Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: what is the importance of awareness?

I would like to tell you a story about a saint. A thief once came to a saint and said, “See, I can’t stop stealing. I am a pathological stealer. What do I do?” The saint said, “Look, I’m not going to tell you not to steal, but I am going to advise you to steal with awareness. Whenever you try to steal something, first look at your hand and know what it is going to do, and then with that awareness, go steal something.” The man came back to meet the saint after three months, and said, “Swamiji, it was impossible! I could not steal with awareness.”

The same happens with anger. Anger comes as a sudden outburst, as we commonly say, “I lost it.” What is it that you lost? Nothing but awareness. To do something destructive, all you need is momentary passion, an impulse. You can evoke passion in a person and he can go and destroy something. But to do something creative, we need more than passion. What we need is awareness. We need a certain focus.

How can we increase awareness?
There are simple things you need to observe and practice – take some time out to do very simple things in life, sometimes seemingly insignificant things, such as star-gazing, bird-watching, watching the sunrise or sunset, taking a walk, silently observing your breath. These are a few examples of simple exercises that we can easily follow to develop our awareness. Even in an everyday act such as eating food, you can inculcate awareness by eating slowly, paying attention to the smells and colors in the food and tasting everything you eat.

Another method adopted to create that awareness is meditation, pranayama, deep breathing. What is the first act we performed when we were born? We breathed in deeply and then we started crying. And do you know what the last act is? We breathe out and make everybody else cry. But in between these first and last breaths, we seldom address our breath, we seldom observe our breath. Our breath has great secrets to offerl. It can show us how vast our mind is, how resourceful our consciousness is.

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