Chances are, if you've been aware of anything in past ten years then you've heard people talk about the importance of 'being aware' or 'having awareness'. BUT, do you even know what awareness is, exactly?
As it relates to the interior of your mind, your conscious awareness sits just above your unconscious faculties and just below your primary focus of attention.
I specify "conscious" awareness to associate it with what you're conscious of and to distinguish it from another form of awareness which is entirely unconscious to you.
By definition conscious awareness is a mental field of low-resolution information serving as the landscape of your conscious psychological experience; kind of like the wide background in a scene of a movie. It's there. You're aware of it. But your focus of attention is on something more specific in the foreground.
Your unconscious awareness alerts you to your sense of hunger or your need to use the restroom or your need to get the hell out of a situation or perhaps to dive headfirst into one; it's kind of like the people behind the set of a scene of a movie--your producers, editors, extras, camera people, and even the director.
All of them back there behind the curtain of awareness working tirelessly to keep the conscious lights in front of the curtain brightly lit.
And, as it turns out, according to devout Tibetan monks and neuropsychologists alike, a principle goal of the human mind is to create a strong connection between your conscious and unconscious awarenesses...
Looking at this connection from a neural (brain) anatomy perspective you would see strong connections and blood flow between your prefrontal cortex near the top-lead edge of your brain and your limbic systems housed in the basement of your brain.
This neural signature between these two brain housing groups is visible with proper imaging instruments and represents a mind at-ease in a balanced mood exercising effective goal-directed behaviors.
Now, never mind (pun intended) the neural activity going on in your skull while you experience your mind at-ease in a balanced mood as you execute on your goals; the question is how do I get that well-balanced experienced of what it's like to be at-east and in action?
ANSWER: Conscious awareness of the most unconscious thing your body does--breathing.
At first, when you try this, your attention will likely settle into the breath along with your awareness; and this is where you'll start feel like you're missing out on your thoughts.
That's okay...stay the course and over time your awareness will embed more deeply into your breathing and your attention will separate back up to what you want to focus on.
But after you've constructed those strong neural connections by flexing your brain's muscles of attention & awareness, you can put a fuller value of your attention directly upon what you want to focus on; and this allows your unconscious awareness to do what it does best--regulate your mind & body properly and alert you to necessary information going on either inside you or around you.
Over the long-term, this physiological shift in your breathing, which is a result of your awareness of your breathing, changes your entire internal chemistry (namely, less CO2 build-up). This positive change in your chemistry provides for better cellular connections throughout your whole body, including brain and nervous system.
Now, I can go on and on about the chain reaction of goodness that ensues as your breathing patterns normalize and your chemical constitution cleanses; but none of this information will matter if you don't start today to cover your breath with your awareness and draw that connection between your conscious and unconscious forces.