Cultivating Awareness

By InkyMama 02/20/19
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There is an old tale about a gentleman and a blind beggar. The gentleman, walking down the street one morning notices the blind man sitting on the ground, his jar empty of money and asks, “Have you made any money today?”. The blind man replies, “No, listen to my jar, it is empty”. The man tells the beggar that he will put a note in the jar and will stop in the evening to see if things improved. Later that day, the man returns and again asks the beggar if he’d made any money. The beggar lifts the jar, heavy with money of all denominations, and asks, “What did the note say?”. The young man tells him, “I wrote, ‘It is a lovely Spring day, and I am blind.’” 

As we move through our days, months, and years, we have a choice. We can see things in different ways. We might choose to move quickly through the world unaware of anything around us, forever on our way to the next thing. We may take a slower path, making connections with people, living life through the eyes of others, unaware in a different way. We may try our best to be present, forever catching ourselves, reminding ourselves to “be present” and then focusing as hard as we can on being in the very moment, unnaturally aware. We could also just slow down, live life as it happens, absorb moments as they come and go, be more single-mindedly focused on each breath, each task, each touch, each bite; whatever we encounter becomes a moment of presence, recovery and understanding.

At some point in our lives, each of us hits a crossroads, a moment where an important choice has to be made. Sometimes these crossroads moments are a big bang, a rock bottom in our lives and sometimes they are a whimper. Sometimes they come over and over again, persistently asking for our attention. When they do come, we must choose to change or to remain the same. We may be like those rushing by on the street, unaware of the blind beggar. We may rush by and be aware of the beggar but keep moving. Maybe we are the beggar, completely in tune with his surroundings as he experiences them through sound. We might even been the gentleman that writes the note that causes people to pause and appreciate.

We live in a time where fully experiencing our world is frightening, where uncertainty abounds, where we feel untethered as things change rapidly all around us. In order to pass through this life with meaning we must be both the gentleman and the blind beggar. Being intune with our surroundings, observing deeply. Rooting into this life experience through the senses available to us, like the beggar, shows us who we are, where we are, and shapes the physicality of each moment affording us a vibrant landscape in which to be present, healthy, clean, and sober. 

As you read this, pause for a few moments. Close your eyes and practice noting what is happening around you. Ground yourself into each moment, listening deeply to the sounds closest to you, just outside, and those as far away as you can hear. When you hear a noise simply label it, car, bird, dog, dishwasher, etc…

Now think of the gentleman that notices the beggar as he passes by, putting himself in the beggars shoes, intuitively knowing that his experience of a Spring day is different, limited. This man has compassion and empathy for those around him. He is aware of each moment, and he is able to bring the message of this awareness to others. This is 12th Step work, our job, to enlighten others to the possibiities and hope that sobriety offers. 

As we move through this life, the best version of existence is available to us whenever we choose by simply using awareness to understand ourselves and everything and everyone around us. 

So, I ask you, who had the best Spring day? The gentleman, or the beggar? Maybe both.

About the Author

Pia Kiri-yo Donovan, better known as InkyMama, is a tattooed, meditation teacher, author, and Buddhist practitioner with over twenty years experience studying Buddhism and teaching meditation. She is a regular contributor to The Fix. Her meditations and creative non-fiction pieces focus on addiction recovery. She is currently working on a forthcoming collection of short stories. Find more of her work at


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