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/ A W A R E N E S S M A G A Z I N E
M A Y / J U N E 2 0 1 1
16 / A W A R E N E S S M A G A Z I N E
M A Y / J U N E 2 0 1 1
he degree of deep,
healthy relationship
with anybody -- or
with any thing, for that
matter -- directly cor-
relates to our degree of aware-
ness: the extent to which we
truly notice and understand
the larger world beyond the
boundaries of our skin. Not
only our responsibilities but
relationships, rewards and de-
lights come alive... for those
of us most aware of life.
To begin with, the more as-
pects, characteristics and reveal-
ing stories that we know about
someone, the more we may find
to appreciate about them.
Some of the finest of quali-
ties are not obvious but subtle,
underplayed or concealed. Like-
wise, the more aware that we
are of their complexities, fears
and motivations, even the past
incidents and other factors that
helped form their character and
determine behavior, the better
we can understand, estimate and
appropriately respond to any
traits of theirs that we might find
unpleasant or unacceptable.
The problem is that in the vast
majority of modern civilized re-
lationships, exchanges and inter-
actions are often either narrow
in scope or superficial in con-
tent, all too many times insin-
cere or contrived, with minimal
conscious awareness involved in
the relating.
This is partly a reflection of
a natural human desire to com-
fort each other with interchange,
irrespective of meaning, engen-
dering the "small talk" that can
help us feel part of a group and
less alone. When acquaintances
ask us how we are doing, they
are usually looking for a stock
reply that's as positive as it is
brief, rather than a discomfort-
ing sharing of how we really
feel, what has been hurting or
troubling us, the challenges we
face or dreams we have yet to
In addition to not wanting to
make others uneasy, we humans
also want to be liked, which is
yet another reason why we may
not only narrowly limit and care-
fully censor any topics of con-
versation, but also "put on our
best face" in any direct interac-
And yet, the most healthy, let
alone deeply meaningful rela-
tionships, are predicated on our
having a broad awareness and
substantial understanding of
what is real. To the extent that
we relate to the edited self that
someone projects or the illusion
and "positive spin" that we pro-
ject on them, the interactions
are unreal as well, the content
of any communication insub-
stantial or untrustworthy, and
the value of any commitments
become suspect.
With sufficient determination,
practice and skill, we can en-
sure that at least on party in any
relationship is working to see
through illusion and pretense,
to weigh the value of content
and speak or act deliberately,
with the potential results, ben-
efits and consequences in mind:
From that point, we can influ-
ence the course and therefore
the ramifications of conversa-
tion and relationship, the power
of friendships, the effectiveness
of partnerships and alliances,
and the substance, meaningful-
ness and even longevity of love
affairs and marriages.
The work starts not so much
with heightened awareness of
others, or even of context, en-
virons or possible outcomes,
but with advanced conscious
awareness of our own personal
feelings, perspective, needs, mo-
tivations, presentation and com-
How often do we associate
with others, converse without
them, work with them, maybe
even live with them, without be-
ing consistently conscious of our
emotional needs and moods, of
our immediate hopes and greater
aims, why we are investing time
in certain involvements, social
arrangements or even subjects
of conversation?
Or without being conscious
of our body language, facial ex-
pressions, and the effects that
these things have on the compo-
sure and impressions of others.
What we teach in Anima, is
that every moment is a deci-
sive moment -- and most of the
things that we both do and don't
do, are conscious decisions.
One of the defining traits for not
only Anima practitioners but the
more adept of shamans, artists
and activists, medicine women
and healers, is highly developed
The most impressive of our
other abilities can only serve us
or our purpose well when we are
totally aware, of the full extent of
our abilities as well as any pos-
sible limitations, of the present
situation and context, of the in-
tentions of others... and of the
intentional as well as unintend-
ed effects of our own actions.
It is then that we are not only
most response-able, but most
able to take in the rewards of
sensation and meaning, depth
and delight.
A practitioner combines this
heightened presence with pur-
poseful action and considered
response, in order to help shape
events and thus consciously co-
create our world. Only the in-
tensely aware can make the best
choices.... and for the Anima
practitioner, at least, every single
act -- no matter how large or
small -- is a conscious choice.
The recommended ideal or-
der for completing Anima life-
ways courses, is to start with the
Practitioner's Journey (orienta-
tion, language and exploration),
Presence (so we can be wholly
here for all that follows), Awake-
ness (embodiment and height-
ening our bodily senses), and
then Awareness (learning to be
ever more intensely conscious of
things beyond the range of our
The information in courses
like Sense of Place, the Founda-
tions of Western Herbalism and
Mission & Purpose, is best fath-
omed and most effectively ap-
plied when we are maximally,
not nominally, aware.
There is likely no one who
couldn't benefit from an intense,
ongoing awareness practice,
utilizing the insights and exam-
ples afforded us by the nature
world, and perhaps the tools for
awareness that some schools
and traditions provide. And re-
lationships, of any kind, can be
made more real, substantial, pur-
poseful and usually satisfying,
by doing the moment-to-mo-
ment work of being aware and
going deep. By paying more at-
tention the them, ourselves and
our world... anytime we're not
To close, I will leave you with
the gift of some simple Anima
awareness exercises to try:
Attention is a gift we give
to ourselves, whenever we pay
close attention to the people
and things around us. When
walking down the sidewalk, no-
tice what grass or plants grow to
Expanded awareness of ourselves and others, can mean a more real
and deep relationship, more deeply experienced, more intently savored.
Photo by Jesse Wolf hardin.
Aware Relationship
by Jesse Wolf hardin