Being aware isn’t something you purchase in a store. You can’t acquire awareness unless you want to acquire it.
Basically, awareness is what you pay attention to by choice. It’s what you notice.
Some people don’t notice much of anything. They are asleep. They walk through life as in a trance, eating, sleeping, talking, watching TV, and never notice anything beyond what is immediately in front of them or what falls into the realm of a task like getting dressed or taking a shower. Other people notice the world and what goes on in it but never notice anything about themselves. Some people only notice themselves and pay no attention to the world.
You can find out what kind of awareness a person has by listening to the way they speak. If you want to know what they pay attention to, notice what they talk about most of the time. That will tell you.
Some people are very visual. They will remember the color of a room in someone’s home, they will remember the outside of a specific house on a street full of houses that look pretty much the same. Some people remember feelings and sensations. They can recall a certain reaction to a person or event in great detail or describe the emotions they had while reading a book or watching a movie years prior. Some people remember sounds. They associate certain sounds with specific places, people or times. Of course, we all do this now and then, but some people are very obviously in a particular category when it comes to awareness of this kind.
I remember voices and vocal sound. Whenever my ex-husband and I went to a vocal recital at Carnegie Hall, years later he would inevitably remember the songs performed (which I promptly forgot) and I would remember how the person sang (which he barely noticed). Sometimes, it was like we were at two different events. I remember how a student sounds from lesson to lesson, sometimes from year to year or over the course of a very long period of time. I don’t try to do this, I just do. I can’t remember, however, where I put my purse most days.
Some people notice a person’s characteristics or behavior. They notice how someone moves, how they speak and what they are interested in. They know what they notice and why.
A performer has to notice everything. In order to portray life in all its myriad glory you have to pay attention to the people in it. You have to pay attention to the human condition and how human beings behave in various circumstances. If the training process takes you away from noticing specific things and forces you to go into a kind of dead space in your mind, something is wrong. All good performers are excellent at observing life and absorbing that awareness into their artistic personality.
If you do not create a rich environment in your own mind when you are creating something, if you do not know why you are doing what you do, or why you are striving to do something, the flatness of that inner landscape will pervade your creative product, whether or not you notice or even care. Unfortunately, if your creative endeavor is singing, it can easily be so that during the training process, no one even asks you to be aware of anything at all. No one asks, “Why are you making that sound?” (as opposed to any other sound) and, “Under what circumstances would you (or any other living being) make a sound like that?” No one says, “What does this sound have to do with real life?” And, sadly, students don’t ask themselves those questions either.
In the world where singing equals resonance (placement, formant tuning), if you only sing with a certain kind of resonance (bone vibration, position) because someone told you to do that or because you believe that this sound is the only one that will “project” (carry, ring), and you cannot find a reason why the sound you are making is a reflection (at least) of a situation in real life, DON’T SING IT. Of course, in a world where singing equals honest communication, you don’t have to struggle to find out what the sound reflects because what it reflects is the communication. They cannot be separated. You don’t have to reflect the human condition because you are living the human condition while you sing.
Many performers get into a rut. They do what they do because they get used to it and it feels good. Eventually they don’t have to pay much attention to anything while they are performing. They get lulled into a state of self-satisfaction. If you are an artist, you have to walk a careful line between being pleased with your artistic output and being self-indulgent. You have to be confident in what you are doing and relaxed enough to do it without a lot of angst, but you should always have some kind of awareness of what your intention is and how you are doing in expressing that intention. Remember there is an audience and that the audience matters.
If you don’t have a teacher, you don’t go to class, you don’t have a coach, you don’t allow others to give you feedback about your art, be even more careful. You may not have any awareness of what has slipped away or you may have drifted into a situation you don’t even know exists.
Awareness is very very important. Without it, life can simply pass you by. It isn’t a magic bullet, but it can make an enormous difference. If you don’t know what kind of awareness you have, ask someone who knows you well. You might be surprised.