25 October 2016


It's interesting that we use this word mostly to warn people of dangerous things that could harm us.  It's pretty obvious just from looking at the word that it's a combination of two words:  be (ben in Middle English) + aware or wary, which means watchful, cautious, or alert.  It's one of my favorite words of all, because it doesn't just mean to be cautious of danger to me--it also means to pay attention to all of the little things of life, those little things that we so often tend to overlook, but which definitely have the potential to harm us in many different ways.

It's important for us to keep this word in mind all the time, for it's important that we be wary of our own actions, thoughts, and beliefs.  Only when we're fully aware of what we're doing or thinking can we start to recognize the cause and effect relationships between what we do and think and the quality of our lives.  All of us want to improve the quality of our lives--and I'm not speaking of striving to achieve luxury or ownership, but striving to become happy and fulfilled.  The only way that we can make such an improvement, though, is to be sure that we know what we're doing in the first place.

For example, it took me a long, long time to realize just how much my beliefs about myself and relationships were hurting me.  I've always tried to be a nice person, but that never helped me much when it came to developing relationships with other people.  The most dominant element of who I was as far as relationships were concerned was my fear--and that fear came from the belief that other people didn't want to be with me, and would end up hurting me if somehow they ever were with me.  This is a fear that's quite common for people who grew up with an alcoholic parent, but one that I truly wasn't aware of, and that I could not be wary of as long as I wasn't aware of it.
There are many things that I need to be wary of in life, for they tend to creep up on me and affect my life in negative ways.  For example, I need to beware of my ego, for it often affects the ways that I treat other people, and the ways that I go about doing certain things--and it also affects my decisions when it comes to being honest or not.  How many times have I wanted to say "I didn't do that" when I actually had, just because my ego doesn't want to admit that I might have failed or done something poorly?

I need to beware of my own assumptions, especially those concerning other people.  When I make such assumptions, I stop trying to learn about others, for I think I already know what I need to know.  But I don't.  What we know about other people and their thoughts and feelings is almost nothing; when we assume that we do know about them, then we stop learning about them.  We also more than likely will miss many things that could be very important to us--when I assume that a book's going to be no good, for example, I never give myself the chance to find out whether it is or not.  I can also hurt other people when I assume that they don't want a certain something, so I pass on the chance.

I need to beware of my tendency to take things for granted.  I have many things in life that are very important to me, and I need to be thankful for everything.  Once I take something for granted--especially other people--then I see less value in that thing or person, even though it's still just as valuable as ever.  The problem is with me, in not seeing that value any more.  When I refuse to recognize and appreciate that value, though, my life becomes somewhat poorer, and it's a poverty that can and should be avoided simply by being mindful that yes, this person is valuable to me, and I should appreciate the person and his or her contribution to my life, no matter how small that contribution may be.
I need to beware of my feelings, and especially I need to beware of acting based on those feelings.  My feelings are often based upon patterns of thought that I developed long ago, and they very often are inappropriate or inaccurate now that I'm a much older person than I was when they started.  When I was very young, I might have learned to shut down when someone said something mean or insulting to me, for I thought as a kid that doing so would make the hurt feelings better.  That was never true, though--first of all, feeling hurt was my choice, though I didn't know it then, and now I have different choices to make regarding my feelings.  If someone says something mean or insulting to me today, I see that as a reflection of that person, and no longer a reflection of me.  My feelings have already caused enough damage to me in my life, and I need to beware of their undue influence upon my state of mind.

It's very important that I beware of my fear, for this is an aspect of who I am that has almost never served me well.  It's caused me to lose potential relationships, to miss out on things that could have been fun and rewarding, to feel badly about myself, to avoid situations that could have been beneficial to me.  Of course, fear can be helpful as an indicator of danger sometimes, but most often, my fear is simply of how things may turn out badly later--not of how things are or how things are really going to be.  My fear has been the cause of many hours of pain and grief, and I don't want to continue to give it that kind of power over me.

And on a very superficial level, I need to beware of the people on this planet who do their best to improve their own lives by hurting others.  I need to be aware of scams, of thieves, of liars, of cheats.  Fortunately, there are relatively few of these people, and I can be aware of what they do and how they do it in order to avoid falling prey to their plans and techniques.  Also on a superficial level, I need to beware of cars when I cross the street, of standing too close to the edge of things, of sharp objects, of stove burners that are hot, of food that is old and moldy, and of many other things that can harm me if I'm not careful.  But these are things that I notice in certain situations, and not things that I need to be paranoid about during every waking hour.
It's necessary to beware of some things, but we don't want to live our lives being always wary of things--we need to spend our lives being appreciative of things, being mindful of the beauty and wonder of the world, not afraid of the dangers of the world.  I can be wary of the dangers of a mountain path where there may be bears or mountain lions and still take that path and still enjoy myself--being aware of possible problems does not mean that we don't completely avoid a certain activity or place or person.  I can have a friendship with a thief, even, as long as I'm careful not to expose too much of what I have to that person.

So beware.  Beware of the things about yourself that keep you from living fully.  Don't let them control your life--use them for what they do give you that's positive, but don't ever allow them complete control.  Be aware of the potential problems that they can cause and do your best to avoid those problems, but remember that those parts of yourself never should define who you are or how you live.  Your full life is up to you, and the ways that you live it.

quotes on awareness

02 October 2016


If humans are to survive, we will have learned to take a delight in the essential differences between people and between cultures. We will learn that differences in ideas and attitudes are a delight, part of life's exciting variety, not something to fear.   -Gene Roddenberry

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It frightens me--and makes me very sad--to see how little tolerance we have in our country for people who are different than we are, for people who think differently than we do.  Somehow we've grown to let our fears do our thinking for us, fears that people who do things differently than we do somehow will force us to do things differently ourselves. We're afraid that the world of tomorrow will be different than the world of today because people who are different than we are are going to change that world.

It's pretty obvious, though, that the world of today is much different than the world of yesterday.  Changes are happening, constantly.  They always have, and they always will.  If we could accept this fact and come to expect it, even, we might find that we're not so afraid of changes--and we may come to accept and love the people we know who do and think differently than we do.

This doesn't mean, of course, that we blindly accept differences just because they're different.  I will never be tolerant of a person who wishes to harm other people for no reason other than his or her own gain.  I can't accept racism or gender bias or any approach that attempts to put other human beings at a lower level--but which ends up putting the racist person at the lower level. But legitimate differences, such as religious beliefs or political ideals, should be a way for us to learn from each other, not a source of disdain for each other.

Our current political world shows almost a complete lack of tolerance for opposing views. The people in positions of power are modeling behaviors and attitudes that can only harm others, and almost never help anyone except the people who agree with them politically and ideologically. What is it that makes us be so intolerant of the ideas of others? What makes us intolerant of their beliefs? Of their racial and ethnic origins? Wise person after wise person has told us that the cause of our intolerance is fear, and the fear that causes us to be intolerant also makes us incapable of learning from these people who have so much to offer us, if we can only find ways to accept it in the spirit of love and compassion instead of looking upon them in the spirit of judgment.

Take the risk and find ways to be not just tolerant, but accepting and loving, and you'll find that your new-found ability to reach out and love will turn your life into a much brighter, much more fulfilling experience.