Quite frankly, most of my life I have been asleep. Like the neighborhood
drunk (maybe sometimes I was) I would stumble through my days not knowing if I was coming or going, and not really caring all the same. This was until the day I stumbled into the very practice that quite literally woke me and began to open my eyes to an entire new world both in and outside of me.
"Looking for a place to happen, making stops along the way"
The term 'wakefulness' is often used to describe the practice of mindfulness and meditation. However, what does mean to be awake? And how does one go about it?
Over the past seven years I have been dedicated to this practice of wakefulness. I have explored many avenues of the practice and different ways of approaching it. Despite the all practice I receive, wakefulness seems to boil down to three fundamental components: Awareness, Attention and Acceptance, which all have an undeniable power to wake us up to a life that we may have never known we are missing until now.
"Wayward Ho! Away we go!"
Awareness is, by my own working definition - the ability to know what is happening, when it is happening. The wonderful thing about awareness is, it is an innate ability and requires no effort from us at all. All we have to do is open to it and poof! There it is! Like the vast blue sky behind every cloud.
However, if we really want to become awake having awareness is simply not enough...
"It’s a shame to leave this masterpiece"
Attention is, by my own working definition – the ability to focus regardless of external or internal distractions. Therefore, we must call on our ability of attention to bring us back to our life whenever we notice that we have wandered away from it.
Now, this is where our practice gets tricky because it is easy to pay attention to our life when it is pleasurable, but what happens when it is not? Do we then just check-out completely until something more pleasurable comes along?
"Come on in, sit right down. No, you're not the first to show"
Acceptance is, by my own working definition - the ability to remain open and receptive, regardless if we like it or not. With the qualities of awareness and attention we are able to see when we lack acceptance towards what is here and with such knowledge we then have to power to soften our hearts around it.
'We've all been here since God knows?'
Awareness supports us in being present in our lives. Attention supports us in coming back to this moment. Awareness supports us in sitting down in the center of whatever is happening right now. When practiced together these qualities create the conditions to what I like to acknowledge as a 'wakeful life' and give us the stability needed to attend to our life no matter what the circumstances. With them, we no longer need to look for a place that is happening, we know it is inside of us at all time. It may only a gentle reminder and a few mindful stops along the way…
Invitation to practice...
Try to wake up to as many moments as you can throughout the day. This may seem like an easy task, but you will see how it requires an ongoing effort to remain present, attentive and accepting towards what it is you are doing moment by moment.
*Italics are lyrics from The Tragically hip song "Looking for a Place to Happen” recorded for their album Fully Completely.
Edited by Shane Matheson @ Relative Clause Editors.