We start our journey with the first step of the BE AWARE acronym: be present. Being aware of our experience gives us choices in how we respond.

Throughout this course, you'll find a text summary of the video content beneath each talk or meditation. These summaries may contain tables, diagrams, or other visual aids. This written material will be collected in each unit's workbook.

The BE AWARE Acronym

This program is structured around a six-step acronym that can help us to manage how we relate to our experience of pain and illness. This first unit will explore the BE step: being present.

Be present

The first step is being present: learning how to be here with our experience just as it is, transforming our reactive tendencies.

The second step is acceptance and kindness around the pain or the difficulty.
Wake up to wonder

The third step is waking up to wonder. How beautiful, discovering that there's always something pleasant, even beautiful, that we can tune into when our awareness becomes more refined and sensitive.
Arising and passing

The fourth step is arising and passing: living with flow. This is important and profound. We realize that everything is changing, everything is process, including what we relate to as pain as if it's a solid object. That too, is process.
Relate and connect

The fifth step is relating and connecting: realizing that we're not alone and our experience of pain or difficulty can become a point of empathy rather than a cause of isolation.

Finally, the sixth step is to engage with all of our life. How can we bring this training into all the moments of our life?

Introduction: The Power of Awareness

Welcome to Unit One, The Power of Awareness. This is the first step of the six-step process that we're covering throughout this course based on the BE AWARE acronym

So this unit is all about the first step, BE. Being aware is the foundation for this great journey of learning to change our response to pain and illness, because awareness gives us the possibility of choice. It's only if we know what's happening in our body, what we're feeling in the body, what we're feeling emotionally, and what we're thinking in each present moment that we have the opportunity to move from a habitual, reactive, automatic state to something that's much more creative, more open, less tight and contracted, and more fluid, open, and kindly. This is why mindfulness is so essential to this journey, because it's mindfulness that gives us this all-important possibility of choice: moving from reactive states to more positive and creative states.

In this unit, there are a number of different talks that I'll give.

  • I'll introduce mindfulness-based pain and illness management, which is a signature course that I've developed through my charity, the Breathworks Foundation. 
  • I'll give a more personal talk about the different stages of my own journey from fighting to flourishing.
  • I'll also introduce a wonderful text from the Buddhist tradition called the Satipatthāna Sutta, which is widely seen as the core or seminal text on mindfulness. I really look forward to sharing that with you. It's a really wonderful text. 
  • We'll do a general awareness meditation: just learning how to drop into the body, drop into the moment, to know what's happening. That's very much the foundation of this program: a knowing of what's going on moment by moment.
  • I'll also introduce a body scan meditation, where we guide our awareness to the whole body and become more deeply embodied, more deeply present. 

Before we go into any of that, let's do a little practice together, for two or three minutes, to have a sense of what I'm talking about, a sense of coming into the body, tuning into emotions, and tuning into thoughts...

Mindfulness and kindness are the same thing

Before I conclude this introduction, I'd like to include a really beautiful teaching from a wonderful teacher called Dipa Ma. She was an Indian woman who lived towards the end of the 20th century. She said that mindfulness and kindness are the same thing, which I totally agree with. So mindfulness isn't something aloof and cold, but it's imbued with presence and love and kindness. Dipa Ma said...

Think about it. When you're really present aren't you also loving? And when you're really loving, aren't you also present?

—Dipa Ma

I find that very, very beautiful. This is the quality that we can bring into this unit as well as the whole program.

Download the workbook and audio

All of the written content of this unit is contained in a workbook, which you can download here for reference and reflection. Audio versions of the talks and meditations are also available for you to listen to. You can download individual audio files on the Downloads page.

The .zip file immediately below contains all downloads for this course: audio, workbooks, and two eBooks. This one file is everything you need.

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