I wrote already of awareness in terms of being aware of problems and issues in one’s life. However this time I’m thinking of awareness in terms of simply being aware of one’s self in the world. Yoda’s basic criticism of Luke came to mind:
“All his life has he looked away… to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was! What he was doing!”
I’ve been reading Thomas Merton’s journals and one thing I find is that every day is not filled with some kind of inspirational masterpiece or heavy thought on life or whatever. Often it’s simply what’s going on:
“The sun, the clear morning, the quiet…” June 3&4, 1963
“Brilliance of Venus hanging as it were on one of the dim horns of Scorpio. Frozen snow. Deep wide blue-brown tracks of the tractor that came to get my gas tank the other day…” Jan 5, 1968
When I started CPE I saw awareness as being aware of what was going on with me at that time. And that’s fine, but I’m seeing more that awareness involves not a narrow focus on me, but on me in the world. I’m getting used to not putting on the iPod when I go out for walks.
I’m even a bit self conscious as I write this, knowing that this sounds a bit like navel-gazing or flaky or something. But I’m appreciating the experience.
I see more and more that simply being aware of something isn’t enough.
CPE is a lot about finding your weaknesses as as well as your strengths. I think most people find that it’s about their weaknesses and “issues”. But CPE is just as much about uncovering your strengths. For me it’s been an experience of uncovering both and accepting both. However, simply being aware of something is not enough.
Awareness of an issue involves acceptance of it, but that only gets you so far. That’s the starting point, not the end. You then need to decide what you are going to do with your issue. Realize that any particular issue has two sides to it – not just all bad or all good. Then look at how you are going to use this issue in a positive way while trying to limit the negatives.
For example, I tend to be extremely hard on myself at times. The upside of this is that I tend to work hard and set high standards for myself. The downside is that I can set the bar too high and then beat myself up for not clearing it. Awareness is being able to say that I’m hard on myself, but the problem is that I’m still overly hard on myself. I can stop there and learn to live with myself, or I can change the downside of it. Thankfully this is what I’ve been doing, and I’m so much the better for it!
I know someone who has gone through four units of CPE, which is pretty advanced. She’ll talk about her issues as if she has mastery of them. Yet these issues still continue, and there doesn’t seem to be any movement to do anything with them or change them. Any change involves a loss, and a fear of what that loss will cost. And when that loss is part of what we sense to be our selves, that change can be very intimidating. Better to live with the devil you know than the devil you don’t, especially when you’ve been living with that devil for 40-some years.
Sin works in the same way. To simply be aware of sin is one thing, to turn from it is another. And God calls us ultimately to turn from sin, not just be aware that we are a sinner. We fall into the same traps however. We fear change, we beat ourselves up for failing to turn from sin, or we feel that change is impossible so why bother.
Change does not need to be complete right out of the gate. Turning from sin – or our issues – is a lifetime event. It is done, and constantly being done.