I have a little shorthand I use to describe some people. I started with “deeply unconscious”. Then I shifted to: “lacking insight into themselves and how they function in the world.” Both of these phrases were my feeble attempts to get at a larger issue – how to describe people who have no interest in (and in fact run screaming from the very idea of) personal awareness, openness and growth.
(You know who you are.)
Recently, I was running errands and had Oprah & Friends playing on my XM radio. I have to admit it: I have an Oprah crush. Sure, she’s got Steadman, and I’m not gay. But still.
I love her.
And I love her Friends. So the other day, I was listening to Dr. Robin Smith, author of Lies At The Altar, when my girl Dr. Robin said something that caught my ear. She said, “It’s time for you to step up and be a grown-up. It’s time for you to be alive and awake.”
Ka-thunk. That was it! Alive and awake! I want my friends to be alive and awake. I want my family to be alive and awake. I want my clients to be alive and awake. I want to be alive and awake.
Why would anyone want to be anything other than alive and awake? What’s the opposite there – unaware and asleep? Hmmmn. Guess if you’re unaware or asleep, you’re kinda safe. You’re insulated from feeling anything or having the scary possibility of anything in your life changing. You sleepwalk through your life, numbed to all experience.
Is that the way to live?
I’ve always wondered what babies think when they fall asleep in their car seat and wake up in their crib. Do they think, “Whoa! Weren’t we just going to the grocery store? How’d I get here?”
Maybe that’s what happens for some people at mid-life. They begin to wake up and think, “Whoa! How’d I get here?” And if they’d been awake and experiencing their 20s and 30s, maybe they’d have a partial clue.
Being alive and awake is a lot of work. The major spiritual traditions suggest that coming awake is our soul’s lifework. It was the Buddha, wasn’t it, who experienced enlightenment and became The Awakened One?
I love the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:7-8: “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”
Leading me to believe that if you never seek, you will never find. If you aren’t alive enough to seek enlightenment – asking who you are and why you are here – you’ll never be awakened.
There is an element of pain and suffering to being alive and awake that you certainly don’t have to face when you’re unaware and asleep. When you’re alive and awake you consciously open yourself to good and bad, happiness and pain, light and dark. Would the easier way be to lead a life of only the former and none of the latter?
That ain’t gonna happen, is it?
As writer Jack Kornfeld has said, you can’t live full time in a blissful state. Even the most enlightened person has to do the laundry from time to time.
Alive and awake is about balance. Think about balance for a moment: bakers add a little salt into a dessert recipe to enhance the sweetness of the treat. Balloonists add a load to their lighter-than-air craft so they can control ascent and descent. Opposites attract.
Continuing the homey aphorisms, it’s said that into every life a little rain must fall. And where would we be in a world without a little rain? Well, we’d have drought. Which would bring on famine. Then death.
Perhaps being unaware and asleep is the way some people try to avoid death. Funny, isn’t it? You go through life insulating yourself from experiences because you’re afraid of death, and guess what? You die anyway.
Because we all do.
How much better, then, to fully live until you die? How much better to turn your face up to the rain and lick the drops as they fall into your life? How much better it would be to live sensing everything, feeling everything, knowing as much as you can. How much better it would be to be alive and awake.
What a great New Year’s Resolution, huh?