Increasing awareness, is one of the pillars for becoming an integrated man. But before discussing on how to practise and increase it (described here), let’s explore why.
Become the observer
It is a prerequisite to observe your own thoughts and feelings without getting completely identified by them, and to start gaining some perspective about their triggers and their influences on your behaviour. In particular, you might realize that many of your inner thoughts are mere illusions, e.g., limited believes about yourself and your self-worth that you have been carrying for ages, or at deeper level, feelings actually stuck in your body from past childhood traumas. With awareness, you start to shed light on auto-pilot behavioural patterns initiated by defence mechanisms from your past, or passed on via social conditioning, which are impairing the way you are interacting with the world in your adult life. Especially for men ranking high on neuroticism, your awareness makes you conscious of your constant negative chatter spinning in your head. Einstein said that “we cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them”. Being aware of your thought processes and feelings is the first step towards defusing dysfunctional, unhelpful, and limiting behaviour patterns preventing you to reach your goals and becoming fully integrated.
Pay attention to your external behaviour
Nice Guy traits in men are also typical examples of past social conditioning, manifesting themselves into micro bits of behaviour, e.g., smiling forcibly at your neighbor for showing that you are nice and polite, laughing at your own jokes when hitting on a girl, or avoiding strong eye-contact with her because of fear to offend her. With increased awareness, you start to be much more conscious of these traits, at the beginning only far after you manifested them. But with practice, the time between their triggers and the moment you acknowledge them in your mind gradually decreases, until the point where you can actually prevent their manifestation and initiate real shifts of behavior.
And your body feelings
With awareness, you start acknowledging uncomfortable body feelings, in particular fear, and start realizing that you have actually strong inner resources for handling them. And you must accept to deal with such feelings since you have to step out from your comfort zone if you want to grow, and grow cannot be achieved without facing your fears. Fear never really disappears completely, forget about it. Even after having cold approached hundreds of women, you might still feel approach anxiety, or strong discomfort when escalating sexually quickly with a woman. Fear is a good sign, it means that you are living at your edge, where growth takes place. Be very aware of your fears.
By increasing the awareness of your body, you also start to pay attention to areas where emotions take place, which can be a great source of inputs for men who have been too stuck in their heads for ages. For instance, I realized that when I get anxious, my upper back starts to feel like it slightly burns. Men who are very unaware of their bodies are disconnected from their emotions, and bottling them up inevitably leads to unbalanced nervous system, and potentially even chronic diseases.
Awareness allows you to control your posture in order to stand straight with your shoulders open, an important aspect for claiming your space, and boost your self-confidence (evidences show that strong postures increase your testosterone levels). Adopting a stronger posture may take time, and constantly bringing awareness to your body is the only way to consciously and repeatedly implement a shift before it gets fully internalized in your way of being.
Being in your body is also an essential component of your dating and sex life. For having great sex, you need to let yourself go, be completely present in the moment without thoughts popping up in your mind. You have to be very aware of your own sexual energy, and of the interaction dynamic with your partner.
It is from awareness that you start to realistically acknowledge your strengths and your weaknesses, and therefore towards the build-up of a more balanced and functional ego. From this space, you start to get access to a pristine sense of your self and your being. You learn to trust more your intuitions and find your way towards a more meaningful existence. You cut out the crap that kept yourself over busy and allow space and time to let your life mission manifesting itself.
Awareness allows you to practise being fully present, focused on the present moment at every instant, without ruminating about past events or worrying about the future. You end up in a space in which you stop reacting impulsively to your environment, in which you stop running away from uncomfortable feelings and fears that prevent you to fulfil your needs. Your needs to interact with the world in a well calibrated and harmonious way.
It all starts in the brain
It has been demonstrated that “a wondering mind is an unhappy mind”. The default mode network (DMN) is a set of interconnected brain regions that become active during wakeful rest, day dreaming and mind chattering. In other words, it is your monkey mind, activated when thinking about others, yourself, remembering the past, and planning for the future. The network is activated “by default” when you are not involved in a task, or not being aware of your own thoughts. Problems occur when over repetitive stimulus-independent thoughts from your DMN are anchored to negative and self-destructive chatter. And awareness remains the first step to identify these patterns and start to get responsibility to start reframing them. Awareness can be seen as an attempt to abolish suffering due to uncontrolled background mind chatter.
Towards inner peace
Finally, it is from awareness that emanates self-love and self-acceptance. These qualities require conscious personal work to manifest themselves in your daily life. You have the responsibility to cultivate them intentionally. Real peace is inner peace and can only come from within.