A friend of mine was recently talking about the time she found out about the problems in her eyesight in high school. She said that she felt so calm after putting on her prescription glasses and going to school because she could now see all the numbers and letters clearly on the board. She continued by saying: “Then I turned around and looked out the window. I noticed the leaves on the trees. What really surprised wasn’t being able to see each leaf separately. I was surprised because all this time I wasn’t aware that I couldn’t see them.”
I was really moved by this conversation. Especially because I had begun to doubt that this awareness thing that became such a hot topic lately wasn’t as easy or automatic as we thought it was. Even noticing eyesight problems didn’t happen on the first day that the sight became imperfect. Getting used to our surroundings, slowly understanding the nature of our experiences is an existential well that we find ourselves falling into. And we can’t seem to get out of it until we reach the limit of our patience. Sometimes we can’t get out of it even when we’ve consumed all our resources. Sometimes it’s more familiar or comfortable to stay there.
So, I think that it’s not as easy or automatic as we might think to do what this popular concept of awareness asks of us. It’s not just about choosing to be aware of the flavors in the first bite of a burger or the smell of soil after the rain or the sense of a soft fabric on our skin. In all the instances that we choose not to be aware, what are we protecting ourselves from, what are we choosing to deprive ourselves of, what are we distracting ourselves with? I think the limits of awareness do not expand when we become aware of an object or a person. They begin to expand when we give ourselves the space to think why we haven’t been aware of something until that moment.