Awakening is a process of bringing your fullest attention to the moment; nothing more complex than that. But the moment we awaken, we glimpse an evolving, comforting balance within ourselves, and with that balance we can serve - in our families, our love, our work, and our world. This week I offer two ways to awaken and uncover the existing greatness we all tend to deny within ourselves - in order to heal and proceed gracefully in our lives.
First I'll mention our other option: to stay asleep, entangled in the jumble of usual reactions with no regard for what is possible.
Back to awakening. We become familiar with our own rough, reactive reality in the most mundane moments to get a taste of the situation at hand. [Keep in mind that reactive people aren't just aggressive; repression as a reaction makes us sick too.]
Secondly, once seen, instead of succumbing to reactivity, we become more active. By "active" I mean that we are actively making attentive, grounded behavioral choices that help us balance our destructive tendencies with our highest potentials. In the words of my fearless [John] Friend, "...awakening is the ever-expanding process of recognizing that our true nature is full and lacking nothing.
"Spiritual freedom or enlightenment is not a fixed state of being. Rather it is an ever-evolving process of unfolding our innate divine effulgence, goodness, and balance... a deepening into the perfection that already exists."
In my own experience, I've constructed many veils that cover this unfolding effulgence, and am asleep often. We all have the ability to make our outer lives seem radiant when inwardly there is enormous doubt and fear. The process of placing our attention on the doubt and fear - and learning what we need to see in order to bring balance to this life - is the process of awakening that brings us toward that evolution again and again.
The moment we embark upon this process, all the usual escape hatches [destructive, sabotaging behaviors] zoom to the forefront. These distractions reflect our own personal surfeit of unprocessed experiences and guilt, residing in our bodies for years, unchecked [often as chronic pain, fatigue, dullness, sadness, overactive intellect, name it]. Facing those manifestations is crucial; and brings us closer to everyone nearby.
There are two practices that help me remember what needs to be done. See it clearly; learn to act instead of re-act.
1 - Self observation, leading to self mastery, is the most neutral scientific observation of one's self in order to discover from which center [physical, emotional or mental] the current reactions are flowing. Translated: to see which part of your being is enslaved to some external circumstance right now. To do so, practice watching your tendencies with curiosity instead of dread or judgment; the slightest bit of agility with your attention is all you need to bring you back to what is really happening, and your heart becomes more nimble all the time. [Tangentially, an example for the parents: your child needs you to be unshakably calm. Through watching myself overreact with my child, I've learned that to be an attentive parent is just to offer the simplest, calm responsiveness - and that our calm is infectious every time. I write this so I will remember this.]
Your self-observation practice is 5 minutes per day, sitting and breathing and watching. Happy or sad, you sit. We generate indestructible strength when we stick to this tiny consistency each day.
If you wish, to consider for these 5 minutes: when you get distracted/amused, notice your thoughts [intellectual center]. Don't try to change or stop them, just notice them occurring inside your brain, as impulses with momentum of their own. They will only drop anchor when we allow them to; they will pass if we keep watching.
Notice also your inner feeling(s) [emotional and/or physical center]. Don't try to change anything there either, just see where you're holding tension in your body, what parts of you are not available versus where you're able to sense energy percolating and flowing.
2- The second practice that helps me awaken, yoga -makes us more sensitive to our own inherent potential balance, physically, and the stronger we are in our bodies, the more readily we're able to release unneeded charge from our lives. Know that a quality teacher will tap into your most personal potentialities without speaking overly personally or forcing their opinion on you in their teaching. Class should leave you inquisitive, comfortable and clear.
Rather than allowing reactive feelings or thoughts to be the driving force of all our choices big or small, we acknowledge that the reactivity exists, until it softens, which it always will. These, our most useful gifts to the world: to awaken, accept ourselves and choose our course with elegance.