May 17 2009

Are you Awake?

I don’t mean awake physically. In many ways we are like the Keanu Reeves character in the film The Matrix . We live our lives, often happily, but still unaware that we are missing something. We might even feel that there is something beyond getting a Starbucks double shot latte or arriving late to work. Waking up is the first important step in a journey of transforming spirituality. Unlike the movie we don’t need to take a blue pill or a red pill. But we need to step outside ourselves for a moment. It is extremely difficult. Often we need a catalyst to accomplish this. Catalysts are important because they can move us past the normal and the comfortable to real insight. What can a catalyst be? A death in the family or traumatic event, great anger or joy might propel us past our usual experience of life.

I am not saying that it is impossible to wake up without a catalyst, just harder. The obvious way is to get outside of your normal environment or engage in activity that is not typical for you. But they have to be of the type that can change your perceptions. A couple of examples are a retreat and fasting. The first separates you from your every day experience, so is in a way like a self induced catalyst. Fasting is an important subject to explore at another time, but it too can focus your attention enough to propel you out your “normal.” When I first felt the moments of clarity, of wakefulness, it was always when I was outside my comfortable environment. In these moments you see with clarity what is important to you, what pursuits spiritual or physical you should follow.

In the case of finding yourself awake because of a catalyst, like a death, you can see your life, perhaps your behavior so differently than you ordinarily see it, that you wonder why you never saw life with such perception before. And in moments of wakefulness you have an opportunity. A powerful opportunity that comes with this clarity: transformation. Transformation is more than changing an activity, it is altering who we are. If change is scary for most people, transformation can be terrifying. It often means moving past things that don’t work in your life, but are extremely comfortable. This is why you need to wake up to transform your spirituality. If we keep wandering down a road where everything is comfortable it can be like walking throught a tunnel that is air conditioned in summer: we are comfortable but we see nothing. Being awake often means stepping out of the tunnel, out of  the air condidtioning and seeing the sunshine fall on flowers. It may be hot, but life is much more beautiful this way.

I will return to the topic of wakefulness another time. The important thing to remember is that when you are awake, you need to act. Do not wait until you are back in your regular enviroment to change. If you wake up and discover that some spiritual practice is amazing. Don’t promise yourself you will start a practice at some date in the future. Begin now. And I mean now.

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