Awareness First!

Whenever we come across an obstacle or a situation beyond our desire, the logic process leads to a single bottom line conclusion: “education”, and we end up saying “education first!” Although by education we refer to learning and acquiring technical skills, in essence we consider ‘education’ with a much broader coverage that encompasses the thought, attitude, and behavior. In other words, education today, idealistically, involves redesigning thought, reshaping attitude, and behavior modification.

The 20 years of teaching experience have confirmed me that “education first!” is the motto, among other ones, like “education for all”, education for girls”, etc. Nevertheless, I believe human kind needs a phenomenon other than education. In deed, we are within such a situation that, despite beginning with “first in first, …”, we are unable to complete with “education”. Unfortunately, education on its own is not enough of a remedy to solve today’s problems. We need a supplementing element as complement. That is “awareness!” For social growth and welfare, awareness is crucial!

I invite you to think of the big explorations, inventions, and innovations that have occurred in the history of mankind. For sure, thanks to education, Homo sapiens have advanced and still been progressing immensely. Nonetheless, attributing all that development and success to education only would have been a big giant fault! We need to give credit to the process of attention, observation, intention, awareness, analysis, and acceptance people have put forward. You may notice that these steps to success overlap with the mindfulness principles –attention, awareness, non-judgmental observation, intention, and acceptance.

Why don’t we take some examples from history? The Wright brothers, for instance, are the two young brothers who have been dwelling with bicycle production, with no engineering education whatsoever. Today they are noted in history as the first people to fly. Or, despite been said to “have learning difficulties” and “being not so intelligent”, Einstein’s scientific theories (e.g. the famous theory of relativity, gravity, quantum description of light) today have all been proven one after the other. Newton, on the other hand, if he hadn’t been aware of the apple falling down, or hadn’t paid the attention and analyze despite his awareness, how would we be considering weight or gravity?

History is full of such examples. Now the question is, what is the ground to these people’s success? Education…?!

Education is not the learning of new facts. But training the mind to think

–Albert Einstein.

In deed, today, education has partial contribution to success. Education needs to be beyond teaching facts, but redesigning minds, thoughts, and the ability to effectively use them. Many of the innovations in the past have relied on careful analysis, observation, and attention on their tasks. Today, for success of any kind, in addition to education, people need to more carefully observe and analyze. These, in many ways overlap with the mindfulness principles.

Looking from mindfulness perspective, scientists and innovators need to rely more on their high level of attention and awareness; their curios and patient-focused-attention on phenomena; and their non-judgmental and accepting attitude towards situations at hand. Such attitude have given Thomas Edison the strength to experiment over and over again, for a thousand times, until he created the light bulb. For some, thousand times of failure, however for Edison it has been thousand times of opportunity for exploration; “I have not failed 1,000 times. I have successfully discovered 1,000 ways to not make a light bulb.”

Well, we are not expected to be an Einstein, Newton, Wright, or Edison, nor be in the pages of history books. However, in narrating our own life, for a successful and satisfactory story, attention and awareness is a must! Recalling Jon Kabat-Zinn’s words “as if our life depends on it”, we have got be aware and know ourselves; understand and manage our thoughts, attitude, and behavior. In order to be aware of our interests, skills, ambitions and goals, the resources that we have and need, and the foundational values that lead our life, we simply need to pay enough time and attention to observing, analyzing, and non-judgmentally accepting what the present moment presents us.

So, simply, relax and enjoy being in here and now!


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