One of the major benefits of mindfulness is increased self-awareness.
The ability to recognize the self is a distinctly human trait. People who talk to themselves aren’t necessarily crazy… (only if they answer back). Humans have the ability to think about what they’re thinking about.
The level of awareness that is cultivated in mindfulness is not just an intellectual exercise. It’s making the distinction between who you really are and who you believe yourself to be. Awareness is far more than believing in yourself; it requires a measure of truth.
When you look in a mirror, you don’t always see what others see. We see what we believe is there. It has been said that the homes of those who are comfortable with their self image have many mirrors. Those who are not have very few.
Self-awareness is the first step on the road to self-mastery and recovery. As an addict, I find a strong parallel between recovery and self-mastery; therefore, mindfulness is a necessary component of the recovery process.
I still remember my first therapist giving me some instruction on self-awareness. At the time, I was strongly addicted to pornography. He suggested that if and when I found myself standing at the checkout with a pornographic magazine in one hand and money in the other, that I should remember to say to myself, “This is my money that I am giving to this clerk with my own hand, in exchange for this magazine.” It didn’t seem to me to be a helpful suggestion, but as I reflect on the implications I realize that he was encouraging me to be mindful of what I was doing.
The thing that is going to challenge us from gaining success in the area of mindfulness is mindlessness. There’s a funny story that illustrates this point: “A woman wants to make a purchase at a clothing store. At the checkout she hands over her credit card. The cashier hands it back and asks the woman to sign her credit card (something she neglected to do when it arrived in the mail). She signs it and hands it back. The cashier then processes the payment and asks the woman to sign the receipt, after which she holds up the signed credit card and the receipt to compare the two signatures.”
Awareness is the art of noticing things about yourself. The level of awareness that mindfulness involves is the use of the ‘witness.’ The use of the ‘witness’ requires that you step back, as it were, and observe what you are thinking, and what you are feeling in that moment. The ‘witness’ just lets it be okay. There is no judgment in this practice; there is only peaceful acceptance and curiosity.
Awareness is the key to self acceptance and self mastery.