Awareness is also called concentration, focus, or mindfulness. It is the act of paying attention. It is one of the most remarkable things our minds can do – but we don’t do it much anymore. Too bad, because it is secret medicine.

The state of mindfulness was likely absolutely critical to human evolution. Without it, our ancestors would not have been very good hunters. In fact, awareness is probably best seen in other animals, which depend on it to survive. Think of the focus in the mind of a predator – or its prey – in the wild.

Paying attention to some aspect of your body – really paying attention – is an altered state of consciousness. It is not the same as thinking or talking to a friend, fidgeting or text-messaging. The state that many call awareness has been used for centuries to heal the body and mind.

The breath is the simplest thing to pay attention to, and it has been the focus of yogic sages and Buddhist monks for millennia. Spiritual traditions teach that wisdom and self-knowledge can come from awareness while eating, while walking, and even while doing the most mundane tasks – like shaving or folding laundry. Whatever you happen to be doing – pay attention.

In a world with attention-deficit disorder, it helps to remember that mindfulness makes us happy. This is why the Dalai Lama is always smiling, and it is available anytime, to anyone. It alters our senses. If you meditate for an hour and then step into the shower, it will feel like no shower you have ever taken.

The Alexander technique develops awareness by focusing on posture. Feldenkrais is a system that uses awareness to promote effortless movement. While many yoga classes seem to be all about the postures, the hidden purpose is to be aware in those postures. 

Close your eyes – for just a minute or two. Wait for your breath to come … on its own.  Observe your lungs take in the air, and then observe them let it out. Don’t breathe. Just pay attention to your body breathing on its own.

This simple act of mindfulness can lead to a world of healing and well-being. Begin now.