Have you noticed that when you live life focused on the many details of each day, you can lose your awareness of what’s really going on? It’s called busyness, hustling and bustling, getting things done, a sense of urgency and accomplishment, proving to ourselves and others that “I can do it!” As the details that make the most noise get our attention, others fall through the cracks, piling up and adding to our frustration. And then someone has the gall to want our personal attention. An interruption by your children or co-workers and you think, “How can they be so_____? Don’t they know I’m busy?” Sound familiar? Stressful? Depressing?
Falling asleep at night thinking of what you haven’t done and have yet to do is debilitating. We are caught like a rat in a maze, asleep at the wheel. One of my favorite quotes is, “The trouble with the rat race is even if you win, you are still a rat!” by Lily Tomlin. The rat race is actually encouraged in so many ways by our culture, we are even rewarded for it.
We have hundreds of interest groups wanting our attention, for us to think their way—the media, political groups, environmental groups, civic groups, religious groups, multinational corporations, the list goes on and on. We are inundated with other people’s messages and values over and over again.
Sometimes we can feel so overstimulated with these often conflicting messages that we fall asleep, numb out. It’s just too much to deal with. So we focus on the details of our own lives, because we have some control there, and we keep working away. Don’t get me wrong, focusing on the details of our lives is extremely important and effective when the details are aligned with our deepest values. If they’re not, we are just busy and in denial of our greatest strength—choice.
Living awake. What does it mean?
To me, it means being present in our lives, each day, each moment, in such a way that we are choosing consciously from our deepest values and intentions and then taking the appropriate actions to create what we want. Living awake is living in community with not only other people, but with all living things, accepting ourselves as part of the ecosystem, not “the” ecosystem. Living awake is realizing that there is not just one truth; each person’s truth is a reflection of their belief system, and there is more that we don’t know than what we do know. Living awake is joining each moment and exploring what is, instead of reacting to what we believe is there. Living awake is wanting to experience life fully.
What does it take? Two things: courage and attention. The courage to see clearly, to inquire, to truly listen, and to take action on your wisdom. The courage to honestly be yourself and show up in life, standing up for what you value. The courage to live in integrity, being authentic and whole, keeping your agreements. The courage to be vulnerable, to drop the masks we have designed to protect ourselves and to follow our hearts. The courage to live spontaneously, unattached to outcomes, trusting ourselves and life as the teacher. It takes commitment. It takes grit.
There are several sayings that remind me of the power of attention:
1. “What gets watered grows.”
2. “What you focus on determines what you miss.”
3. “What you give your attention to grows stronger.”
If you don’t have enough time for what’s most important, it means you are giving your time to distractions and busyness, actions that give you a short-term sense of accomplishment and yet may totally take your attention away from what you value most.
Being present is a powerful and generative state of being—pausing and breathing, noticing what is most important. Maybe it’s time to stop the grip of the clock and multitasking and start the power of conscious choice, presence, and focusing on what’s most important.
How we live demonstrates what we really know. Living awake is remembering this and making adjustments when we don’t like the story we are creating!
1. When you honestly look at your everyday patterns of behavior and how much time you are giving to things each day, what do your actions say your priorities really are?
2. How do you feel about that?
3. What are your deepest values?
4. Make a list of what’s most important to you and prioritize the list in such a way that you are living according to your deepest values, living awake.
With love and gratitude,