Where To Begin (How To Wake Up)


“Where to begin?” you might ask.

“How do I wake up?”

“How do I help wake myself up and really truly become a truly more loving and full alive human being?”

“How do I become better able to stay more and more present in my own life?”

“How do I become better able to stay more and more present in my relationships—to become an asset in the relationship instead of a liability; to become part of the betterment of it rather than part of the problem?”

A sincere desire or intention is a great place to start. In fact, it’s essential. Inescapable, really. Because to intend to be really, truly, honestly more awake to life in a significant way means that you will automatically start behaving in congruence with that intention. That is, if your intention is sincere in the first place, which means that it’s arising or originating from somewhere deep and true with in yourself.

The next thing to do is to simultaneously start doing three things.

You start becoming more and more curious and inquisitive and observant in general about things around you, and especially about yourself and your own inner processes, about why you like or dislike the things you do, why you do the things you do, or why you are noticing the things that you do, et cetera. You begin leading a much more examined and inquisitive life. (After all, the alternative is a superfluous frightened life that’s really not worth living.)

Also, and secondly, it’s important to begin becoming more and more open to and comfortable with being uncomfortable. This just follows from becoming honestly more inquisitive and curious. You also begin becoming more and more courageous and brave. The vast majority of people in this world are asleep because they can’t handle very much tension or stress—it makes them too uncomfortable or anxious—and so they avoid it, and they start unknowingly (read: reactively; unconsciously) setting up their lives in a way that attempts to minimize their exposure to stressors and discomfort and tension. And so doing this automatically limits how present a person can be, how awake and mindful a person can be, because a person becomes reduced to being a reactive and avoidant creature of habit and comfort instead of an inquisitive and self-reflective being. At best, the person will be awake or vigilant towards those things that might cause tension or anxiety. But he or she won’t be awake to oneself and to thinking about why one is the way one is, or why one is doing the things one is doing, because that level of self-honesty and intimacy would cause too much tension.

And so the result of a person living a life of too much comfort and too little courage and curiosity and self-honesty is that the person becomes more and more tense and anxious and frightened, more self-protective, more vigilant and protective of their comfort zones.

But an extraordinary life begins outside of our comfort zones and self-limitations and fears. It’s just a matter of becoming more and more discerning and wise about which self-limitations and parts of our comfort zones need to be challenged and pushed against, and how best to do so—definitely a learning curve!

And so thirdly, it’s important to stop always taking the easiest route (the path of least resistance). It’s time to start taking roads and routes less traveled by. It’s time to start embracing and welcoming challenge and difficulty. Difficulty and challenge do wonderful things for us. If you want to build physical muscle, you open yourself to the challenge or difficulty that a particular set of exercises and weights offers you. And by meeting those challenges with regularity, and then increasing those challenges or demands, you begin to increase your stamina and musculature. Psychologically, it works much the same way. Courage is a muscle, it needs to be worked out every day. It needs to be practiced and exercised. If not, we lose it. Our courage atrophies. Our quality of life depends on our courage (as well as on our discernment/wisdom—our capacity to risk and stretch ourselves wisely). Our capacity to love and be loved and the depth and meaningfulness of our relationships depends on our courage. How psychologically intimate and real we can be with another depends on our courage. Our capacity to be intimate and honest and real with ourselves depends on our courage. So courage—exercising it, increasing it, acquiring more and more of it—is essential if we are to be able to be more present and lucid and awake.

Otherwise, tension, anxiety, fear, laziness, entropy, inertia, will always keep us content and small and asleep.

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About John

I am a married, 46-year old, Midwesterner, with four children. My primary interest is in leading a very examined and decent and Loving life; my interests that are related to this and that feed into this include (and are not limited to) -- psychology, philosophy, poetry, critical thinking, photography, soccer, tennis, chess, bridge.
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