Momentary Awakenings

I have momentary awakenings throughout the day. These are not dramatic bolts of enlightenment; they are small moments of expanded awareness when I lift my head from the daily details that absorb my attention and see the world from a broader perspective. I become a witness to my experience as well as the actor in my experience.

These awakenings happen in planned and unplanned ways. When I sit to meditate or pray, I am intentional about settling into my body and opening to my inner and outer surroundings. At other times, the expansion happens spontaneously, when my attention is pulled from the fog of ordinary consciousness by something I hear or notice or remember.

The shift to expanded consciousness brings me into a more intimate contact with the juice, texture, and vibrancy of life. Things feel more intensely real, an intensity that is dimmed when I operate in the fog of ordinary consciousness. This intimacy can be peaceful, a sensation of breathing and merging with direct experience in an exquisite beauty of stillness. But it can also be uncomfortable, bringing up the urge to flee.

This is because along with intimacy comes vulnerability. Intimacy with the moment opens me to my life but also to my life history. In my everyday fog, I am less aware, but I am also numb to the pains and fears I have stored in my psyche. Lifting out of the fog invites it all. I become conscious, self-conscious, of the posture I’ve assumed to hold the world together. The posture softens, the shield drops, and contact becomes direct.

So, I have contradictory urges. I want the direct experience of reality that expanded consciousness brings. And I want to retreat from the nervous discomfort that goes along with it. I want the exquisite beauty of intimacy but not the vulnerability and fear of intimacy.

I’ve come to expect this contradiction. When I shift to expanded awareness, I try to appreciate the witness perspective but also recognize that it can be accompanied by a desire to leave, to look for (or create) distractions that allow me to fall back into the fog. This recognition allows me to lovingly hold myself in tension between the urge to open and the urge to flee.

No judgment, no chastisement. Just a holding, a curious unfolding, a loosening, an exquisite beauty in the tension itself.

And when I ultimately fall back, as I always do, I know I will be ready again for the next awakened moment.

Photo by Ed Stone on Unsplash

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