This is a topic I gave a presentation on, this July, and it is an evolving area for me, both personally and professionally (keep reading). Here, I am reviewing and fine-tuning my thoughts on this whole fascinating, rich, juicy, and confusing area of “awakening.” What is it? Where can I get/buy/learn one? Why do I even need to care about it?
Specifically, though not only, I am looking through the lens of leadership and the reality of our world. What kind of leaders do we need these days? I believe (and I am definitely not the only one here) that now, more than ever before, we desperately need leaders who are deeply self-aware and conscious. Such leaders need to understand how to meet the enormous challenges they face and to develop greater awareness so we can co-create a life-giving future together. In becoming more aware and mindful of what is happening within themselves (first) and others (second), leaders must be able to develop a kind of moment-to-moment awareness of themselves and maintain the inner space to reflect on, understand, and own their assumptions, reactions, emotions, and behaviour.
How do we wake up to all of who we are, the light and the shadow, and what we are meant to do here? How do we embrace it, and then harness our whole selves towards the challenges we are facing?
My friend, I am not what I seem. Seeming is but a garment I wear — a care-woven garment that protects me from thy questionings and thee from my negligence. The “I” in me, my friend, dwells in the house of silence, and therein it shall remain for ever more, unperceived, unapproachable. – Kahlil Gibran
So let’s start at the beginning of one’s life. A child is born, and s/he is an open blank page. Pure, free, filled with unrestrained happiness and joy. Taking it a step further, at this point in the child’s life, there actually is ONLY one blank page, because there is no separation between the child and the rest of the world. Not yet. It happens later, as the ego starts developing, roughly around the age of 2, the picture shifts to “my blank page” and the separate blank pages of others. Still pure, still free, still filled with joy and innocence.
But then, life starts happening. Here are some of my moments that are relevant to what I am conveying here.
My younger cousin and I loved The Jungle Book stories and played them a lot in our very early years. Being older, I would often lead the games, changing the story line every time. I remember one time when my aunt came into the room where we played yet another invented version, and simply sat there observing us. That already felt uncomfortable and restrictive, yet I continued. Then, suddenly, she said, “Oh, this is not how the story goes.” Bam! In that moment, I felt deflated, made wrong, put in a box of “how life should occur,” and all my joy, playfulness, and creativity went out the window. In the language of the metaphor I am using, my blank open page got crumpled in one of its corners.
The Russian educational system was big on discipline, structure, and memorization. I remember in grade 2 or 3 we learned a song from one of the old classical Russian movies (with the English version here), and me running back home, excited about the song and dying to sing it to my parents. I ran up the stairs, burst into the apartment, only to discover that my parents had guests over. Even before I had a chance to open my mouth, I was promptly sent to my room. Crush! I went in, crawled under my desk, after covering it with a blanket, and sang the song to myself. Though it was more of a whisper, really. In that moment, another corner of my open and innocent blank page got crumpled.
It kept happening, again and again and again. Another crumpled corner, and then another… until the open blank page, filled with innocence, joy, freedom, and playfulness was all gone. A tightly crumpled page. A ball of paper. I know that I am not unique, for it happens to us all, throughout our “upbringing” and throughout life. Each one of these crumpling experiences creates our beliefs, judgments, messages, and perspectives which are often hidden from our awareness, yet they keep impacting our daily lives, keeping us in their tight confines.
When I look inside and see that I am nothing, that is wisdom. When I look outside and see that I am everything, that is love. And in-between these two, my life turns. – Sri Nisargadatta Maharaji
So what is this thing called “awakening?”
It appears as though there are different ways to explain, articulate, or describe this concept. Some talk about a shift in consciousness. Often, it is a process, yet there are individuals who experience it as a specific event. It is described as a direct experience, which means it is not necessarily a theoretical teaching. In the language of new sciences, some talk about a drastic spike/shift in frequency/resonance. And, of course, the awakening is more often than not a spiritual one.
Using my metaphor of a crumpled page, “awakening” is a process of uncrumpling. Of coming back to our state of being an open, blank, pure, free, innocent, and playful uncrumpled page. It is about awakening (re-awakening) to that blank page we have always been, and it has never left us. Uncrumpling = Awakening.
It appears that my life has been calling me to set sail in this direction. Professionally, it means that a new program is in the process of being birthed, Awakened Living. It is going to be a deep, rich, juicy, and transformative year-long process of awakening. It will be a blended experience of both online and residencies, in small and intimate cohorts. It will blend deep inner work, Enneagram, and the magic of the Right Livelihood Quest, among other teachings and direct experiences.
Participants are beginning to line up already. Exciting times ahead…