It’s hard work, becoming conscious. And what makes it doubly hard is this: I wake up and look around. My eyes are open and it’s a beautiful thing. So I go down the path a ways and then realize I’ve just awakened from a dream within the dream. Now I have another awakening to go through. And another. And another. After awhile I think, “Will this ever end?” But it doesn’t. It keeps going, uncovering layer after layer.
Okay, so this isn’t a sprint—it’s a marathon. We’re in this for the long haul. I’m learning to settle down and get comfortable with being uncomfortable. This is the terrain of being awake—there’s always the next awakening. Just as there’s always a new dawn.
Slowly it starts to become familiar. Of course there’s always a new dawn!! Why would I want it any other way? The alternative is endless night, going back to sleep. That doesn’t sound like any fun.
I’m also realizing that the awakenings don’t have to be big and jarring and noisy and painful. I changed my alarm clock recently. Now, instead of being startled awake, I hear a soft, gentle song fragment. It starts out quietly and gradually builds to an uplifting melody. Most mornings I hear the gentle beginning and turn off the alarm. This morning I was dead asleep and still woke up gently and easily.
So here’s the thing. Waking up the first time can be loud and dramatic, even painful. But with our eyes open, we can see so much! And there’s a joy and a triumph in the awakening. It’s a lot of work and we feel entitled to enjoy our new-found consciousness.
But if we stop there, we sooner or later slip back into sleep. Maybe sleep is inevitable, maybe even necessary. But the great thing is that the sun rises once again every morning. And so can we. Every day we have a chance for a new awakening. It can be big and jaw-dropping or it can be gentle and profound. Or anything in between. The point is to keep waking up. I used to think the job was to stay awake. But I don’t think that’s even possible. It seems to me that the real work is to keep waking up.