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Center for Action and Contemplation

Being Awake

Thursday, February 9, 2017


Being Awake
Thursday, February 9, 2017

In our regular contemplative “sit” (time of silent prayer) we are actually practicing being awake. Religious teachers, including Jesus, the Buddha, as well as many Hindu sages, are always telling us to wake up—to be alert, alive, awake, attentive, or aware. You might call it the AAAAA recovery program! But how can you do that? What does being awake actually mean?

Being conscious or aware means:

  • I drop to a level deeper than the passing show.
  • I become the calm seer of my dramas.
  • I watch myself compassionately from a little distance, almost as if “myself” is someone else.
  • I dis-identify with my own emotional noise and no longer let it pull me here and there, up and down.
  • I stop thinking about this or that and collapse into pure or “objectless awareness” of nothing in particular. I don’t get there; I fall

At first, it does not feel like “me.” It is unfamiliar territory because up to now I thought that my thinking was “me,” yet now my thinking has ceased. I believe this is the meaning of Jesus’ teaching on “losing oneself to find oneself” (see Luke 9:24).

This new and broader sense of “me” gradually, over time, begins to feel like my deepest and truest self; it seems solid and unchanging. At this point, God, consciousness, I, silent emptiness, and fullness all start to feel like the same wonderful thing! This is what spiritual teachers mean by growth in holiness.

This deeper self is what most traditions refer to as “the soul” or the True Self and what psychology might call “the collective unconscious.” When I live here I am somehow “shared” and participating in something Larger. I am not doing it; it is being done to me, with me, through me, and as me! Paradoxically, this pure consciousness is usually described as the “unconscious” because, in a sense, I am not at home here at all, and I am surely not in control. So you see why we fight it.

Gateway to Silence:
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus. —Philippians 2:5

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 2009), 134-136.

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