“Let me be the one who will rise and return from sleep.”
This line from the song Let This River Flow by the Swedish heavy metal band Soilwork carries much meaning for me. As I explored mediation and Buddhism, I read several books by Pema Chodron, who refers to our choices as either ‘waking up’ or ‘going to sleep’. In this case, going to sleep means to remain controlled by emotions, memories, mental habits, and preconceptions. We are on auto-pilot when we give over control of ourselves to them; we mind as well be sleepwalking.
Waking up, in this sense, means to see what’s really going on. It takes a lot of courage to do this yet it is so important. If we leave our infinite potential in a narrow, little mental box and choose to sleep rather than see what’s outside of it, we limit ourselves so very much.
How do we ‘rise and return from sleep?’ It’s simple and takes commitment. When you notice that you’re being strongly influenced by feelings, thoughts, or assumptions, stop and breathe deeply. Count your breath from 1-10, focusing on what this feels like. Do this for a few minutes and then see where you are mentally. Are you still asleep or have you returned, even just a tiny bit?
If we’ve spent much of our lives asleep, it’ll take awhile to wake up. Just do what you can and try your best. The fact that you’re practicing rising and returning from sleep is incredibly brave. Let’s wake up a little bit at a time together.
*If you’d like to read some of Pema Chodron’s work, I recommend The Wisdom of No Escape, Taking the Leap, and When Things Fall Apart. They had a big impact on my meditation practice and commitment to living deeply.