Choices made in unawareness are compulsions. Let us say you get angry right now. It is actually your choice to be angry. Somewhere, you believe that is the way to handle the situation, but the choice has been made in such unawareness that it is a compulsion – it is happening compulsively on a certain level. You are living by choice, but choices are made without awareness – unconscious choices. The fundamental aspect of spirituality is to shift into making conscious choices.
Even with a simple act like waking up in the morning, the unconscious choice is that you do not want to wake up. This is the unconscious choice. Your physical body wants to remain in bed for some more time. There are so many limitations in your experience of life that in many ways, unconsciously, you are not really looking forward to the day. Have you noticed, let us say you have planned to go on a picnic! On that day, you are up before the sun. You are excited and are looking forward to the day. Consciously, you have decided the previous day; you are looking forward to tomorrow. Otherwise, unconsciously, you try to pull the sheet higher up because with light comes today's problems. But now, we make a conscious choice to wake up.
This was the reason ascetic paths were set. You start doing things that are naturally not comfortable for you. When you do activity that is uncomfortable for you, you do it, but you do not like it. Things that you like, you can do compulsively. But things that you do not like, you can only do consciously. That is why the ascetic path. You start doing everything consciously. You are practicing how to be conscious in various situations in your life.
When you are hungry, the natural urge is to grab food and eat. But you make a conscious choice, “I am very hungry, but I am not eating.” To stay away from food, there is no other choice except being conscious about it. These simple things are set up in life so that you start doing things more consciously.
In this way, you can cultivate awareness in different aspects of life. Maybe initially your awareness is only for half-an-hour a day, but gradually you can bring awareness into various aspects of life. The idea of cultivating awareness is that it slowly seeps into your life. It enhances the quality of your life, but that is not the main aspect. If you can maintain awareness in various kinds of situations in life, only then will you ever become capable of being aware at that moment when you have to part with the body.