Waking Up Into Awakening (part 2 of 2)
Updated: Jul 3, 2019
We can't drop the veil of the personality if we don't know what our particular version looks like. Getting to know the lens through which we view and interpret our life experiences is a long-term pursuit; not always easy but always eye-opening.
Listed here are three practices that are foundational to the process of awakening as I described it in part one of this post. We really can't awaken if any of these are missing.
1. PRESENCE-Being here now
**Why is presence so important? Because everything happens in present time.
Life is happening NOW and if you're not here, you're missing it. It's that simple.**
From this moment, we can do nothing tomorrow or yesterday; ten minutes ago nor in an hour or even a minute. We can only do now. Everything we do, every choice we consider, every decision we make, the genesis of every behavior happens right here. Your life is happening in THIS moment. And now THIS one. And now THIS. If I want to get to know myself and wind my way out of a challenging set of circumstances; if I want to make a change of any kind, if I want to receive what is here for me, it requires that I am present to my moments; mindful of myself and my experience. From this present moment, I can consider fully and consciously, which way I'm going or what I'm needing. If I'm caught in distraction externally or my mind is busy weaving a narrative, new or habitual, I am unavailable to tend to myself AS MY LIFE IS HAPPENING because my attention is caught up in something else. Learning to 'unhook' from these habituated narratives is a part of the work of awakening.
And if we're not tending to our present moments as they unfold these processes are occurring unconsciously and therefore, so too, the decisions that come from them. It is hard if not impossible to heal and create a life, a community, a world that is nourishing if we are unconscious. It is in being conscious that we find our way.
Presence and mindful attention are everything.
(You can read more about mindfulness on the 'Services' page of my website.)
2. CURIOSITY-Finding fascination
**Release judgment and suspend chronic evaluation; be willing to 'not know' and
to stay interested so that you can learn about what you're up to.**
Nothing helpful ever comes from a punitive and judgmental mind. Self-knowledge can be hard to come by when we lead with criticism over curiosity. Curiosity has in it compassion, invitation and possibility. Self-criticism has none of these. Curiosity creates fertile ground for getting to know oneself. Criticism and self-judgment are dead ends. People are fascinating. You are fascinating. All the mental maneuvers and meaning-making through which we all interpret our experiences can be known to us. And we can soften their grip on us if we want to. When we go toward them with sincerity and curiosity, our world opens up.
If you need a little structure for practicing curiosity, you can borrow from Buddhist teachings that tell us that the nature of suffering can be found in the mind's preoccupation with resisting or grasping; that we're often either pushing away what we don't want or grasping toward something we do want. Could be a thing, a person, a concept, a feeling, a memory, an image. As you move through the moments of your life and find yourself unsettled or reactive, you can ask yourself if you're in a state of grasping or resisting. And just notice it and name it. What am I grasping for or what am I resisting?
Then let your attention land in your body and breath. Make use of your senses here and in the movement of your breath coming into and leaving your body. The senses and the breath function in present time and offer a tangible anchor in this moment. They're free. They're accessible. Please use and enjoy them! They are always receiving information and stimulation. If we're not in present awareness, again, we miss it. We can move from the tension of reactivity to the more open feeling of being. And from this vantage point, we enter and engage our lives with a beautiful intimacy and deepening awareness.
3. DISCOMFORT-Befriend it
**Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable? Seems counterintuitive. Why would we do such a thing? We're so accustomed to escaping discomfort whenever we can.**
To awaken, to lift oneself out of the entrapments of the reactive mind and habituated behavior will require change which then requires thinking and behaving differently than we're used to, of course. We're uncomfortable when we step out of habits into unfamiliar turf. If the tendency or habit is to avoid discomfort, then making changes in order to free oneself from reactive states will be impossible.
So, how? How do we welcome or turn toward discomfort? Again, the mindfulness practice of staying present with our experience is key. First, notice the discomfort without doing anything about it. Don't speak. Don't do whatever you habitually do to get away from it. Just stay with it. Be willing to feel your discomfort. Take a moment to recognize, notice and name it; discomfort/tension. Notice whatever agitation might be present and see if you can give yourself the space to experience how you "do" the discomfort. To use body-based language, we're looking at how we 'somatically organize' around our experience, in this case, of discomfort. Put another way, we're paying attention to how we embody this state. What is your direct experience of your discomfort? Are you holding your breath? Is your breath quickening? Where is the tension in your body? Clenching your jaw? Pulling up in your pelvic floor? Tightening your belly? Notice, with curiosity, just what is going on. Notice and allow for a conscious breath in and out. Look around and connect with the external environment. Be with it.
Assess what you might need to help manage this feeling state and go toward those that soothe and are safe. Depending on the intensity of this process, you may only be able to tolerate it for a short time and might need to distract yourself. That's okay. It's a beginning. You may decide you need a guide, a therapist or teacher to help facilitate this level of presence because, perhaps, your distress is too great at times.
If you can continue, you might consider the thoughts you're having; the beliefs you're running. Look at the narrative or storyline that is the backdrop for the experience you're having in that particular moment. What am I telling myself in this moment about myself, someone else, or my circumstances? Is what I'm thinking true? Once we know what we're up to, we have the power of choice; we have the power to shift, seek help, and gain some mastery over these processes. And it requires learning to tolerate discomfort and distress as it comes up. And sometimes the discomfort serves to help us take the next step.
These three processes are enough for a lifetime of self-inquiry and understanding. Let them be the backdrop to your moments any time you think of it. I hope you'll experiment with them and find your way to untangling yourself from outdated and limited beliefs so that the wonder and majesty of this life can also be part of your experience. These three practices, when done consistently and with a sincere heart, will change your life.