Is there a potential transformation possible for us all? When you are experiencing a sense of awakening, such an idea makes sense. When you are not, it is a strange thing to hear. Aren’t I already “awake”?
I was in my mid-20s when I first heard about “waking up”. I wasn’t exactly sure what it meant, but it implied that there was a way of living that was more conscious, more aware, and that allowed you to see things as they truly are.
My Zen Buddhism meditation teacher suggested the goal was to “wake up to your true nature”. This implied that I was somehow asleep. I began to notice similar metaphors in writing and poetry that stated we were in “in prison”, able to “be reborn” and that there is a possibility to shift “from fragmentation to wholeness.”
As a psychologist, I had been trained to know the most powerful roadmaps that depicted how personality was developed. Yet, this notion of needing to wake up was suggesting that life is much more than I had been taught. Buddhist teachers were pointing to an inner journey less familiar to our culture and less familiar to me personally. They were describing a critical linkage between mind, body, heart, and spirit that was discovered through practice, attention, observation, and inquiry. With this practice, it was possible to see the True Self and to “wake up.”
This blog series is about conscious living—showing up with full presence to all that life puts before me. I will talk about the challenges I face in being present in response to the ever-changing conditions and rhythms of life. How can I meet life exactly as it is, moment to moment, without retreating into contraction or fear?
The personal metaphor I use is that life is like a gymnasium. It’s a place to “work out” and discover my capacities. It’s also a path to inner freedom and full potential. When I think of life as a school through which all of life’s “tests” present themselves, I can see the opportunities for self-discovery and welcome the deep mystery that is life.
My personal intention is to live as consciously as I can. It isn’t easy to do. I battle with my “cultural hypnosis,” which makes me less aware and more habitual. It is that battle that can provide joy when I let myself wrestle with my beliefs, my habits, my forgetting, and my internal split between body and mind.
When we are dominated by behaviors and habits that are quite efficient yet limit our potential to see and act with greater choice, we might say that a “bureaucracy in our nervous system” exists. We are lulled into the sleep of forgetting, repeating patterns of reactivity and self-judgment that cause suffering and disconnect us from our sense of joy. Alternately, these patterns can also be the doorway to self-discovery and self-compassion.
Together, let’s explore the potential to live with an illumined and embodied self. We all have the capacity to cultivate inner peace, and pull back the veils from unknowing into knowing. How do we live in joy and awareness, accepting, celebrating, and acknowledging all that life brings—the seemingly good and the seemingly bad?
It’s rewarding to explore how to use life as a ground of practice with you.
What is the most frequent battle you experience with your own habitual bureaucracy?
I look forward to hearing from you. I want your comments, your most intriguing challenges, and your most satisfying victories.