In Tuesday's post I used the words, "stay awake," and "living a conscious life." I refer to being present and being awake often in this blog and in conversation with others. Those are common words in my vocabulary; words I aspire to live, as well as recite.
But what do they mean? Today I want to share what others mean by "being awake, " in hopes that their words will enhance your understanding and recognition of being awake in your own life.
Mark Nepo in The Endless Practice, Becoming Who You Were Born to Be:
I use the word wakefulness as a term for enlightenment.
I believe enlightenment isn't a place where we arrive at
but a process we stay in. ..The first lesson of wakefulness
is to keep opening our heart so we can meet what we're
We have moments of clarity and then we're confused.
We're awake and then we're numb. We're buoyant and
then we're sinking. Just as we inhale and exhale constantly,
our wakefulness ebbs and flows.
The practice of being human is the practice of coming
awake, staying awake and returning to wakefulness
when we go to sleep. We go to sleep because we are
mortal--not because there is anything wrong with us.
This opening and closing is part of the human journey.
Therefore, the practice of being a spirit--in a body, in the
world--is a practice of returning to our center where
we can know the world fully. This return to center is a
foundational form of saying yes to life. p. 67
Rami Shapiro in the foreword to Jane Vennard's book Fully Awake and Truly Alive Spiritual Practices to Nurture Your Soul:
You've probably grown so accustomed to sleep living
(a far more common experience than sleepwalking)
that you mistake your current state for wakefulness.
Well, it isn't. You are asleep, and so is almost everyone
you know. ..
Of course, being asleep doesn't mean you aren't
functioning. You get up and go about meeting the
obligations of your day. You may eat well, exercise
regularly, and cultivate loving relationships. You
may, if asked, confidently (if a bit humbly) admit to
being happy and not a little successful. It isn't that
you're lying, it's that being asleep you have no idea
what kind of happiness awaits you when you wake up…
In the Bible Moses tells us, "See I have set before
you this day life and death, blessing and curse. Choose
life if you would live" (Deuteronomy 30:19). To choose
life is to wake up, and when you wake up, you wake up
to the entirety of life: living and dying, blessing and
cursing. You can't escape any of it, but you can learn to
navigate all of it with equanimity and even joy.
Joyce Rupp in The Cosmic Dance, An Invitation to Experience Our Oneness:
I am growing in awareness, however, and each day I
re-commit myself to this gift as I turn my entire being
toward the cosmic dance, longing to lean into it with
all I am and all I do.
This awareness is essential because my experience
of the cosmic dance depends on whether my senses
are alert and whether my heart is attuned to looking
beyond what is visible. If I rely only on the rational,
I will mss a good portion of the cosmic dance. If I fail
to be still and to explore the far regions of mystery, the
dance will remain aloof from my inner eye. Daily I
must set out, again and again, to have an open mind
and a compassionate heart. Daily I must perk up my
external senses and commune with my internal ones,
as well. The cosmos holds out her cup of life to me,
filled with invisible packets of energy. I need only
respond with a desire and an intention to receive. It
is then that I enter into the cosmic dance with aware-
ness and gratitude and hear again the inner voice
urging me toward oneness. p. 33
Suggestions for Reflection
I invite you to read these passages carefully and to note where your heart lifts, but also pay attention to the temptation to fall asleep. Allow yourself to awaken to the words offered here as guideposts for living a more conscious and wakeful life. If there is one passage that resonates with you more than the others, then live with that passage and use it as the source of meditation in your quiet time. Ask it to lead you to greater wakefulness. If you keep a journal, spend some time writing about what you mean by being awake and how you know when you are awake.
Pema Chodron asks us to each day say aloud, "I wonder what's going to happen today." That feels like a call to be awake, a tool for awakening. Try it and see what happens.
I know I have shared these words from Mary Oliver before, but they are worth sharing again--and probably, again.
Tell about it.
How do you know when you are awake? What do you do to become more aware, more present, more conscious? I would love to know.