This post was inspired by a question from Christianne Squires of the Still Forming online community. She sends out a nourishing Sunday Cup of Quiet email that I always enjoy receiving. The below question came from her latest email and was one I enjoyed reflecting on. I thought I would share my answer to it here in this space as well.
How do you practice living awake, or how do you struggle with it? What do you notice about the difference between waking up or sleepwalking in your life?
Sleepwalking through life is terrible and anxiety-ridden. It happens when I am too wrapped up in the tension between where I am and where I want to be, when I am too focused on what I should be doing, or when I am too wistful about the past.
Living awake, for me, is about entertaining any of the hundreds of little invitations that float by each day. I don’t have the will power or discipline to be awake every moment but when I can grab onto one of those floating invitations, say a sudden strong breeze, and allow it to rekindle a sort of mindfulness and awareness, I slowly awaken and so does the world around me. These little invitations give volume to a little voice inside that says, “Stop spinning your wheels, be still, pay attention, start noticing.”
As I write this now (it’s own invitation) I’ve noticed myself move from a task oriented mode to a more “living awake” mode. I just stopped, noticing the feel of my bare feet on the ottoman, my fingers resting on the cool keyboard, my breath slowing, the white semi-transparent curtains billowing in the breeze—harbingers of the coming storm, the beautiful green vines of a hanging plant dancing alongside them, and the sound of the wind ebbing and flowing through large tree branches like the ocean tide.
Then I noticed the still mundanity of the world: the distant barking dogs, a lawn mower, hollers from kids down the street, and a neighbor carrying out the trash. As I’ve taken this moment to notice, new thought patterns have emerged. I realized how “inside” myself I had been just moments before—unable to really notice or appreciate all that I have in the last few minutes. I felt a sense of peace come over me and suddenly felt content with my place in the world and my place in my own journey.
Living awake is about allowing these moments of awareness and simplicity to emerge throughout the entire day—for our entire lives are made up of millions of single moments. I can’t suddenly decide, in a fit of fury or passion, to be awake the rest of my life! But I can choose how exist in one moment after another—to allow those subtle invitations to prevent me from drifting off to sleep.
Photo credit: Lance Baker [Loc.] Da Nang, Vietnam