May I have your attention please!
Awareness has come up for me several times in the past week, both others and my own. My daughter asked me to talk to both my grandchildren at separate times, and while the discussion was about a specific issue, they both came down to awareness.
As children, we begin to be conscious of ourselves as separate beings starting at about 18 months, and self-awareness needs to be nurtured throughout their lives. But that does not mean they are necessarily aware of their specific actions and definitely not aware of cause and effect; that comes much later.
One of the issues I have discovered that I did not do with my daughter and, therefore, she does not do with her children is to teach awareness. Children mostly live in the moment; if something looks, tastes, or feels good, children jump right in without any thought whatsoever.
My grandchildren are seven and four, so the older one is just at the age to begin to contemplate the results of her action, which includes increasing her awareness of the present moment. An example of this lack of awareness in children, teenagers, and adults are repetitive tasks.
As with everything in life, this works both to our advantage and disadvantage. For example, we rarely think about walking after two years old because we have mastered stepping forward. However, if we reach a step or steep hill, our awareness returns immediately.
Specific actions need our attention every minute, such as using a table saw; while walking is safer with time, table saws do not get safer with each cut! Two activities involving awareness jump out at me for children, crossing the street and closing a car door.
Both my grandchildren can now unbuckle their seat belts, open the car door, climb out, and shut the door. Most of us adults know this is normal learning behavior, but we do not remember how heavy a car door is for a child. Parents might say something like, “Be careful,” but we do not teach being aware.
We need to talk with our children about how they approach closing the door, get them to acknowledge how heavy it is, and ask what they think would happen if they closed the door on their thumb or finger. And then, as with all teaching, repeat the lesson several times a week when they begin to shut the car door, saying, “Be aware of shutting the door.”
Likewise, crossing the street requires constant repetition, starting when holding hands when they are too young to cross by themselves; repeating out loud, stop, look both ways, and when clear, we can cross. The originator of my style of yoga had a wonderful saying about yoga, which applies to everything in life, “1% theory, 99% practice.” This saying applies when teaching children anything; we need to use persistent repetition!
These two examples of awareness teaching are especially true when children (and ourselves!) are apt not to be living in the moment, such as getting out of the car or crossing the street to join friends, going to a game, or getting ice cream. In these moments, when our attention is diverted, we need to learn to stay in the moment and be aware of what we are doing.
Have not most of our accidents happened precisely in situations like this? So then, as if to bring this subject home for me, after writing several paragraphs, I went to make my evening protein shake, something I have done for years. After adding all the ingredients to the shaker, I went to put the protein powder canister up and knocked over the shaker; water and powder went everywhere!
Ahh, not paying attention to a repetitive task; the Universe has a wicked sense of humor. Obviously, I am still learning, and I had a great laugh! Thankfully, unlike not having awareness with a table saw where an accident can be damaging (I have three customized fingertips to prove this), the spill was a quick cleanup!