You might not guess it from looking at the very busy social media feeds or watching the non-stop breaking news, but this world is one sleepy place.
Most people live their lives on auto-pilot, following patterns and routines designed for maximum safety, comfort and to avoid all turbulence. Even the most creative envelope-pushers slowly become civilized—a fancy word for quieted down, emotionally suppressed, and spiritually tamed.
It’s not surprising when you think about it.
To stay awake in this world means directly facing the pain, sadness, disappointment, and loss in the world. It means to keep our hearts flowing with compassion, forgiveness, and understanding in a world filled with hate and division. This is not a role for the faint of heart or tender of spirits. It is only for the most passionate hearts, the most courageous of spirits.
And so, many let themselves be hypnotized into a comfortable sleep where life becomes routine and relationships are entered into and exited with the least amount of effort or growth—and everything else fades into white noise.
Some of us turn to the healing and spiritual worlds for tools to navigate this world awake while maintaining our balance and sanity.
But the healing and spiritual worlds have fallen asleep on the job, too. They’ve succumbed to the mantras of the capitalist society—they’ve sacrificed quality for quantity, they’ve pyramid-schemed, commoditized, and guru-brainwashed us all.
The spiritual philosophies got hijacked and co-opted by the culture at large. So, spiritual teachers serve ancient spiritual teachings in the binary, black-and-white, self-harming-but-toxicity-supporting dishes of modern culture.
For example, “non-judgement” is no longer a subtle teaching of discernment, sorting, and wisdom. It’s a blunt hammer where every thought that isn’t deemed positive gets smashed and the thinker of the thought self-punishes. There is no investigation, no curiosity—no growth.
The spiritual community teaches us that our ego is bad and should be denied, when really what we need to learn is how to understand our ego and temper it with wisdom, humor, and understanding. Beating ourselves up for having egos and the desires that come with them is like berating a rose for carrying scent.
Healing communities depict for us a potential life of bliss and joy, without telling us that the only way to get to bliss is to go through the dark shadows of our own minds. And so when the Dark Night of the Soul does come upon us, we have no real skills on how to navigate it.
It is an easy world for even the most warrior of warrior types to fall asleep. It is easy to let once-healthy boundaries become barriers, or use the teachings of spirituality to make us feel more “enlightened” than others. There is always the option to shut down our curiosity and just live, one day after the next, without questioning why or where or who or when.
It is easy to simply believe what we’re told and never investigate for ourselves.
We are walking through a world of snake-charmers, charlatans, and conjurors, each selling their sleeping potions—a belief, a person to blame, an excuse, a division, an oh-so-logical reason why we can’t grow or advocate or change. It is too easy to mistake these sleeping potions for true wisdom, too easy to let the blinders come up and the lights dim.
No matter how dedicated we are to living an awake and aware life, we all need to regularly pinch ourselves to see if we’re nodding off.
If you want to check if you are asleep or awake, ask yourself these questions:
Am I comfortable?
If you’re comfortable, you’re asleep. Nothing about an awake and aware life is comfortable. There is no single belief set that will ever satisfy a true seeker. There is no single philosophy that answers all the questions. There will always be some level of discomfort for true and awake seekers.
Being awake means constant discomfort. It means not just stepping out of the box, but living outside of the box. It demands that we accept that it’s possible that nothing we’ve ever believed is true. It asks us to start from scratch and sort through the beliefs we’ve surrounded ourselves with to see if they are actually freeing us or if they are complicit in our slumber.
Do I feel like I fit in?
If the answer is yes, hands down, you’re asleep. Awake people don’t fit in. They live on the margins of society, one foot in, one foot out. They’re outsiders, misfits, rebels. Some work in quiet stealth, others work in grand foolery, but awake, conscious people are rarely “part of the group.”
Am I in touch with my intuition?
When’s the last time you’ve done something on a hunch or a gut feeling? If you can’t think of a recent time, you just might be falling asleep at the wheel. Wake up and listen up—our intuition is our connection to other worlds and dimensions. We can connect to places of deep mystery and realize greater truths than any found in a book or a teacher.
Does my creativity connect with the masses?
If we’re awake, our creativity will likely be coming from beyond this time and place. Instead of mix-and-match iterations of the same ideas, we’ll be creating and dreaming from the raw ingredients of the Universe—Earth, Water, Fire, Air, and Ether. This means our creative works might not always “fit in” or be appreciated by the masses. But neither did Vincent van Gogh‘s work, and we know how that turned out.
Am I curious about learning new things?
If you don’t know something, do you tend to get defensive when someone points it out? That means you’re asleep. Because if you’re awake, then you’re hungry for knowledge and learning. Your curiosity is an inner hungry wolf, keeping you tracking down new food, digesting it, assimilating it into your way of life.
If someone tells you something you didn’t know, you can’t help but dive further. You love learning new words, new worlds, new cultures, new ideas. Every new curiosity simply deepens your love and reverence for the multiplicity and diversity of humanity.
Do I feel like I’m authentic to who I am?
If yes, then you’re either awake, or you’ve let “authenticity” be yet another buzzword that doesn’t carry real meaning. How can you tell? Look at your relationships and the activities that fill your day. Do they meet you where you are and satisfy your needs and desires? Or are they stifling and unsatisfying?
Do you carry yourself with sovereignty and personal power? Or do you shapeshift to please?
Someone who is authentic will never fit a mold, will likely look childlike and naïve, but that’s what a human being looks like when we maintain a deep connection with our true selves.
For the culture to keep spinning out the same lies and propaganda, it needs a society of asleep people buying the same lines and the same promises generation after generation.
For the spiritual communities to keep the doors revolving, they need those who show up at the door to blame themselves — because we dare not “judge” anyone else — when the teachings fall flat or feel superficial.
Investigative, curious, awake people are the bane of these worlds because they don’t accept any truth at face value. Because they can’t be lulled to sleep with false promises of change-your-thoughts-change-your-life. True change does not work that way. True change demands nothing less than us getting in the mud, toiling in the confusion and strife of human life.
It’s not our thoughts that need to change to adapt to the culture, but the culture that needs to adapt to new and healthier thoughts.
Awake people don’t change their mindset in order to feel better about the circumstances of their life and the world. They see the truth clearly, and they know we can’t bliss our way to a better world. Awake people work to affect real change in the real world.
Awake people use discernment and judgment in order to not be complicit in toxic cultural behavior by looking the other way.
Awake people aren’t all bliss and light. They are also mud and earth and ache and suffering. They’re instinctive and wild and spontaneous.
Awake people spend every day looking for ways to grow, to challenge, to evolve. They are never satisfied, never comfortable, never finished.
So, if you want to know if you’re awake, pinch yourself by asking the above questions. Do it regularly, as the strength of the status quo can pull us into sleep at any moment, without any warning, at any time in our lives.
And those of us committed to staying awake have got to be on constant lookout.