Imagine someone picking up a book, perhaps one of the great classics, but they cannot read. All they see is black squiggly lines on white pages. This book is meaningless for this person. Because it is meaningless it has no value and can easily be discarded.
Now imagine a highly skilled reader picking up that book. That same book now has a wide range of qualities that it didn’t have for the first person.
There are characters and events that generate a complex and fascinating world of images and meaning and will probably generate a wide range of emotional responses that did not and could not exist for the first person.
In this way it has become something much more, something very different, and something of much greater value. If we think of our experiences of our self, of others, and of the world we live in as a book, people generally seem to be very poor readers.
The information they are able to access is very limited, and therefore has little meaning and value. Let me be clear about what I am saying. Most people, if asked, would of course be able to identify what they are thinking about, how they are feeling, what they are looking at, etc.
But oddly enough, it is only when someone actually asks us what is going on in our mind that we tend to really notice.
Herein lies the problem.
Only rarely do we actually become aware of where our mind is at. So this otherwise reasonably accessible level of understanding is typically restricted from our awareness.
And it is restricted primarily only because we generally don’t pay attention to it. As a result, a great deal of potential learning opportunities go unrecognized by us.
This potentially valuable information, as a source of knowing about our self, is generally not accessed and thus not utilized by the average person.
As I have discussed in previous articles relationships, there are two fundamental and critical relationships we need to pay attention to: The relationship we have with our self, and the relationship we have with others and the outside world.
Most people don’t pay attention to either, and, I would argue, don’t even know how to pay attention. In many ways, we have as much understanding of our self and the world out there, as does someone who has a book in their hands but doesn’t know how to read.
If we really want to know about either of these relationships, we have to learn to be mindful. Learning how to pay attention properly is crucial to understanding our self and others.
This idea will be discussed and expanded in other articles released around the subject of mindfulness.