In previous articles on Mindfulness, I have suggested that most people have only a limited awareness of their own experiences. Rather than utilizing our capacity to be aware of and learn from those experiences we are effectively blind to most of them, and don’t even know we are doing this. This article examines one of the implications of how this limited approach to our own experiences effects our lives.
My “world” as I know it and respond to it comes from my experiences of that world. Similarly, who “I am for you” is the sum total of the many complex and varied experiences you are having of me when we are together and how you act towards (or against me) flows inexorably out of those experiences. While those momentary experiences and actions arise as a result of a vast number of historical, social, biological and intrapersonal factors, I am concerned here with the degree to which we are more or less conscious of those experiences.
If I am not conscious of who you are for me, then what do I really know about you? What can I say about you? If I am not conscious of my experiences of you in the moment of our being together and of my reactions to being in your presence, then what sense can I make of those reactions and how could I possibly explain them to you if you asked.
From a larger perspective, if I am out of touch with how I am experiencing you and how I am experiencing my world, then who am I? And if my life is not working for me, or I want to improve it, how can I even begin to start making informed and wise choices about this.
Generally, when our world or relationships are not progressing smoothly we try to “think” our way through this. We sit down with our self and try to rationally assess what is going on, how we have behaved or reacted to a situation, what others have done to us and so on. While this effort is better than simply blaming someone or something else, or not even worrying about what has happened, it is unlikely to be of much help in actually addressing the situation.
Trying to recollect and think about such complex and complicated processes after they have happened is a notoriously problematic way of making sense of events . If you have not been paying close and careful attention to your experiences as they were occurring, you will have to reconstruct them from memory. Trying to recall what happened some time ago and then converting that limited and selective information into a certain form of rational-logic we call thinking has to result in a distorted if not inappropriate assessment of the situation.
There is a very high probability that the choices and actions flowing from this process will lead to further complications and/or conflict and then it becomes even more difficult if not impossible to resolve. Such is the situation most of us face on a daily basis.
If I am confused about who I am, who you are and what I am doing, and you are equally confused then what kind of relationship can we have? How can I possibly relax with myself in a world that fundamentally doesn’t make sense. No wonder people feel anxious and can eventually get depressed about their life and their relationships.
Surely there has to be a better way.
I think there is a better way, a more useful and productive path to follow and hope that the articles on Mindfulness will begin to present that way. I encourage feedback and responses to what I am writing and look forward to some dialogue on this issue.