How you experience this moment is very much like looking through a camera lens. You can look at the world in panorama or zoom in for a close-up. The lens can be focused, showing sharp lines, or unfocused, so that shapes are foggy and blurry. What you see depends on whether your lens is in focus, what type of filter you’re using, and what type of lens you’re using (telephoto, wide angle, or standard).
When you’re upset or pissed off, your experience may be filtered so it feels dull or distorted. If you’re trying to multitask, your experience may feel fragmented. When you are engaged and fully aware, you experience the world in high definition. Your lens is focused and crystal clear. How you experience what you’re feeling and what’s happening around you comes down to whether you are awake and aware or busy and asleep.
Awareness is your perception of this moment. It’s how you experience life right now. When you’re unaware and trapped in busy mind, life appears unfocused and sort of foggy. Being unaware is like trying to take a picture but being unable to focus the lens.
On the other hand, when you’re fully aware, your perception is crystal clear. You experience life in high definition. You’re aware of ideas, perceptions, and physical sensations as they arise. Being fully aware is like seeing life through a camera lens that’s clear and focused.
The Five Levels of Awareness
The five levels of awareness help you distinguish when you’re aware and engaged and when you’re not aware or distracted. They are like mile markers or reference points to help you determine your location, or state of mind, in any given moment. Understanding the five levels will help you to uncover where you’re spending most of your time and energy. You may be surprised at what you find. The five levels of awareness are:
- Busy Mind
- Waking Up
- Power Pause
- Glimpsing Your Natural State
- Living on the Verge
Level 1: Busy Mind
At Level 1, you’re stuck in your Busy Mind, preoccupied with doing, consumed by your overflowing lists and overcrowded schedule. You can feel mentally frazzled, emotionally exhausted, and physically tense.
Here’s a sampling of what getting stuck in busy mind might look like:
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Forgetting an appointment
Losing your cell phone — again
Zoning out in front of the TV
Finding yourself on social media — again
Eating the doughnut before realizing what you were doing
Arriving in your driveway not really remembering how you got home
At Level 1, you may not recognize there’s a healthier and more empowering way to live. You are not aware that you are not aware.
Level 2: Waking Up
At Level 2, Waking Up, you shift beyond busy mind and momentarily wake up out of the dream state of thinking. Your busy mind gets interrupted and you catch yourself in the middle of an angry or anxious moment or fantasizing about where you want to vacation next year. In other words, you catch yourself entrenched in drama and distraction. You are aware that you are not aware.
Examples of waking up can include:
Catching yourself not paying attention while driving
Noticing that you’ve drifted off during a conference call
Sensing anger rise as your child resists your request to sit still
Feeling disappointment emerge when your colleague announces her promotion
Recognizing that you’re frozen with fear as you step onto the soccer field
Being aware of when you are not aware can be very exhilarating at first. Waking up, you experience yourself not as your thoughts or emotions, but instead as a clear mind, bright body, and open heart. You recognize how you’ve been unconsciously led around by your busy mind.
Level 3: Power Pause
At Level 3, Power Pause, you experience the space beyond your busy mind long enough to pause and interrupt your habitual tendencies to worry, doubt, fear, or judge. During the pause you recognize that you can choose to either show up and be engaged or slip back into dullness, distraction, or drama. You are aware of the power in pausing.
Some examples of Level 3 are:
Noticing your hand reach for a second helping of mashed potatoes and pausing to breathe
Stopping yourself before you criticize your partner
Putting your hand on your heart as you notice negative self-talk
Reviewing the emotionally charged email you’ve written and deciding not to send it
Recognizing that you cannot do everything on your list today
Smiling at the inconvenience of a delayed flight instead of having a tantrum
At Level 3, you feel empowered. You know you don’t have to be crazy busy and that you don’t have to involve yourself in the small dramas of everyday life. Instead, you know you can choose how to show up in the world. You can choose to be aware of how you move and speak in the world.
Level 4: Glimpsing Your Natural State
At Level 4, Glimpsing Your Natural State, you shift into the space beyond your busy mind and glimpse your natural state of clear mind, bright body, and open heart. You feel stable and clear for a few moments. Although it may be short-lived, you recognize your natural state and what it feels like to be fully alive. You are aware that you are aware.
Examples of glimpsing your natural state are:
A lingering feeling of peace during an extended vacation
A sense of time standing still when you find out someone you know has died
A feeling of tranquility when you watch the sun rise
A sense of awe when looking up at the stars
Active attention or fierce focus while dealing with a challenging problem
A surge of confidence during the final moments of a basketball game
Being aware that you are aware is what I mean by “getting out of your own way.” You’ve shifted beyond the level of drama and distraction, beyond the self-absorbed busy mind. At Level 4, you shift into the space that feels more “we” and less “me.” Your heart is open, and you move through life with a genuine confidence and fearlessness.
Level 5: Living on the Verge
Level 5 is Living on the Verge, a metaphor for being awake. You experience life through the unfiltered lens of your natural state. You feel clear, bright, and open. You show up and shine. You are fully aware.
Direct experiences of living on the verge come in many packages and can arrive in ordinary moments.
Examples of living on the verge are:
Being fully engaged in playing the piano
Being intensely involved in an emergency situation
Laughing until you cry
Crying until you laugh
Singing at the top of your lungs
Sprinting toward the finish line
Being absorbed in an open-air concert
Water-skiing on a calm lake
Bathing your newborn before bedtime
Sitting bedside with your ailing parent
Hugging or petting your dog or cat
When you shift to Level 5, Living on the Verge, you experience the world in high definition and with high-voltage energy. Your mind is clear, your body is bright, and your heart is wide open. You are awake and fully alive. You are fully aware of what’s happening around you and inside of you.
Living on the verge happens not when you’re thinking, but when you’re being; not when you’re doing, but when you’re experiencing life fully. Living on the verge, you wake up, show up, and shine.
© 2016 by Cara Bradley. Printed with permission of
New World Library, Novato, CA. www.newworldlibrary.com
Based on the Book:
On the Verge: Wake Up, Show Up, and Shine
by Cara Bradley.
About the Author
Cara Bradley is a yoga teacher, mental strength coach, life-long entrepreneur, and former pro-skater having devoted more than three decades to movement disciplines and personal transformation. She is the founder of award-winning Verge Yoga Center and co-founder of a non-profit, Mindfulness Through Movement, providing programs to schools in Philadelphia. Cara also teaches mindfulness-based programs for corporations, universities, and sports teams. Visit her website at CaraBradley.net