Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Falling Asleep And Being Awake

Falling asleep and being awake are not only bodily activities but spiritual ones as well. If you are not spiritually enlightened, you are going through life asleep even though your body may be awake and going through the motions and activities of daily life. An awakened one is someone who is spiritually awake and aware. They are alive and present to the moment with all of it potential and grace. They not only see the obvious, they see what is hidden to those who are asleep. The goal of the spiritual life, whatever way you live it, is to become an awakened one. This is also the contemplative life. I thought about all of this in a very real and practical way last night as I lay in bed trying to fall asleep. My body was tired and needed rest. Unfortunately, my mind decided to be enlightened and awake. As I have shared before, many work nights I fight a battle to stay awake and not fall asleep. Those hours right after dinner are a constant battle between the sandman and me. Some nights I remain awake and other nights I lose the battle. What is it that makes me victorious one night and defeated another night? It seems to boil down to something called engagement. This word is currently a buzzword in my office. What keeps me awake in the early evening and in the hours before bed time is engagement. I must keep my mind or my hands engaged. During the work day I am usually busy getting up and down, interacting with people, reading or writing emails, studying reports, and doing whatever the work day demands. I am awake and present to the moment as my mind and body are engaged in whatever I am doing. In the evenings, my body will quickly fall into a deep slumber if I am not engaged in intellectual activity or mundane tasks like cleaning up the kitchen or doing the laundry. It would seem that engagement is the key to be awake. Can enlightenment be far behind? If engagement with life creates a state of being an "awakened one", is it not fair to say that our very lives are the key that can unlock the door to a deeper spiritual awareness?

Sometimes there are rumors about me. The ones I hear are not bad, just untrue. Here's a few that have come my way over the years. No, I did not attend the original Woodstock although I do consider myself an aging hippie. In the summer of 1969 I was preoccupied with getting into a college and avoiding the draft. I was 18 years old, working a full time summer job for the local power company, and madly in love with an Italian girl named Marina. Another rumor is that I am a wild guy because of my rock and roll adventures. Nothing could be further from the truth. Far from wild, I am almost boring. Some people think I am an ex-priest. This is not true either. I am not a minister of any kind, at least not in any official way. I did, however, attend the seminary in my youth and I did spend a year of my life as a novice monk at the Abbey of Gethsemani. Basically, a novice is a monk in training. I was not kicked out of the monastery. I left on my own and at the time the door was open to return if I chose to do so. The door was closed, however, when I acquired a wife. I am not a real Zen master nor a Buddhist even though one of my nieces once asked my wife if I was. I have no impressive degrees. In fact, I have no degree at all. Some people think I am very intelligent, deep, and wise. I will continue to let people think that until the truth is known. My 15 minutes of fame were used up a few years ago when a local author, Dianne Aprile, wrote a few pages about me in her book about the monastery entitled "Making a Heart for God". I do not know how I know what I know. I am a student of life. I like to read everything I can. I love knowledge and understanding and I have not let a lack of formal education keep me from being an informed person. I love psychology, philosophy, spirituality, art, books, music and life in general. I like to live well, not by having many things, but by appreciating all that life gives me. I am a simple person who prefers an uncomplicated life. In other words, I am nothing special. I am just a regular guy who wakes up everyday happy to be alive believing in serendipity and magic as each day unwraps itself. Sometimes people look at me and say "I really like the way you think". Well, it doesn't take a Master's Degree. Just wake up and live. Enjoy everything. Choose to be happy.

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