In the world of consciousness growth and spiritual evolution, being “awake” is a highly valued and desired state of being.
Whether you define “awake” as being conscious, alert, aware, present, mindful, or just cognizant of what’s going on, this prized state brings you closer to happiness and inner peace. Thus, striving to wake up from your conditioning becomes the goal.
Unfortunately, you may also set up amazingly high standards for how long you must stay awake in order to really “awaken.” Then, you will unconsciously use that degree of “awakeness” to assess your spiritual development and growth. When you do fall asleep, which I can guarantee will happen, a huge wave of judgment will then arise.
Self-judgment, criticism, discontent, and deep disappointment in your ability to keep your vows can stream into the body/mind. You face head-on your undeveloped capacity to produce a continuity of mindfulness and a non-stop flow of Presence to what is unfolding.
Falling asleep is one of the great hindrances on the spiritual journey to Presence and a life of mindful living. Whether “falling asleep” appears as snoozing, napping, slumbering, checking out, numbing out, being dead to the world, tranced out, losing awareness, being absent, in denial, avoidance, or just plain lost in thought, it is usually considered a state to steer clear of and sidestep as quickly as possible.
Unfortunately, it is not so easy to circumvent being asleep to the moment. So an inner struggle for your attention begins – stay awake and alert? Or relax and fall asleep? The tug to move in both directions can be very strong and very often simultaneous.
What to Do?
To effectively manage this dilemma requires insight into the paradoxical nature of the partnership between wakefulness and sleepiness in our dualistic world.
Just as your breath consists of an inhalation and exhalation to complete itself and sustain the oxygen and carbon dioxide balance in your brain, your mind/body requires both alertness and rest.
A respite from attentiveness is required so the mind/body can re-balance and renew itself in order to keep going. You also require relief from relaxation. Without the arising of tension, no movement can occur and the balance between the two poles will again be lost.
Your life journey pulses with the rhythm of a dance of duality. It becomes easier, more workable, and more peaceful when you understand the hidden partnerships between seemingly opposing poles; when you can allow them to be what they are.
Being awake and being asleep are not against each other. It is the tension between the two that provides the territory of your journey.
I invite you to inquire into your own experience of being awake and asleep to “what is.” Explore for yourself how you are currently relating to the two.
Here’s the surprise: When you can be present to the Oneness of things hidden in the organic unity of the two poles, wakefulness is happening; and access to the “peace that passes all understanding” suddenly emerges.
Give it a try. It can, paradoxically, be quite enlightening!