Your awareness is a like a spotlight mounted in the current moment. From its base in the moment called "now," you are directing it. You are, at this moment, shining your spotlight of awareness on these words. You could as easily shine it on what is going on around you or on what is going on within you. You can shine your spotlight of awareness into the past via memory or into the world of make-believe via fantasy. You can use it to simply notice your own ideas, your concepts about who you are and about how the world works.
Concepts are just beliefs and beliefs, even the noblest of them, are just opinions that we develop loyalty to, so that we can pretend that the world is orderly and predictable. This helps us feel safe. Ironically, we sometimes fight to defend our beliefs, creating anything but a safe situation. Some of us even fight to defend our self-concepts with the same fervor with which we would fight to defend our God-given lives. Your self concept, regardless of how glorious, is faulty and confining for one simple reason: You are not your concepts.
From the time you got pushed out here onto the planet, kicking and screaming, sucking and gasping, you have been bombarded with experiences. From these experiences, you've formed all sorts of ideas about who you are and who you imagine you're supposed to be. Based on these concepts, you've chosen certain behavior patterns and then woven these behaviors and the concepts on which they're based into what the rest of us know as your personality. Simply noticing, or shining your spotlight of awareness on your concepts about who you are is challenging. It takes practice. Simply noticing is a gift that you can enjoy and refine over the course of your life, the benefits of which are perpetually unfolding.
The practice of simply noticing is mindfulness in action, and it makes mindfulness a living, moment-to-moment, practical experience. Its potency as a tool for personal and spiritual evolvement relies on the link between simply noticing and what I call the Zen Theory of Change. I free myself, not by trying to free myself, but by becoming aware of how I am imprisoning myself in the very moment I am imprisoning myself. Way before the term "Zen Buddhism" came to be, Lao Tse penned these words (in Chinese, of course): "Simply notice the natural order of things. Work with it rather than against it. For to try to change what is, merely sets up resistance."
As you bring an outdated concept into the light, if it no longer works for you, it will begin to disappear. You needn't analyze it or fight with it. There is deep within you a powerful force. Call it soul, spirit, prana, ki, the primordial vibration. What you call it really doesn't matter. It existed before the word. This force is the essence of the natural you. It guided you to master complex tasks like walking and talking when you were an unsophisticated and funny-looking rookie at this game of life. Before you knew anything about anatomy or physics, the natural you noted missteps and corrected them without a conscious thought on your part.
As an organism, on the most fundamental level, you would rather be in balance than out of balance. By simply noticing your self-limiting concepts, you will become aware of how you are getting in your own way in the very moment you are getting in your own way. You will automatically begin to re center and re-connect with the truth of your existence.
At the point you simply notice an out-dated concept, you are in touch, if only subtly, with the observer within, the natural you. Beginning to gently attend to the natural you is a little like breathing on a flame. As you simply notice the natural you, your experience of who you really are becomes stronger. Simply noticing is a skill. It's not a philosophy. It relies on learning to control one's spotlight of awareness.
Rick Carson is the author of the best-selling classic, Taming Your Gremlin (HarperCollins; 2003) which is recommended reading for psychotherapists, executive coaches, addiction specialists and other professionals in the healing arts. For more info, visit the Gremlin Taming Institute at www.tamingyourgremlin.com.