The art of becoming aware

by | Sep 3, 2013 | Sisters of Charity

E-Voc-9-13“Have you ever driven somewhere only to arrive at the destination and wonder how you got there? Scary, isn’t it?”wrotes Sr. Jamet Gildea, SC in the September 2013 edition of E-Voc. In addition to her feature reflections there are pieces devoted to mentoring and rich resources the practice of awareness.

How can we be so purposeful while paying so little attention? We must be attending to details at some level or we would get lost or have more accidents than we do. We’ve all seen the highway warning signs: “Drive now. Talk or text later.” Even if we’re not talking or texting, we can be pre-occupied to an extent that we are surprised to find ourselves at our destination.

When they are one-third of the way through the 21-week program, members of an Engaging Spirituality group ( participate in a “Retreat on the Street.” The process includes a three-hour block of time downtown together, in silence for the most part, simply observing and being present in a contemplative way toward their surroundings. They are invited to journal about what they see and hear. When they come together again, the participants share their reflections. It is most interesting to discover the differences in what people have seen and heard in the exact same location.

Awareness is a discipline that can be learned, a skill that can be developed. But like any skill, it requires practice, and practice takes time. It might be best to begin with a simple daily commitment that you can attach to an established routine. Choose a time when you are not likely to be a) in a big hurry b) sleepy or c) hungry! Carve out a five- or 10-minute space when you can disconnect from everything and sit comfortably. Set your phone to keep the time.

First, give the time to God. Whatever distractions or disruptions occur, your intention is to become more aware and available to God in the moment.

Second, breathe in and out slowly, focusing on the gift of each inspiration and the release of every exhale. Trace the movement of the air inward and outward.

Third, allow your gaze to take in your surroundings with appreciation. Notice the colors, the movements, the lights and shadows.

Fourth, close your eyes and listen. Hear the sounds beginning with the loudest, sifting them to the more subtle sounds, ending with the sound of your own breath.

Finally, with the return to a focus on your breath, allow yourself to be alert but very still, conscious and open to the world around you, aware of the unique place you hold in the vastness of creation.

This is a very simple practice. It flows from a desire to be aware of the gift of the present moment, to disengage from regrets that hold you in the past and worries that invade from the future. Being intentional about noticing and receiving life in this way will deepen your capacity for reverence and awe. God is waiting to be discovered in the present moment. As The Family Circus cartoonist Bil Keane wrote, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present.”


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