Metacognition is monitoring and control of cognitive processes. This is done with mental capacity. Often in retrospect, sometimes in anticipation of the future, seldom in the present.
We can actively start metacognition in the present. It is as if you record your stream of consciousness. This is what we do as a very first exercise in meditation. It can be very powerful. We see thoughts emerge, from nothing. We recognize that looking at our thoughts is a difficult thing. Thoughts connect to other thoughts and reasoning, and these processes compete and take over from the observing process. Then this observing process simply dies. Suddenly we get aware that we are not monitoring anymore, we can observe again.
That sudden moment of awareness is different. It is not a thought. It is a director, a re-director, an interrupt from a different place. (Probably somewhere in the brain, but not from the reasoning center.) That interrupt is awareness.
The monitoring is metacognition.
When we replay what has happened yesterday when we had a fight with X, we are doing metacognition. When we rehearse an interview we will do tomorrow, this is metacognition.
When during the next fight we suddenly ‘see’ what is going on, that is awareness.
Awareness has the power to interrupt all mental processes and redirect.
When you are really in the music, you are listening to, this is called being in the flow. If you are working with passion, really doing what you do without opinion on it, you are in the flow. Awareness can go further. You suddenly see that you are in the flow, and it makes your heart light up.
Metacognition is something you can start doing. Awareness just comes. It might always be there, but we nearly never listen to it.