United States of Awareness | By Kate Vessel

My two young daughters and I recently spent a Friday afternoon hiking and playing by a waterfall near our home. Holding hands, we walked on a dirt path alongside the river and my five-year-old suddenly pointed out a bat. It appeared to be either sleeping or dead on a concrete railing. We paused for a couple of minutes. The girls asked me to take a photo of it and asked if they could touch it after it slowly lifted its head. I calmly said, “No” and pivoted to continue walking.

They were fascinated and almost immediately, started asking questions. I told them about bats and their nocturnal nature, and also that likely, being that the bat was out during the day, it was possibly sick with a disease that could potentially harm humans. I followed this up by explaining that I wasn’t sharing this to scare them—rather, I was sharing so that they could be “smart” if they found themselves in a similar situation in the future. “I’m saying this so that you can be smart not afraid,” I said, intentionally, in a language I hoped they could understand and we eventually moved on with our afternoon, playing hide-and-seek behind trees, splashing around in the water and eating ice cream.

Awareness, not fear…at times, awareness of fear

Having come back to this theme a few times with them since our bat encounter, I’ve felt these words echoing in my own mind, almost daily. How am I relating to my external world and how mindful am I being of my own awareness in regards to the media, political crises, health concerns and even natural disasters? Am I turning away in ignorance, apathy or escapism? Conversely, have I become addicted to watching and reacting in a state of fear or anger? Or, is it possible for me to better realize my capacity to maintain what I feel is an appropriate level of awareness while still listening to my own wisdom and guidance toward the action that I feel is the best option in a manner to which I can respond? Am I making decisions about speaking and acting from split states within myself consisting of anxiety, blame, guilt, obligation, or confusion? Or, can I find a place of being centered and united within myself so that I can respond with optimal clarity, rather than reactivity?

I knew with much certainty to change course and continue walking

It’s at this point where conscious discernment and intention come into play. These answers—are not often static. I could have tried to save the bat; I could have made a phone call or tried to set an example for my girls, but at that moment I knew with much certainty to change course and continue walking. After all, I care deeply about all life no matter how small and just the previous week on a hot morning without hesitation had moved a worm that was stuck on the sidewalk onto some damp soil. This isn’t apathy—rather, a type of discernment that comes from feeling rather than thinking, and sometimes it is best for us to send love and continue to move on in order to be the most effective—not only to ourselves, but for all.

Healing is always clarity and clarity is always healing

When we use our awareness to create boundaries that can be flexible, along with our own sense of clarity—of seeing any situation with a sense of heartfelt understanding—is what offers us space to not only remain centered but to allow ourselves even a greater capacity for joy, compassion, and discernment. Healing is always clarity and clarity is always healing. Where are our struggles and how can we shift our relationship with them to that of a state of awareness rather than fear? How can we continue to navigate toward moving out of struggle and toward unity within ourselves? External struggles of the world, personal challenges with family and friends and even our difficulties with money can all be eased by learning to first listen and feel, then objectively discern our next action steps with purpose and intentionality to potentially regain our sense of levity, playfulness, and creativity.

Life is just that…a practice

The experience I had with my daughters on the bat incident afternoon was truly a gift. While this requires grace and practice— and life is just that…a practice—this gift of learning how to navigate with our own awareness is not to be mastered but continually cultivated and nourished. Both our potential and our power, both individually and collectively, lies within our willingness to give this gift to ourselves. Moment by moment, navigating and united within our own states of awareness.

KATE VESSEL is a freelance writer, public speaker, student and teacher of yoga, and mother of two small daughters. Her main areas of focus are that of philosophy, particularly areas of emotional intelligence and creative strategy for both individuals and groups. She currently resides in Minneapolis, MN and she would love to connect with you. Connect with Kate on her website: www.katevessel.com
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