Mindfulness, Clarity and Self Awareness
Mindfulness, Clarity and Self Awareness

In a way I think mindfulness, clarity and self-awareness are all the same thing, but they're not, quite. I recommend figuring out how they're different, examining them all, and then letting them melt into one thing in your thoughts and actions. If you try to melt them together before you know what they are, you might just have a waxy lump, so first... clarity.

From my handy desktop dictionary, on clarity. The third definition is what I'd like for you to think about for self-awareness purposes, but the others are good to consider along with it.



the quality of being clear, in particular
• the quality of coherence and intelligibility : for the sake of clarity, each of these strategies is dealt with separately.
• the quality of being easy to see or hear; sharpness of image or sound : the clarity of the picture.
• the quality of being certain or definite : it was clarity of purpose that he needed.
• the quality of transparency or purity : the crystal clarity of water.
ORIGIN Middle English (in the sense [glory, divine splendor] ): from Latin claritas, from clarus ‘clear.’
The current sense dates from the early 17th cent.

They don't have synonyms for the third definition above. Bummer. We might be back to inventing words. [And I object to "perspicuity" altogether, even though that word was used in a scroll text or a letter or something around here somewhere lately...]

1 the clarity of his account lucidity, lucidness, clearness, coherence; formal perspicuity. antonym vagueness, obscurity.
2 the clarity of the image sharpness, clearness, crispness, definition. antonym blurriness.
3 the crystal clarity of the water limpidity, limpidness, clearness, transparency, translucence, pellucidity. antonym murkiness, opacity.

You need to be coherent and lucid with your own thoughts, as much as you can be. How do you know if you're moving toward being certain and definite if you're not certain where you definitely want to move?

This is interesting: ORIGIN Middle English (in the sense [glory, divine splendor] ) So in a medieval sense, clarity is Godly. Striving for clarity is clearly striving to be more perfect.

Some of this is adapted from something I wrote a few years ago about parenting

Once upon a time in an unschooling discussion, someone seemed unhappy with the way I used "mindful." For years, some of the regular writers there tried to find a good word for what we were trying to convey— making infinitesimal decisions all the time, day and night, and basing those decisions on our evolving beliefs. We finally settled on "mindful," in the sense of being fully in the moment. Though "mindfulness" is used as a term in western Buddhism, the word they chose when they were translating from Japanese, Chinese, Hindu, Vietnamese and whatever all hodgepodge of ideas were eventually described in English, "mindfulness," is an English word over 800 years old. It's a simple English compound, and has to do with the state of one's mind while performing an action. It creates a state of "if/then" in one.

IF a person wants to live in the light of his goals and intentions, then the "better choices" need to be made in that light. The clearer you are about where you intend to go, the easier your decisions are.

When you come to an intersection, how do you decide which way to go? It helps, before operating a motor vehicle with all its attendant expenses and inherent dangers, to know where you want to go. When you DO have a destination, then each intersection has some wrong ways, and some better and worse ways. It's the same with anything. When you know where you're headed, there are some wrong ways you can avoid simply by being mindful of your intent.


Master Bela the Kurgan told me this story January 28, 2007:

One zen student said, "My teacher is the best. He can go days without eating."
The second said, "My teacher has so much self control, he can go days without sleep."
The third said, "My teacher is so wise that he eats when he's hungry and sleeps when he's tired."
That might sound simpler than it is. Many people don't know when they're hungry or tired, but they live by the clock, or do what they see others do, or stay up as late as they can, or wait until they're cranky and starving to eat instead of recognizing it earlier.

Sometimes the simplest aspects of self-awareness escape people.

Alcoholics Anonymous has a good little self-awareness tool they call HALT.
When you're feeling out of control, stop and ask yourself "Am I hungry? Angry? Lonely? Tired?" The ideal isn't to use that tool for life, though. It's to grow past the point that you feel out of control, because you've learned to recognize those triggers sooner and to be more serene. An alternate, more humorous but still useful set of words that spell HALT is: Horny, Arrogant, Lazy and Tragic. Being dramatic or arrogant can probably be even easier to resolve than tired and hungry are, for those who know that they want to move toward being more honest, humble and modest. "Honest and modest" is quite a bit like serenity.

Progress Checklist from Duckford II
(February 2007)

other people's reactions

consciousness of self

discovery [things work better and more easily than they did before]

external feedback / manifestations

reflection before and after

Part of self awareness is to be physically self aware.
I've gotten better over the years.

When I was younger I lived too much in my head and would look through the lens of what should be, or could be, or might be, instead of stopping for two seconds to consider what actually, at that moment, was. If I'm not careful I can be cranky before I know I'm tired, and head-achy before I know I'm hungry.

Now, while I'm taking stock of how and where I am, I take a deep breath while I'm considering it, and that one deep breath leads to another one, and no matter where I started, I'm better already.

—Show by word and deed that you are growing in awareness.—

It's an open book test, an open world test. Everything is fair.
You can get all the help you want to, before during and after situations and decisions.

Sent to DuckfordU, Duckford II and idea-night lists in June '07:

The Page-a-Day Zen calendar had a Tennyson quote. It was a misquote without reference, but I hunted it down and here's the right wording:

Self-reverence, self-knowledge, self-control,
These three alone lead life to sovereign power.
I'm sending this for a couple of reasons: "self-knowledge" is a good (and more medieval) term for "self awareness," and "self-reverence" might be a possible alternative to Mordygan's Wednesday-night-discussions-proposed "earned arrogance." Maybe not. But the idea of "self-reverence," encompassing self-knowledge/awareness/clarity/humility, seems healthy. To have a protective and respectful feeling about one's self, to feel a responsibility toward maintaining or not harming one's self seems good to consider. If we have duties and responsibilities, it's good to maintain the physical abilities required to fulfill those.

It reminds me some of the exhortations at church that "your body is a temple," and not to pollute yourself or be disrespectful of physical body. That's a reference to I Corinthians 6:19-20 and I found some commentary on it here that reminded me of Pinky and the Brain. (Everything reminds me of something, I guess.) http://www.carm.org/sermons/1Cor_6-19-20.htm

Your body is the temple of God.
         Be careful where it goes.
         Be careful what it does.
         Be careful what it ponders.
         Be careful how it reacts.
"Are you pondering what I'm pondering?"

(If not, that's probably good for you too. )

Think your own best thoughts, and have a great summer.


citation and details on the Tennyson quote:

from Poems (London: Moxon, 1833 [1832]).
text from The Works of Alfred, Lord Tennyson (London: Macmillan, 1891).

Alfred Tennyson, 1809-1892


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