Wake Up

Wake Up

For many years, my passionate quest has revolved around consciously waking up to the preciousness of each moment of life. One dramatic gateway into this greater sense of aliveness and alertness is when we have had a close brush with death, but survived. Or when perhaps, someone we know, someone close, has died. This poignant experience serves as a wake-up call we can hardly refuse. It jolts us into remembering, if only for a moment, that we too will die some day. When death touches us we get a good look at our own mortality and we know, at least for a little while, that we cannot afford to waste one moment of life. We know we need to really show up and not hide behind our defenses. We feel an urge to share our love, live as generously as we can, and give and receive as much as possible. We hear the clock ticking and we recognize that death can be an ally.

This is a book about waking up to the greatness of each moment of life. I present some ways I have learned for coming into the presence of a more intense kind of aliveness. By this I mean the heightened sense of vitality and alertness that we are sometimes gifted with when we have had a close brush with death, but survived unscathed. When death walks by us so closely, we get a good look at our mortality and we know for to not to waste one moment. The last time someone you knew and loved died, what shocks went through your heart? For how long were you aware, “I too will die someday – I wonder when?”

And so the question I ask in this book is: How can we wake up to enhanced awareness without having to be hit over the head by an accident, illness, or near death experience? And if we have had a brush with death, how do we claim our insights to avoid slipping into the everyday slumber, the half-alive condition we were in before? The point is obvious. Life is precious; Every second of life is infinitely valuable. How do we make that a lasting realization?

The answers I discuss in this book are totally straightforward. Reflect on death and learn from it: realize you will die in some unknown future, and use that awareness to wake yourself up to this living moment. Do not turn away from the feelings that arise in your heart or your body as you face the certainty of eventual death. Train yourself to cultivate the practice of remembering that time is short. Vibrant aliveness comes from this seemingly simple awareness: “How shall I live knowing I will die?”

There are practices I find useful for staying awake to the greatness of life. One of the key practices is learning to be grateful for each moment. This is an act of courage, an act of the heart. If you practice awakening into gratitude, you will get better and better at. If you practice at living beyond your defenses, this will free up your vitality and you will find that you do not need your defenses – they are just defending you from life and love. So in this book I describe some of what I have learned about what to practice to get better at loving and living life.

There is a central set of paradoxes at the heart of this book. We need to become aware of death as a blessing. It helps us appreciate life. We need to investigate the past and uncover our defenses in order to live in the present without being controlled by our defenses; and we need to grieve over the past in order to celebrate the present. We also need to let our urgency, anxieties, and fears teach us about serenity. My life has called me into the heart of these paradoxes again and again, and I have discovered a path of training awareness to encompass the full range of each of these paradoxes.

In the seminars I have been teaching in Europe, Australia, Canada, and around the United States at institutes such as Esalen in Big Sur, California, I have been exploring this theme of how to wake up and how to activate higher awareness. The world is accelerating in its transformation into the unknown and all of us are now subject to this quickening, this urgency. I have found, living as I do inside a swirling matrix of people in crisis, that in crises there are always windows and doorways that open, opportunities to turn disaster into healing. This book is about the things I have learned that helped me transmute this sense of shared urgency and anxiety into vitality and heightened awareness. I am setting forth my internal conversation, the teachings I have learned from my guides, my life, my joys, and my suffering. They are seed thoughts that have grown into living maps that I have found useful again and again on this journey to awakening.

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