“We have more possibilities available in each moment than we realize.”
Thich Nhat Hahn
Our spiritual leaders today speak of “waking up.” That is, becoming conscious; awakening to a larger reality. Some of my favorite writers, Eckhart Tolle, Thomas Moore, Caroline Myss, Thich Nhat Hahn, Deepak Chopra, and of course, pioneers, such as Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell and others, urge us to move toward consciousness. But what does that mean and why is it important?
In so many realms of life, things tend to move in their usual paths. We are accustomed to predictable cycles—seasons, orbits, tides. We identify with what we know well; we take the same routes, we associate with the same people. On a larger scale, we have regional and national identities, ideals and behaviors that have been handed down for centuries, and which we adhere to simply because that is how it's always been. One negative example is the racism that exists in the United States and elsewhere, which was once accepted as simply “the way things are.” One positive example is the idealism of the American people, who believe that anything is possible even in the face of great obstacles. Other people in other lands have different handed-down customs that they adhere to without question.
Some of our traditions and behaviors are positive, and some are the stuff of nightmares. The goal of consciousness is to shine the light of awareness on all of them equally. It helps us see the things we do, think and say, that are healing, and contribute to human dignity, peace and equality. It also helps us to see how we keep ourselves and others stuck in unproductive and harmful cycles of fear and negativity.
It seems as though it should be simple to wake up; to become aware of what's happening both within and outside of us, but it isn't. We all have great resistance to seeing clearly, to changing our view of the world, and to adjusting our behavior accordingly. We have difficulty letting go of old grudges, old resentments, old habits, and most of all, old privileges. We have a hard time surrendering our “right” to be who we are.
Sometimes, all it takes is small adjustments, and over time those adjustments lead to major change. Something as small as monitoring what we say before we say it, assessing the impact of our words and attitudes on others, can make an enormous difference. But to do this, we must become self-aware. We have to tune in, and self-evaluate. We have to open our eyes and look around us. We must withhold our pat judgments and immediate interpretations long enough to allow the truth of another human being to change our understanding. We have to develop the ability to take another person's world view and see as they see. It's a big assignment. Sometimes, it's a painful process.
In all moments, we have many possible responses at our disposal. Realizing this requires that we wake up.
In the Spirit,