Some people awaken through a profound enlightenment moment that changes them forever but for most of us, we wake up a little at a time. The capacity to wake up is in all of us because we are energy, we are an expression of life. There are no tricks or secrets, it's a state of awareness of your own higher consciousness in everyday living.
Becoming more conscious, for me, happens daily. When I’m out with friends or family, when I play with my cat, when I’m walking, working, cooking or sitting on my balcony drinking coffee. It doesn’t just happen when I’m meditating or Reiking myself, in fact, for me, it’s not a spiritual practice, it’s moments of being fully present. And it comes and goes. I pop into my thoughts and feelings without realising it because they can be very convincing and I sit in them completely unaware of anything beyond, believing everything they tell me. But the moment I notice them, I become the observer. Thoughts and feelings come and go and I just watch. I don’t make judgements or analyse or even believe them. It opens my awareness to the space within. It’s not an empty space, it’s me, my higher consciousness. Some people call this space the soul, God, spirit, creativity, the connection of all things, I don’t think it matters what you call it, what religion you live or don’t live through and I don’t believe it requires you to be spiritual. All I know is that this space is life, we are life. We can’t be disconnected from it, even though we can perceive we are. The way I deepen my understanding of this is by realising that the moment I become aware I am having a feeling or thought, I am back in the present moment.
Feelings, thoughts and perceptions
For me, feelings are like the smell of rain before the first drop falls. The smell of rain is not rain, nor does it control it, it just tells me it’s there. My feelings tell me about what I’m thinking, often before I realise I’m thinking it. And my thoughts are individual drops of rain falling that together make the downpour of my perception that drenches me. My perception is not reality itself, it’s my individual experience of it, regardless of what else is going on in reality that I leave behind. There is still a sun beyond the clouds and in another place, it’s not raining.
I am watching a sad movie. I start to cry. Someone has inevitably died, been separated from their loved one/s or become terminally ill. This is why I can’t watch Edward Scissorhands or Cinema Paradiso again, too sad. The funny thing is, I’m watching the movie, it’s not real, I know it’s not real, but I cry because my thoughts are telling me I can relate and this is a sad situation. I can’t help myself.
That is the power of thought and feeling. I can have a level of awareness that the situation isn’t real but the images trigger them. Movies are just one example, but you get the point, we each have definitions of what is sad, happy, scary or whatever and regardless of the level of awareness within us, our emotions and thoughts can take hold.
So I’m watching the movie and my mobile vibrates. I’m expecting an urgent call and have chosen an aisle seat in case it comes during the movie. I leave the cinema quietly to take it outside. I stop crying, chat and sort things out, and maybe even have a laugh while the sad scene continues inside. I know what’s happening inside but my thoughts focus on something else and I’m fine. I sit back down and focus on the movie again and bang, the tears start up.
The only information my emotions are giving me is what I am thinking about, what I am focused on. You might say, but that’s not real life, we all dispense with reality when we see a movie and my answer is yes, I totally agree, we do dispense with reality in the cinema. And perhaps we also dispense with parts of reality in everyday life. We take in reality through our own lens, our own perception, we keep what fits into it and discard what doesn’t and this is why two people in the same situation come out of it having completely different experiences. I’m not saying that terrible things don’t happen, nor that you consciously choose what you take in, but what you take from it is unique.
Here’s a real life example:
I bought a deep blue car because I thought the colour was divine. My father, an expert negotiator, accompanied me to secure a great deal. Thanks Dad. As we walked the lot, with each colour we saw, I’d say “The white/green/whatever is nice, but the blue is beautiful.” I wasn’t even aware I was saying it, but by the third colour, my father finished my sentence for me. Hahaha! The colour was like the sky, moments before dusk, as blues deepen and everything quiets. Gorgeous. Now fast forward a few months. I was driving my beautiful blue car through the Callan Park grounds, a tree-studded stretch of land with buildings potted around the place and winding roads leading down to Canada Bay. Unfortunately, its beauty is marred with its sad history of isolating people with mental health conditions and I pay my respects to those affected. I’d just done the Bay Walk and was heading home. The roads are narrow and shared with pedestrians and dogs, so you need to drive slowly. As I meandered, I came across a man who walked towards me. I edged to the left to let him through, but he changed direction and was heading towards the car. Thinking we’d both just moved at the same time trying to get out of each other’s way, I crept to the right. But he followed suit. And then again. My first response was fear (maybe I’ve seen too many horror movies, is that an axe in his jacket?) but then looked into his eyes and saw he was upset, not angry. I poked my head out of the window, “Are you OK?”. His eyes softened, “Blue cars make me depressed”. What to say. “I’m sorry to hear that, I hope your day gets better” and then he disappeared behind me without a trace.
Wow, it was a strange experience and I felt for him, but the point here is that when we both looked at the same car, it had a completely different meaning, which brought up different feelings. A blue car is neutral, it is a functional object that has been sprayed a particular colour, but I perceive it as a beautiful means of getting around that brings freedom and independence, while the man found it depressing. This tells me my feelings give me important information about what I perceive. This can be useful if, say, I see a car racing towards me, I reel with fear and run out of its way before my thoughts become conscious and I register that it’s a dangerous situation. But my perception and thoughts don’t necessarily tell me about reality, if I don’t know what an ocean rip looks like, I can look straight at one and head off into the water without concern and find I need to swim to the side so I don’t get pulled in.
So I take in aspects of reality and make judgements and decisions about what they mean. These are often based on judgements and decisions I made about other experiences and project them onto what is happening. We live from the inside out, not the other way around. So many of my thoughts are recycled, they pop up out of habit or are triggered by what is happening but they don’t necessarily help me with understanding it. Say what is happening reminds me of a painful experience. First, the painful experience is not real, it’s only my imagination, the experience itself is long gone and I only remember the bits that hurt and what I decided they meant about me, others and life. Here, now, is not that experience but my thoughts are saying, “Oh no, here we go again”. If I believe my thoughts, I will act out of what I think is going to happen, rather than remaining open to what is really going on. I’ll protect myself from the pain I perceive is coming and view the situation or others as what I have to defend myself against. The things I recognise are evidence to me that this is the same as the other time and focusing on that means that I can miss other possibilities. If I don’t believe my thoughts, I remain open and can better judge what I should do through being present. It may be that I do need to protect myself, but it may be something completely different. The same goes with fear-based thoughts. They project an imaginary future that is rarely ever like the actual event and contain all my beliefs, fears and related memories, neatly packaged into a scary, little movie playing in my head. I can play it over and over, which reinforces the worry and keeps me out of the present moment, which is the only place I can act from clear thinking. So in any situation, I can ask myself, “If my fantasies of the past and future didn’t exist here and now, what would I choose?”, then I can go within to see what bubbles up.
Here’s a great, quick activity for you to try. It is by Michael Neill (Supercoach, March 2010, Hay House). I’m paraphrasing it.
1. Sit down with a piece of paper and pen.
2. Take 30 seconds to note all the green objects around you.
3. Put down your pen.
4. Complete the above before reading the next sentence.
5. Close your eyes and note all the brown objects that were also there without opening them.
It’s harder to do. Michael’s activity shows us how when we look for the things we recognise, we miss other things that are there. Of course, thoughts can be very useful, they are great for planning, organising and prioritising our lives so we can move forward, but it’s about trying not to automatically believe all thoughts, especially when they seemingly appear out of nowhere and you’ve had them before, because they usually give no new information.
Why do I choose to wake up?
My real power to change is in what I can do here, now. When I am present, I feel aligned with my soul, purpose, sense of wellbeing or whatever term you want to use. It doesn’t mean that it makes my life easy or solves all my problems (that’s another fantasy thought J) because I’m having a human experience, but in bringing myself back to the present moment, I become aware of the space within where insights, creative flow and clarity surface. I feel more peace in my life and it opens my eyes to possibilities that I wasn’t able to see before.
My own changes so far are a testament to me that this is a message worth sharing. I’ve lived a spiritual life since my late teens, I’m in my fifties now, but since I have been waking up, my thoughts and feelings have been much less impacting. I still get caught up in them and they can be full of expectations, distorted memories, old habits and scary movies about the future, but when I’m able to observe them, I am less swayed by them. I'm calmer, others affect me less, my time is more focused on what’s important, I make better decisions and I have a stronger sense of who I am. For some reason, for a long time I believed that I could only have this awareness when I was meditating or in a clear state of mind, but now I understand that clarity is available at any time. And it occurs in moments in time, it’s always available but I fall in and out of awareness.
I want to make a note here that I had resonated with this concept intellectually a long time before I experienced it consciously. I craved the experience described by others but wasn’t sure how to get there. It wasn’t till my awareness deepened that it became real in my life. So what I’m writing about is only describing my experience through examples and descriptions, it’s not the experience itself. I think there can be a tendency in spiritual sharing where we resonate with something that someone writes and we think we understand, so we move on to the next adventure. It’s like when someone describes the ocean, we understand it is made of salt water, it’s cold and it gets deeper the further we go. But we could know that without ever have been in the ocean. It’s only when we go in ourselves that we know what it feels like, we smart as icy water contacts skin, we smell the salt, our feet press on sand that gives under the weight of our bodies till we are deep enough to float and we bob up and down with the waves.
How can you wake up?
The good news is that if you are reading this and are interested in waking up, then you are most likely already starting to wake up. I’d had awakening experiences many years before I realised what they were. It was in those moments that inspiration grabbed me by the short and curlies and sat me down at my desk, placing a paintbrush in my hand or opening my laptop cover, then 3 hours passed before I noticed the time. Or when I was listening to someone and felt deeply connected without preparing a response or trying to solve their problem. And the times that all was well and it wasn’t because something had just happened, I simply felt at peace no matter what else was stirring around me. Sometimes colours have seemed brighter or reality appeared 4D and I felt like I was floating in timeless space. Other times, I was aware of my thoughts and feelings, but didn’t realise what that meant. For me, these are all moments of being present. Your own waking up will be unique to you.
I’m sure there are many ways to wake up, I’m just giving you one. If you realise you’ve been in your feelings and thoughts, you are already coming out of them. Just keep observing, don’t judge them, analyse them, make decisions about what they are telling you and don’t try to stop them. If you are weight training at the gym, playing with your kids or on your way to work, observe them and when you are talking to someone, try listen to them deeply without acting on thoughts and feelings that come up, and when you lie in bed, ready to sleep, watch. Just watch. In doing this in everyday life you are viewing your feelings and thoughts from your fuller awareness, the more expansive consciousness beyond your human experience. And if you’ve never done it before, you can start now. Try to be aware as they happen. The more you do it, the easier it gets.
If this information has been helpful, I’d love to know.
Jacqui Moreno Ovidi
Transformational Life Coach