Tag Archive for: awareness

Accept or Perish!…

There are times when we are so deeply consumed with our issues, we forget the little detail that the universe surrounding us is vast, and we are so very small. Reflecting on its vastness, compared to our tiny being, our lives –joys and sorrows, success and concerns, certainties and confusions, or solutions and conflicts, can all seem utterly insignificant. Within this cosmic perspective, what we experience may seem totally insignificant; however from an individual perspective, it is our reality that we cannot ignore. What a dilemma! In one hand is our insignificance in the face of the universe; on the other, there is the reality of our being. What can we do? Is there a balance? Is there a way where we can be significant despite our size in the universe? Yes, there is! Accept!


To accept whatever is, and whatever may be… That is, whether good or bad, big or small, pleasant or unpleasant, success or failure, accepting whatever there is in our reality. Acceptance gives us a moment of free breath and feeds us with new energy to move on. It creates an infrastructure to generating new alternatives; producing constructive choices; bringing healthy decision-making into the reality. Accepting, in essence, is stepping one step back from the reality, gaining clarity of vision and strategy, and stepping a few steps forward for firmer and more desired way of action taking. The counter attitude to acceptance is resistance, where we resist breathing, thinking, and trying to stop whatever there is.


You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”    – Jon Kabat-Zinn


In between these backward-forward steps, there are a few fundamental principles involved: intention, attitude and receptiveness. In previous articles, I have discussed how intention and attitude determine our course of life at any particular move or action (click for articles: How Would You Want to Lead Your Life? Accidentally or Intentionally… & Show Me Your Attitude, I’ll Show You The Way!); and how a receptive attention and awareness brings joy and marvels into our life (Attention to ‘Attention’). While intention guides us with the direction (goal/objective), attitude guides us within the process, and receptiveness brings us clear detailed vision. It is our choice whether to be judgmental, resistant, or accepting the reality at hand. We can either go on struggling with the waves/storms in our life, through resisting or ignoring their existence; or learn to find ways for survival by accepting the blunt fact of their presence! Thus, intention and a non-judgmental, receptive accepting attitude go hand in hand.


So what is acceptance? It is a concept derived from the word “accept” that has a much broader sense that it actually reveals. Etymologically it roots to the Latin word acceptare (accipere) that means “take something to oneself”, “take or receive willingly”, or “get or receive without effort.” Giving a little more thought, in a context where there is acceptance, there is naturally receptiveness! Hence, acceptance involves acts of receiving in return to giving; where in deep sense it as well involves many other related attitudes: forgive, forget, understand, empathize, embrace, let go, and let be!


Let’s think of the simplest example of acceptance. Imagine a beautiful gift that you receive. It is beyond your thought –in size, value, or fit. You are dazzled with delight! You love it! What would you do? Accept it with gratitude; say “Thank you!”; perhaps reciprocate with a kind gesture of sending flowers. Now I invite to think of a situation that a genuine friend complements you on how well you balance your work and personal life, that you create strong connections with people around you, and you maintain a positive outlook towards life. How would you respond? You would probably accept them all, with open heart! This time I invite you to consider your supervisor/manager at work, the teacher at school, the not-so-friendly neighbor next door, or the distant family relative giving you a “strong” feedback telling you that you do not balance your work and personal life well; you do not create strong connections with people around you, and you do not maintain a positive outlook towards life… What would your reaction be? Would you open heartedly accept them all; even ask for more?!


Your acceptance would probably not be as easy as in the first case. Why? Of course the feedback giver has a lot to do with your response. In general, within a deep authentic relationship, we have a more accepting attitude towards the feedback we receive. Nonetheless, does it really matter where it comes from; or the content –whether positive or negative? In fact it doesn’t, at all! There are many people who struggle with receiving positive or negative feedback; specifically on how good they look, how beautiful they are in a particular outfit, or how nice is their new style. Instead of simply saying a genuine “Thank you…” they try to find justifications to their positive look. It is mostly due to lack of self-awareness and self-acknowledgement. I know it, because I used to be one! Therefore, it is not about our response towards feedback, but it is our capacity in embracing ourselves as we are, accepting ourselves with our highs and lows, success and flaws, together with our insecurities and ultimately being whole. Brian Tracy says that the greatest gift we can give others is our unconditional love and acceptance; and I add that before expecting others giving us that gift, we can give it to ourselves: unconditionally accepting and loving ourselves!


Even though we are all equipped with the competence of unconditional love and acceptance, why is it that we cannot accept ourselves, others and things around us as they are? From the mindfulness perspective, where acceptance is directly related with attention, awareness, receptiveness, intention, and attitude, we have the tendency to label most stimuli as good or bad, with a judgmental attitude that resists whatever is coming. In fact we do so for the sake of protecting ourselves from the bad. Just like any double-sided sword, while we attempt to block ourselves from the negative, at the same degree we sterilize ourselves from the positive. Remember, everything comes in dualities, once we shut to one; we shut ourselves to the other! Simpler to say, labeling and having a deterministic conclusion, we eliminate the possibility towards a positive tendency. In other words, once we do not free ourselves from labeling in any way, we prevent our attention and awareness to be receptive enough to catch the stimuli that may help us generate potential alternatives, choices and marvels of what life has to offer. Literally, we shut our eyes, ears, and sensory skills to all the wonders of life.


On the other hand, when we are able to accept, we come to a point of surrendering, where we no more resist or struggle. At that very moment, because we are not resistant to whether good or bad, we become more receptive to the agents that we may make use of; we grow to be aware of their presence; we develop our mind to be aware of the potential they may bring in our life; and finally we are better able to set our course of actions towards our intention. So, while acceptance opens us new possibilities and ultimately chances for life; resistance and non-acceptance closes us doors, pathways, and ultimately takes us to the a dead-end route towards perishing. I am sure that knowing this simple fact may be valuable in choosing to accepting path rather than perishing!


P.S. This piece of article has attempted to touch and be a channel to understanding acceptance as a concept. Obviously, neither words nor articles are enough to deeply analyze its essence. It would take ages to thoroughly study and understand, perhaps through the Zen philosophy of the East –Mindfulness; the philosophical understanding of the Jewish traditions –Kabbalah (an ancient spiritual wisdom that seeks to understand and describe the divine living and being, guiding individuals and the world as a whole to improve); or through the mysticism within Islam –Sufism (seeks the Truth through experiencing the selflessness of the truth). Distinctively, Kabbalah, the word itself, etymologically means ‘receipt’ or ‘acceptance’, from the Hebrew root kabel (lekabel as verb). Against all backgrounds, it is obvious that all mystic philosophies seek for a better living and a healthier being of all kind. So as should we!


Do You Know What You Don’t Know?

Throughout the history of mankind, human beings –mostly philosophers have questioned the essence of knowledge, our thought systems, and how we process information. Perhaps, Socrates’ phrase “All I know I know nothing” is one of the best known philosophical quotes of all times. Socrates, in essence, emphasizes that one cannot know anything with absolute certainty, but can feel confident about certain things. However, within a philosophical perspective, it is open discussion, especially when analyzing how we know what we know. I will be discussing the Theory of Knowledge within the attention and awareness (mindfulness) perspective; attempting to explain how mindfulness may be related in the mechanisms of learning –that is, the transfer of information into knowledge.

Today, information and knowledge has become the most valuable asset. Despite its abstract form, it has more value than any tangible agent –such as land, machinery, etc. Looking back in history, during technological revolution era (20th century) it was the weapons, vehicles, and tools; in the industrial revolution era (19th century) it was the machinery; and in the medieval era (13th-18th century) it was the land that majorly seen as the most valuable asset for the power holders. Today, none of the tangible agents -land, machinery or technological vehicles, is as worth as the agents that involve information and knowledge. This argument justifies itself even more, when considering current leading companies –Uber, Airbnb, Facebook, Whatsapp, Google, etc., whose market worth rely on the basis of information and knowledge they manage. When looking into future, the power agent is transforming towards information, knowledge, management of “Big Data” and a collective knowledge. Soon, not later than 20 years, we will be sharing and “enjoying” our life with the artificial intelligent (AI), where robots will be replacing our jobs, and possession of information and knowledge will no longer be the valid asset.

I feel your sense of frustration and sense of helplessness from afar. We either shut our eyes to it, or accept the bitter truth of the reality. If you are interested in getting more into it, I recommend you Noah Yuval Harari’s latest talk at the World Economic Forum 2018, at the link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hL9uk4hKyg4. Nonetheless, with all the bitter truth, while the world has its own pace of development, my intention is to shed a light and share a bright-sight on what’s available for us, and what we can do in regards to information and knowledge.

Another weirdly bitter truth that made me utterly surprised to find is the “not so recent” developments in the field of Epistemology (Theory of Knowledge). Scientists –such as Jean Piaget, Joseph Jaworski, Ernst von Glaserfeld, Jere Confrey, have proposed that the knowledge we possess actually may not be absolutely correct, asserting that knowledge is subjective. They explain the theory of knowledge, as well as the mechanisms of learning within a Constructivist approach. This approach sees learners as active agents, who construct and internalize new knowledge based on their observation, interaction, and experience with objects, rather than passively receiving from the environment. It is how we transfer information to knowledge. Since this process is based on “experiential reality”, that differs from person to person, knowledge is regarded as subjective. So, according to the “new” understanding of knowledge and learning, what we know might not be absolutely true; whereby we better constantly revise our knowledge through seeking validation. But how?

The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know”                                                                                                   – Albert Einstein

Is there a way we can know what we don’t know? What does “I don’t know that I don’t know” mean? How can we be aware of our knowledge? Sounds like a trap: you do not know that you do not know! This trap-like state brings to mind Albert Einstein’s famous words –“The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.” This, in fact, knowing what we know, as well as knowing what we don’t know, is only the open and clearly visible tip of a giant iceberg. Underneath lays a whole world of the unknown!

So, the key to bringing what’s in the unknown onto surface is attention and awareness. It is our awareness that keeps us at the clear open space, and our attention that assists us in the mechanism of processing information. In order to widen our awareness of knowledge, we need to pay attention to the pieces of information scattering around us. It is easier said than done! Because, while constantly bombarded with information –valuable or useless, we either give attention to, or ignore what’s approaching. Our attitude –attention or ignoring, changes over context, needs, interests, or even sometimes coincidence. We frequently find ourselves randomly come across various streams of information –such as a billboard, book cover, paper headline, social media post, web link, or a word of mouth, that have a triggering effect on our attention towards transforming a piece of information into knowledge.

The process goes through the four stages of learning, called conscious competence. James Atherton has explained this process using a self-awareness tool that is used for better understanding others and ourselves (Johari Window – Joe Luft and Harry Ingham, 1955). Atherton, modeled the Johari window for the “knowing and not knowing” issue, explains knowledge within the conscious competence framework (see figure below). Most learning (knowledge acquisition) takes place when we get to a conscious competence from a conscious incompetence level; or move from the “knowing that we don’t know” area (Blind) to “knowing that we know” area (Clear).


Now just think of a time you had a weird physical or emotional sensation bothering you: you were aware of it, however you did not know what the feeling exactly was; or could not name it. When giving enough attention and awareness, you could come to the stage of consciously identifying the feeling, and become to feel and know the sensation you were surrounded with.

The “knowing and not knowing issue”, within the four stages of competence


While the above example is an easy one, a more complex and challenging task is identifying a physical or emotional sensation that is there within, however you are neither aware nor know of its existence. This is hidden in the Unknown area. Imagine a stressful and tough day. You have gone through unpleasant experiences, and finally are at the end of the day, sitting “calmly” eating your dinner. All of a sudden you begin feeling stiffness on your shoulders and back, uneasy turning your head sideways. This sensation is most probably an outcome of the stressful day you had. By the time you had it, you most probably had experienced some sort of tension at your muscles, however you neither sensed it, nor knew of it. It was there all along, but hidden, at the unconscious incompetence level. The tension revealed itself with a much worse pain, unexpectedly, grabbing your attention. Starting from that moment, the pain (piece of information) has been a triggering agent to revive your awareness towards finding its source and remedy.

We may generate plenty more examples to refer to our unconscious incompetence level. For instance, have you ever done mountain climbing, or scuba diving; written a book in Chinese, or a movie script; maybe baked a wedding cake, or a royal meal? You have no idea whether you know how to do them, or if you have any interest at all. You might want to learn and do them. Interesting part is that, the idea itself might have not even occurred to you until you read the above lines.

This unknown unconscious incompetence area is as deep as the ocean. Millions of ideas, activities, or competencies are hidden deep in there. It all depends on a “random” stimulus to get your attention tangled towards an idea, realization, or point of attraction that would lead you towards the conscious incompetence. Once an idea, a piece of information, or a skill-set drop into the conscious incompetence area (Blind), it provides the opportunity of knowledge acquisition, that would widen the clear are. Of course, it is up to our choice and interest, to go forward in the observation, interaction, and experience process of constructing knowledge. At this point we may move on to the Clear area, or stay at the Blind. Such path of transfer is applicable for all sorts of skills and competence –manual, cognitive, and physical. For further read on “knowing what you know issue” click the link to Atherton’s article http://doceo.org.uk/tools/knowing.htm.

If you have read so far till the end, you deserve the truth about what “knowing what we know” issue is connected with today. Or why it is important to be aware of. Today, knowledge and managing information is the agent of power. To be strongly accountable in holding this power, one first needs to know him/herself, be attentive and aware of own skills and competences; and later be competent to know and manage others. Mindfulness –attention and awareness– practices are among the most powerful tools to bring what’s hidden in the unknown area, which may lead the individual to conscious competence through self-exploration.

Hence, in your next meditation session, I invite you to let the meditation process surface and reveal what there is hidden within the Unknown. Let yourself explore the unexpected stimulus to reveal itself, give your focused attention to it, as the Zen Philosophy says “sit on it” with awareness. This attention and awareness to a new piece of information will guide you towards clarity, to the Clear zone. Hence, you’ll be transferring that piece of information into knowledge through exploring, observing, interacting, and experiencing.

Enjoy it!


How Would You Want to Lead Your Life? Accidentally or Intentionally…

“To be or not to be! That is the question!” These are Hamlet’s famous words, in his overthinking between the two extremes –life and death. He essentially questions the very purpose of his existence, seeking the meaning in living. Shakespeare, genius of all times, may have not been aware that Hamlet’s quotes would be valid for all times. However, it seems that it is so! Don’t we all find ourselves, every now and then, questioning the meaning of our existence, and often wonder our life purpose. In my perspective, what happens between birth and death is the essence of life, so we better make the best of it. And our very existence lies on our intentions: the intention to live, to explore, to learn, to enjoy, and to make the best of it!

“Our intention creates our reality.”  – Wayne Dyer

You might be wondering how… Before getting to that, first we better clarify what intention entails. Intention is directly linked with a purposeful life, as Carol Ryff explains, that involves clear comprehension of own goals and sense of direction. According to Jon Kabat-Zinn it represents the act of engaging and responding with a purpose. We give direction to our life, set goals, and choose what to happen and experience through our intentional acts. Every choice we make –or do not, involves some sort of intention that determines the course of life. It is the seed that creates the future.

Think of the last meeting you had at work; or the last conversation you made with someone. How did it go; or what did you start with? Do you think you had a total random course of direction and result, or you had a purposeful set of ideas and actions towards a desired outcome? Most probably it was purposeful –intentional, rather than –accidental! It is the intention with which we sit at a meeting or engage in a conversation, that determines the desired outcome. As Gary Zukav states, we continually perform, consciously or unconsciously “fundamental creative acts” that are relied on choice of intention, and create consequences, which the chooser takes on responsibility.

Intention is the seed, action is the plant, and outcome is the flower!

In concrete cases, such as business plans, we are more clearly aware about our intentions, both in terms of setting them and putting them into action. However, in cases where emotional aspects are involved –such as an unresolved conflict within ourselves or with someone we care for, we are less aware of our intentions. Unconsciously skipping the intention-action steps, we may find ourselves ending up with the outcome, unaware how we got there! At that point, if we are happy with the result, we get to be lucky; but if unhappy, we try altering the outcome.

So what do we do? Are we to live by on automatic, letting our path be determined by randomly chosen attitudes and behaviors? Or are we to take the lead and choose for ourselves; draw the paths we wish to walk through; and form the desired attitude and behavior, which will turn into action and later on to outcomes? If your pick is for the first one, no need for any action taking; keep on living as you do! However, if you prefer the latter, then read on!

“Every intention sets energy in motion, whether you are conscious of it, or not!” – Gary Zukav

Scholars such as Jon Kabat-Zinn, Shauna Shapiro, Ellen Langer, Denise Reid, etc. emphasize the importance of intention within the mindfulness field of study. They commonly propose that a mindful state of being involves a purposeful attention on what is available at the present moment. Though differently defining, they highlight intention as inseparable component: “paying attention on purpose” (Reid, 2011), “active attention to intention and awareness…” (Langer & Moldoveanu, 2000), and “attention in a particular way, on purpose…” (Kabat-Zinn, 1994). Scientific research in mindfulness show that, the act of “paying attention on purpose, in the present moment in a non-judgmental way” (Kabat-Zinn, 1994) leads to a peaceful, balanced, and relaxed state of mind; and physical, psychological and emotional health and well-being.

In colloquial terms, intention –as a vital component of mindfulness, is important for our health and well living. For a mindful state of being –or in practicing mindfulness, the activity of paying attention is suggested to involve a purpose, a goal, or a determined direction, rather than random one. Think of a short practice of mindfulness… Focusing on the breath… The action would be paying attention on the breath… The intention would be keeping the attention on the breath… Each time our mind in thoughts, ideas, or feelings drift away from the breath, we would simply be taking our attention back to the breath… While the mind would have its own agenda –as drift away to other thoughts or time and place, our job –through our self-determined intention, will be to bring it back!

Paying attention to the breath, with the intention to keep it there, is among many practices of mindfulness. In what do they serve us? They allow us to be aware of our intention. They open our sight to clearly notice our energy in motion; help us to consciously make our choices, and assume the responsibility; and finally enable us to be less surprised and more pleased with the result!

Here is a practice sample. Very simple… Sit in a comfortable seat, spine and back straight, keep your eyes closed –or half open (to avoid any stimuli taking your attention away!); let your shoulders, arms, and hands loose; and take a deep breath… Let it go… Take one more deep breath, and let it go again… Take one last breath; this time let it go slowly! Your breath is what is with you at all times, in the here and now. Use it as the anchor to the present moment. While breathing in and out, focus your attention on your breath… At each inhale, observe your chest rising; and at each exhale observe it going down… Notice the cool air you breathe in through your nostrils, and the likely warmth of the air you breathe out… When you notice that your mind has gone wandering, notice that it has wandered. Since the intention during this practice is to keep the attention on the breath, gently bring it back to your breath.

You may use a timer, programed to five minutes, and gradually increase by a minute, every two-three days. Enjoy the practice!