Those two words encompass an entire philosophy of life. According to the ancient seers, we are asleep, dreaming that our day-to-day world is all that is. And that who we are – who we really are – is much more than our familial and societal roles, much more than our occupation, bank account, politics, gender, marital status, or sexual orientation. More than our history as a victim or perpetrator.
There’s a wonderful little story about Buddha:
One of his students asked him, “Are you the messiah?”
“No,” answered Buddha.
“Then are you a healer?”
“No,” Buddha replied.
“Then are you a teacher?” the student persisted.
“No, I am not a teacher.”
“Then what are you?” asked the student, exasperated.
“I am awake,” Buddha replied.
What does it mean to be awake? It means that you have done the inner work to clear out the old beliefs you unconsciously absorbed while growing up – the ideas you may unknowingly hold about yourself and the world around you.
It means that you know how to process and release the emotions that flow through you rather than trying to ignore or bury them. When you don’t acknowledge your jealousy, anger, shame, guilt, and all the other emotions we all experience, they fester within and turn toxic; the distorted energy can affect your ability to be healthy, to be fully alive.
You are awake when you are available to experience all that life holds.
It means you understand presence – the state of being where you live in the present moment, the here and now, rather than being bogged down in the past or wary of what the future may hold. Presence is the ability to listen with full attention and compassion. The Dalai Lama, who radiates presence, has said that his religion is kindness. How simple, and how totally present!
Waking up also means that you awaken the innate gifts you have… and yes, you have the ability to go beyond the veil of illusion that is the seemingly rock-solid wall of physical reality. You can nurture and practice seeing more than the eye can behold, hearing sounds that the ear cannot hear, sensing beyond what can be touched. Haven’t you ever had a strong “gut feeling” that kept you out of danger or helped you to avoid a destructive relationship? Or knew who was calling before you answered the phone, or thought of that person before the phone even rang? Where did that come from?
Most of all, wake up from the dream of separation. You can awaken to Oneness. We are not separate from each other, or from any other part of the universe. Humanity desparately needs to wake up from the collective nightmare of “the one with the most toys wins.” Greed, on a personal and corporate level, and the arrogance of mankind in believing we are somehow the top of the evolutionary ladder, has brought the world nuclear catastrophe, endless war, environmental distress, and a host of societal ills like homelessness and starving children.
In the words of a little three-year-old friend, who has clearly heard her pre-school lessons: sharing is caring.
It’s time to wake up to who you are. You will be happier, healthier, more content with your life, more aware of your purpose here on earth, and a blessing to all around you.