“The unaware life is not worth living” –Socrates.

This month I aim to write to the theme “awareness”. What a task! “Awareness” in and of itself is often interchanged with numerous terms: consciousness, mindfulness, and/or presence. Even as I sat down today to write about what these terms mean, I realize there is so much to say… more so than I can write in just this one article.

I have read several books on these concepts, a lot of great information. Jon Kabat-Zinn is often seen as the founder of the “mindfulness” terminology. Anthony DeMello and Michael A. Singer are two other great authors in terms of these concepts. These concepts could actually be a lifelong process of study and reading and experiencing.

This brings me to a concept I read in DeMello’s book, Awareness. He doesn’t ever really lay out one definition of awareness, but rather dedicates his entire book to the subject. From reading it and from my understanding of the concepts, I share with you some of the ideas about this term: awareness.

To me, awareness means observing, self-observation without judgment or interference. Just simply observing and noticing. It is not labeling or thinking or remembering or any of that. It is not bringing in what we have already experienced or know. It is simply watching the present moment. DeMello writes:

“Self-observation means to watch everything in you and around you as far as possible and watch it as if it were happening to someone else. It means that you do not personalize what is happening to you. It means that you look at things as if you have no connection with them whatsoever.”

So how can this help us as nurses? What does this have to do with our work, our patients, or our profession? Well, I don’t know about you but I hear things at work or read about topics in nursing magazines or journals like this:

• Nurses eat their young
• Horizontal violence in the workplace
• Low morale, absenteeism, poor communication, and burn out

To me, sometimes (not all of the time, but sometimes) these issues are self-inflicted. Nurses that are unhappy, dissatisfied, unhealthy, or restless (in their minds)… are more likely to choose certain paths when it comes to their communication, teamwork, and productivity. Again, “awareness” is not the answers to all problems, but it is the answer to some.

Here’s an example: A nurse arrives at work and receives her assignment for the day. She looks around at who is working and thinks to herself, “This stinks; Sally’s not here today. No one is helpful. I’m all alone. I’m unhappy…” Well, that is not the truth. Sally is not “unhappy”. Instead, to be more accurate, she might say “I’m experiencing unhappiness right now.” She is not her unhappiness. We are not our emotions. Unhappiness may be inside of you right now, but it won’t last. It keeps changing. Our emotions always change.

So what we want to do is passively observe our thoughts. We are not to interfere. We are not to “fix”. We are just to watch and observe. Instead of trying to “fix” everything; understand things. Understand by observing. Understand them and they will change.

How can we try this? Well, a simple technique is to just observe you. Even as you read this, be aware of how you are feeling right now. What are you experiencing in your body? What is happening in your mind? Are you reading these words with concentration, focus, and a clear mind? Or are you thinking of what else you have to do today or tonight or tomorrow? What is your emotional state? Be aware of your presence in this room. It is as if you are outside of yourself looking at yourself.

Practicing this technique of observation each day will enhance your awareness of self. Once we are more aware of ourselves we are more able to observe our thoughts and how they are making us feel. We can take control of our thoughts and emotions. We can empower ourselves to enhance our experience. And then, as nurses… we can bring these tools to our work day so that we are healthier, happier, and more productive with our role.

How about you? What other ways are you aware of yourself? Have you ever tried any “awareness” practices? Do you have anything that works for you?

Author's Bio: 

Elizabeth “Coach” Scala, MSN/MBA, RN is passionate about helping healthcare professionals, nurses in particular, to embody holistic living and embrace self-care. Through her business, Living Sublime Wellness, she writes regularly on the topic of self-care, conducts wellness workshops, and offers both in-person and online seminars for busy nurses.

Elizabeth is a Certified Health and Wellness Coach and holds Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, and Master’s degrees in both Business and Nursing. Originally from Carmel, NY, she now lives in Baltimore, MD with her husband and two dogs. Visit www.livingsublimewellness.com for more information.