Awareness, I think, is one of the better qualities we can cultivate. By paying attention and by striving to know ourselves, we can turn experience into wisdom.
But sometimes paying attention turns into navel gazing, where we get so focused on our own thoughts and our own Self that we forget to live in the real world with the other human beings. Or we fall victim to spiritual materialism, as described by Chogyam Trungpa in his book Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism (http://www.shambhala.com/cutting-through-spiritual-materialism.html). There is a fine line between being aware and being egocentric.
Recently I came across two interesting items that highlighted this phenomenon of going down the proverbial rabbit hole. The first was a television show on the National Geographic channel about the Mayan calendar and the now-infamous date of December 21, 2012. The documentarian travelled to Guatemala and, through an interpreter, questioned several locals of Mayan descent. He asked them about the so-called Mayan prophecies. To a person, every one of them stared, nonplussed, at the interpreter and claimed no knowledge of such a prophecy. Now, my Spanish is sufficient enough to know that the interpreter did indeed ask the question that the documentarian wanted, so there was no mix-up there. Why the denial, then? Perhaps everything could have been staged. Perhaps there is a conspiracy by Mayan descendants to keep the knowledge secret and away from the white men. But I think the more likely explanation is that the locals were aware enough of the Mayan calendar to know that 12-21-12 is just another day in the great circle of life, but not so overly aware and full of self-importance as to make it into a big deal.
I read about the second item in the Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine by Michael Murray and Joseph Pizzorno. According to their findings, in cultures where older women are viewed as respected elders, menopause symptoms are almost unheard of. The authors even state that osteoporosis is extremely rare in those cultures where achieving old age is seen as a sign of divine blessing and great wisdom. But here in the West, where eternal youth is valued, women experience hot flashes, headaches, and forgetfulness. In fact, Western medicine classifies menopause as a disease. They conclude that if our Western society would adopt a different cultural view of older women, then menopausal symptoms would cease to be.
The point here, in my opinion, is that our perspective is indeed our reality. So is your reality one of spiritual materialism and navel gazing, where your thoughts imprison you in an apocalyptic world filled with hot flashes and night sweats? What do you think?