On Knowing You're Aware


Is there a film you watch over and over? I usually don't do that. My husband is constantly quoting films from the 1980s and 90s, quizzing me on minutes-long monologues, and then pleading, "Come ON, didn't you see A Few Good Men? And I'm like: Yes. Once. When it came out. End of story. Why on Earth would I rewatch it so much that I have committed it to memory?


Enter Ex Machina (by filmmaker Alex Garland of the current Men), which I've watched a handful of times in the past handful of years. That's a lot for me.


If you live in the questions around AI, consciousness, robotics, and The Turing Test, Ex Machina is a fascinating exploration of what we are, what/whom we might create, and whether that creation, which is inevitable, is a good idea. What is a good idea, anyway?


"The challenge is to find an action that isn't automatic."

That's a line from the film that strikes me, as much of the film does, for its relationship to mindfulness. The line is about knowing we're conscious. We do so much with automaticity, and some of those actions serve us. The habits for well-being that we repeat because . . . we've repeated them, are wonderful examples of using our brains to work for us. Getting up to meditate for 2 or 20 minutes, working out, snuggling with your child before bedtime, breathing deeply as soon as your hand touches your phone, savoring a moment from the day, feeling gratitude, being sure to get outside to walk in and be in awe in nature. These are all examples of actions that could be habits, and if they are for you, that's fantastic!


Finding an action that isn't automatic, though, is an interesting endeavor. After I'd practiced mindfulness for a few years, I remember wondering, What isn't automatic? Is there anything I do that isn't a prediction of what's happening and that doesn't just tee me up for a physical response or a thought?


That's What Mindfulness Reveals

When we're being mindful, we know what we're doing and we're aware that we know what we're doing. Both are necessary. We are beings who know, and we know that we know. That knowing has a felt sense to it.


But alas, most of the time we are on automatic. How about spending 2 minutes in awareness?




May ease find you.

mm