You may remember times as I do when you were just so exhausted that you literally could not keep your eyes open but could not lay down to sleep just yet. When you finally did get to lay down, oh glorious feeling! You could let go of your struggle to remain awake and yield to the luxurious pull of deep sleep.
I can also recall times when I was a teenager and my mother would turn the light on in my bedroom, shouting “Time to get up for school”. I would get out of bed and make it through my morning routine of getting dressed before I would be startled awake by my mother shouting at me again to get out of bed! I had obviously fallen back asleep and dreamt that I was awake!
When one consciously steps on the path of spiritual awakening they are often confronted with one or the other of these scenarios. They might feel that surrendering to the inexorable, seductive lure of deep sleep would be much easier than trying to remain awake. Or they may actually dream that they are awake only to find out later that their experiences of wakefulness were just illusions.
I have had spiritual awakenings over the years and have been lulled back to sleep time and again. “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” This is as true for the spiritual aspirant as it was for Wendell Phillips, the 19th century abolitionist and orator who is credited with this quote.
Eternal Vigilance for the spiritual seeker is Mindfulness of the Presence of the Divine. Perfect Mindfulness requires practice and self discipline. One learns to let the mind focus on the present moment while also relaxing in awareness of the immediacy of the Being “in whom we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
One should never underestimate the seductive “Sleep of Matter”. Living in a physical body in a physical world affords us the opportunity to achieve and maintain wakefulness even when matter’s inertia fights against it. Just as with strength training, the greater the resistance we overcome the more progress we make. But of course, the ego is all too willing to toss in the towel and dive headlong back into the unconscious depths of matter’s sleep. Wakefulness is the ego’s enemy since wakefulness dispels the notion of being separate and promoting separation is the ego’s only job.
We should not allow ourselves to rest on our laurels, believing that just because we had spiritual experiences and awakenings we are now “home free”. This is the surest way to slip back beneath sleeps surface and start dreaming that we are actually awake. There are many sleeping “teachers” of various disciplines, philosophies and religions out there who are convinced that they are awake. I have been guilty of this and must to this day remember to stay Eternally Vigilant.
Lent is the perfect opportunity to allow the indwelling Spirit of God to reach into our everyday consciousness and wake us up as never before. Simply committing to do five minutes of quiet meditation or even just sitting quietly each day at the same time will produce results and if you can do more, well so much the better. This is not a time for “giving something up for Lent” as had been the common practice but rather an effort and commitment to DO something and then doing it for the full time leading up to Easter.
What a joy it is then to experience the Risen Christ (Self) in us from a place of Wakefulness.