“Don’t go back to sleep” implored the thirteenth century poet, Rumi. But that’s the human condition, isn’t it? We fall asleep and wake up, and then we fall asleep again. Maybe we slept through a relationship. Maybe we slept through poverty, if it was someone else’s poverty or racial injustice, as long as we were sitting in the front, not the back, of the bus. Maybe we slept through decades devoted to making money with nothing to show for it in the end but money. Maybe we slept through a visit home, not imagining we’d never see our parents again.
In spite of life’s wake-up calls, we can find ourselves in a trance. Occasionally, we seem to need reminders in the form of failures and disappointments. These are times when we need to remind ourselves that in daily life, there’s room for chaos and color, there’s room for loss and gain, for sadness and for joy. The stuff of every day is the source of endless irritation, and endless celebration. It provides constant opportunities to embrace life rather than shun it.
Sometimes we experience a sparkling moment when we break out of the trance and are fully present. Sometimes these present us with “aha” moments of new understanding. Or our thoughts may be “Isn’t that wonderful?” or “Isn’t life amazingly rich and complicated?” Or even, “Doesn’t this look beautiful or taste delicious?” What makes moments distinct is that we are celebrating what actually is.
Being fully present means being alive in all its dimensions – knowing what it feels like to be kind. Experiencing love. Cracking a joke. Being in the presence of profound silence. Giving a thumbs up. Connecting. Working for justice. Noticing something beautiful. Learning. Doing the right thing. Offering a little good cheer. Belly laughs. Helping out. Feeling alive. Being fully awake and alive means living as intensely as responsibly, and as joyfully as possible.
After losing everything in the material world and spending many years being in a controlled prison environment, I’ve learned to look back with soft eyes and an accepting heart. I’ve learned to look forward with hope and anticipation … but mostly, I’m learning to stay awake and be fully present, to savor, bless, and praise this moment and to be grateful for the miracle of being alive for another day on a this beautiful planet.
Charles “Tom” Brown