As 2015 comes to a close, I want to share with you what I have found to be the most valuable tool in my own personal awareness tool-box. I practice this daily. It is a simple inquiry in which I ask myself:
"Right now, in this moment, am I feeling love?"
The question itself encourages me to feel what I am experiencing so that I can more clearly distinguish between feeling disconnected, discouraged, worried, agitated, tense, angry, sad, disillusioned, stuck, tight, terrible, low energy, depressed or just neutral ...
... as opposed to feeling love.
To me, love feels like itself. It’s unique even though it can come with feeling connected, happy, peaceful, energized, empathetic, alive, safe, encouraged. But love, itself, is still the primary experience.
You might say that you have no difficulty feeling the difference between love and un-love kind of feelings so why is this question so valuable?
Again, for me, the answer is important because once I can identify, face, let in or admit that I am not feeling love, a second question has the opportunity to arise. The second question is quite powerful:
"Can I choose to feel love once I'm aware that I'm clearly feeling depressed, traumatized or agitated? Can I choose to open my heart when my heart feels closed? Am I in control of this or does something else control my own heart experience?"
Here comes the tricky part.
Many spiritual teachers say that being 'awake' is when we realize that we have the power to choose love over 'un-love' in any given moment. Many hold that this is what self-mastery is. And further, they represent themselves as being able to shift from un-love to love so seamlessly that they live in a perpetual state of intentional love 24/7. They are very happy spiritual campers!
But I'm not so sure that this is what awake is. And being unsure of this may be a sign that I’m not yet awake myself. I accept that.
At this point in my own opening-awareness, I sense that being awake is more a matter of actively holding these two questions in my consciousness as often as I can: am I feeling love right now and, if not, can I shift into love intentionally? Being with these two questions feels more real than thinking that I can answer them once and for all.
By being in this ongoing, two-staged inquiry, instead of having a permanently fixed answer, a number of possibilities open up for me:
Sometimes I can actually shift out of un-love to love because I have this glorious insight that I can. So I do. Glory Hallelujah! My heart opens on my own command. It feels exhilarating when I have the insight that this is how awareness works.
But sometimes I can't shift because I'm just a little too angry, too up tight, too worried, too addicted to whatever or too caught in my own or a collective trauma field to jump the Great Divide. So I have the possibility of letting that be just what it is. I hope for better luck later in the day. As Matt Kahn says, I love what arises, including not being able to love in that given moment.
I have the opportunity to move beyond thinking that I'm a spiritual dunderhead for not being able to switch into love like a dog trained to sit-up on command. I let go of my concept that having this kind of control is what being awake is.
I then have the opportunity to simply be with my own feelings of disconnect, hopelessness, obsessive thinking, etc.; not trying to get away from them or change them. I get to simply be in them consciously in order to find the frozen wisdom they may (or may not) hold for me. Why would being awake NOT include feeling grief, anger or collective pain?
Perhaps the grand prize of wrestling with these two questions rather than trying to answer them once and for all is that I never have to present myself to other people as being awake. I never have to think that I am awake and they are not. I don't have to show up knowing anything. Then I can be who I am in the moment and allow everyone else to be whoever they are in the moment.
Several years ago I wrote a poem that somehow goes well with all of this:
Down to This
After you’ve done everything you can
After you’ve searched unsuccessfully
As a bug
As a bird
As a good and bad person
For a way out of the maze
And for your ticket to redemption,
Doesn’t it boil down to this?
You must be willing
To sit in Hell
As long as it takes
To find the light
In the Fire.