your life? And in your relationship?
What is possible that you haven’t yet chosen?
What actions can you take today to create the future you desire?
Forget judging whether you’re doing it right. There are no right results. There are no wrong results. There’s just the question that creates choice. Choice is your greatest source of possibility, and that’s the greatest gift that awareness brings.