Have you ever had a dream in which you became fully aware that you are dreaming? This can be an empowering experience because you suddenly find yourself in a world of your own creation, where the only limit is your own imagination. You feel like you can do anything you want- you are the master of your reality. This powerful feeling of limitless potential is what the process of awakening feels like.
As I discussed in my previous blog, we all have our own ideas about the pursuit of enlightenment. We tend to believe that, if we can just clear our minds of all this excess chatter, we will one day reach the ultimate level of realization in which all illusions of separation from the Divine creator will melt away. All mental concepts of self, time and space will dissolve into beautiful white light as we become One with All That Is-undifferentiated from the universal consciousness of creation.
This sounds terrific. But, even if this profound experience of oneness does eventually occur for us while in deep meditation, it can only last for so long. At a certain point we will need to get up and get on with everyday life. Regardless of the level of understanding we reach about the true nature of the soul and our place within the universal whole, the world is going to keep going on the same as it was before. The only difference is that we will experience our reality with more clarity.
In our quest for spiritual growth, we often get so focused on the big prize of 'enlightenment' that we forget to appreciate all the little moments and details that happen along the way. Awakening is the realization that enlightenment lies inside each and every moment that makes up our experience. It's about appreciating the journey for what it is and not fixating so much on the reaching the destination. It's about waking up to life here and now.
Come to think of it, we already have a lot of experience with awakening. For example, what is the first thing you did this morning? You woke up. You were asleep and now you are awake. You moved seamlessly from one state of consciousness into another. You awakened from a dreamworld that was conjured up inside your head and into the real world that exists outside of yourself.
Awakening is the realization that your self, along with this world and everything in it, is also taking place in your head. Everyone has pondered the philosophical question, "If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" My question is, would this world exist at all without someone there observing it? For example, we all know that thorns are sharp but that is only because our skin is so soft. Boulders are only heavy because our muscles are not strong enough to lift them. Mountain streams are calming, sunsets are beautiful, roses smell sweet, sunshine is warm - all because of the fact that we are here witnessing these things. We make the world what it is. Our presence brings physical existence into being.
Awakening is understanding that the inner world and the outer world are one and the same, like two sides of a coin. 'Self' cannot exist without the presence of 'physical reality' and vice versa. It's like waking up inside of a dream except that you are waking up from the day-dream of your Ego and from the illusion of separation between yourself and the world you inhabit. The next step is to become a willing collaborator and active creator in this thing we call reality. This life is your experience in the physical plane of existence. You are the creator of your reality. What are you going to create while you are here?
After enduring one of the biggest winters in recorded history, Lake Tahoe is more than ready for the rejuvenating energies of Spring. Walking around in the forest, I am amazed to see flowers blooming and trees blossoming after enduring many months of harsh conditions. Surely it would have been easier just to give up all hope but, in an incredible display of resilience, trees and plants that were buried under ten feet of snow somehow have found the strength to continue on.
When it comes to resilience, we could learn a lot from nature. Because, is it just me, or have the last six months been a particularly challenging period of time? I'm not just talking about the weather either. What we have endured socially, politically, psychologically, emotionally, environmentally- it's enough to make anyone want to throw in the towel. Yet, just like the forest buried in snow, we also need to find the strength to keep going. Beyond mere survival, we also need to figure out a way to thrive.
Why does a tree tend to blossom in the Spring? It's not because the tree is trying to blossom. It can't exactly close its eyes, hold its breath and strain really hard until flowers start popping out of its branches. My theory is that a tree blossoms because it is the nature of a tree to blossom. Given the right timing and circumstances- enough water, plenty of sunshine, etc.- a tree will naturally blossom. Blossoming is part of its DNA. Although we as humans tend to think that we are somehow separate from (and superior to) nature, we are very much a part of the natural cycle of life. Therefore, it is in human nature to blossom as well, given the right circumstances.
What does it mean for a person to blossom? We can't exactly sprout flowers from our limbs, but what we can do is harness the transformational energy of Spring in order to obtain radiant health and well being. It begins by letting go of the past and releasing all the negative energies that had us bogged down. The winter is finally over, what happened then is over now, let's move forward. The time is right for us to blossom, all we need to do is set up all the right circumstances for it to happen.
So, what can we do in order to thrive? We simply need to set up our daily habits in a more conscious way. Let's begin by following the example of nature and making sure we get enough water and sunlight. On top of this, we all need proper rest and nutrition. We need an exercise routine to keep ourselves vibrant and strong. We need to learn how breathe and relax and let go on of stress and negativity. We also need to meditate regularly to keep our minds calm and focused in the present moment. Finally, it's important to enjoy ourselves. Enjoying our lives means doing the things we love to do on a regular basis. While we can't force a transformation to happen, by setting up the right routines, our blossoming becomes inevitable.
Nick Hughes is a massage therapist, yoga instructor and co-owner of Well Being.