STAYING AWAKE WHILE NAVIGATING THE WAKE
Mother, Father, God; I hold a vision of peace for our country and for the entire world in 2021. Peace is my practice as I realize oneness with God. Peace is my practice as I lead with love and walk by faith. Each moment I practice peace in my innermost thoughts. As I practice peace, I envision the spread of peace everywhere. AMEN.
For the past several Sundays, I have given each of you a personal, beautifully engraved invitation that said: "You are cordially invited to let 2021 be the year that you awaken, truly awaken, to the life of beauty and wonder that Spirit intends for you."
Remember that? And then I asked this question: What would 2021 be like if you RSVP'd "yes" to that invitation?!
And my prayer/my hope/my intention is that our work this month so far has caused you to be more awake!
This morning, we will drill down into that question even deeper by asking: What would your life be like in 2021 if you stayed fully awake and fully present even in the middle of the wake?
How many boating people do we have here? When you are skiing and in the middle of the wake, things can be fairly calm, but within a few feet either way, you've got this wave of roiling water which can be very treacherous and can send you sailing if you aren't really awake and present to what you are doing.
Anyone know that experience? Anyone get a mouthful of water and flipped in the air because they didn't successfully navigate a wake? Painful, isn't it?!
Today, we are going to use this experience as a metaphor for how important it is for us to stay awake and present when life presents us with a wake of roiling experiences.
Because here's what I believe. I believe that Spirit intends for us to live a life of beauty and wonder. I absolutely, totally, 100% believe that!
And in the human experience, at times, I know that life does not always look beautiful or feel wonderful. At times, we feel like we are living in the wake of pain, upset, challenges and strife. Some of you may be feeling it right now. 2020 has been challenging.
At those times, we might just want to pull the covers over our heads and go back to sleep. But true beauty, true wonder, true awe, in fact miracles!, come when we stay awake even in the middle of the wakes of life! And that is what we will look at today.
NAVIGATING THE WAKE
I want to begin with a beautifully written and poignant passage from Mark Nepo's book, The Book of Awakening: "I don't know if it is human nature or the way of life on Earth, but we seldom become all of who we are until forced to it. Some say that something in us rises to the occasion, that there is, as Hemingway called it, 'a grace under pressure' that comes forth in most of us when challenged. Others say this talk of grace is merely a way to rationalize hard times and painful experience, a way to put a good face on tragedy.
"Yet beneath all the talk of tragedy and grace, I have come to believe that we are destined to be opened by the living of our days, and whether we like it or not, whether we choose to participate or not, we will, in time, every one of us, wear the deeper part of who we are as a new skin.
"Either by erosion from without or by shedding from within - and often by both -- we are forced to live more authentically. And once the crisis that opened us passes, the real choice then becomes: Will we continue such authentic living?
"It is no secret that cancer in its acuteness pierced me into open living, and I've been working ever since to sanctify that open living without crisis as its trigger. . . . Perhaps the greatest moment of shedding and breaking for me came as I was being wheeled to rib surgery. I found myself numbly afraid, spinning from the Demerol shot, watching the hospital ceiling roll on by, and I found myself repeating over and over the following words as I waited on my stretcher:
"'Death pushed me to the edge. Nowhere to back off. And to the shame of my fears, I danced with abandon on his face. I never danced as free. And Death backed off, the way dark backs off a sudden burst of flame. Now there's nothing left, but to keep dancing. It is the way I would have chosen had I been born three time as brave.'
"We are often called further into experience than we'd like to go, but it is this extra leap that lands us in the vibrant center of what it means to be alive."a
Isn't that a powerful concept that he puts forth?
Today, I want to give you a real example of how we can land in the vibrant center of what it means to be alive when we are willing to take this extra leap, as Mark Nepo would say, or when we are willing to "stay awake as we navigate the wake," as I would say this morning.
I'm reminded of a story a minister told me about an experience she had: She said it was a Wednesday morning -- a week or so before Christmas -- she was getting ready to go to the office and was doing her morning ritual. Not her morning spiritual ritual (she'd already done that), but her morning beautification ritual, which includes whipping her hair into shape with a curling iron.
How exactly it happened, she didn't know, but the hot (oh so very hot) curling iron slipped out of her hand and landed across the outer corner of her right eye. And she did NOT get her eye closed in time for the lid to prevent the iron from making direct contact with her eye!
She immediately slammed it shut, and prayed. Immediately!
She finished getting ready and, in fact, went to work. I think she was a little in shock or her eye was numb from the trauma for a bit, so she thought she was OK. But then she realized, she really wasn't. She tried to work. Couldn't. Called the doc. He was out until the next day, so she made an appt for then and went home.
She had to keep both eyes closed because opening just the good eye caused the closed burned eye to move which was really, really painful. She'd had some painful things happen in her life, including broken bones, but nothing compared to the pain of her eye.
The good news here is that she could see perfectly fine; her eyesight was never in jeopardy, thankfully, but it did hurt like a son of a gun!
Since she couldn't keep her eyes open, she went to bed with ice on her eye. Couldn't sleep; too painful. Then her mind got active. Was she going to be able to work tomorrow on Sunday's talk? If she can't do that, will she be able to do church on Sunday? Will she have to wear an eye patch?
What about the appointments she had on Friday? Was she going to have to cancel those, like she had to cancel some that day? And, oh my gosh, Christmas Eve is coming up. How will this affect that? In other words, her mind was spinning.
Anyone ever have that happen? You hit a wake in life and your mind starts to spin out of control with the "what if's and the "oh no's"? Well, my friends, that is a form of being asleep. When we are in our spin -- when we are caught in the roiling water -- we are not being awake! And what Stage of Consciousness or Kingdom do you suppose we're in at that point?? Pretty sure it's the "Why Me?" stage!
Now I know that some of you are in a spin about our political climate, our environmental situation, the threat of the Covid virus. . . and on and on and on. But being in a spin about any of those things will not bring about anything you want. Just like being in a spin with her eye did no good. In fact, it made it worse.
But then, in the middle of her spin, she remembered a talk she gave on the book Inside-Out Healing: Transforming Your Life Through the Power of Presence by Richard Moss.
The entire premise of this book is that our true suffering, way beyond physical suffering, comes when we hold on to our stories about whatever the situation is and move either into the future or the past about it. And that the way to minimize, if not eliminate, the suffering is to return again and again and again to the present moment.
Why does returning to the present moment relieve suffering? Because God lives in the present moment!
* God's Love abounds in the present moment.
* The Energy of Life convenes in the present moment.
* Divine Intelligence lives in the present moment.
* Wholeness exists in the present moment.
And here's an empowering and amazing idea that I really want you to awaken to. She did as she was "suffering" -- both physically and mentally -- with her eye:
Every instant we are fully present and awake to the present moment is a moment of restoring ourselves to wholeness.
Let me say that again, because it's really good! Every instant we are fully present and awake to the present moment is a moment of restoring ourselves to wholeness. Why?
Because when we turn our attention away from our stories and turn to the present moment, we enter a limitless field of Intelligence and Love that is the greatest healing resource of all. The atoms, the molecules, the cells of our bodies actually reorganize themselves in greater or lesser degrees of wholeness according to how present we actually areb
So, she has this realization as she is lying there in pain; the realization that she is not awake to this present moment but is spinning and suffering in the future. So, she brought herself back to present moment awareness. Through breathing, doing Heart/Brain Coherence, and prayer, she brought herself back to the present moment. And something amazing occurred that she didn't think could possibly happen. She fell asleep.
Then she woke up a couple of hours later with her eye hurting like crazy; again, she started to spin; then remembered present moment awareness, etc.; and fell asleep again. This happened 4 or 5 times as the day marched into evening. She woke up long enough around 7:00 pm to have a little dinner. Laid back down, brought herself back to the presence and fell asleep.
And then she woke up around 3:00 am. And, what she is calling her "Christmas Miracle" occurred. There was no pain, no burning, no tearing, no nothing. Her eye was completely fine!
The next morning at the doctor's, he looked at it under the crazy bright light, and said, "yes, you sure did burn it, but it seems to be healing quite nicely. You're fine! I'll give you some antibiotic drops just to make sure you don't get an infection."
She remembered to practice what she has learned, and it helped her to stay awake and in the staying awake, her eye was healed.
And there is no better place to support you in gaining and applying that knowledge than here! There is so much power in what we do here together. The power of like-minded community cannot be overstated.
The community that occurs virtually here on Sunday morning and the community in the one-on-one connections that occur.
Your participation in this community makes a huge difference in our individual awakenings! You might be thinking "well, I'm not awake enough to help anyone wake up!"
I heard an analogy once about the power of community to help us wake up that I just love. It goes like this. Imagine that you are at a summer camp and a whole bunch of you are staying in one cabin. You all have to be up by 6:30 for the morning activities to begin. You are charged with waking everyone up.
So you set your alarm clock; oh sorry, you set your phone to go off at 6:30. Now when your phone goes off, you are in a nice deep sleep, having a sweet dream and you barely wake up. But you are awake a little; and more awake than everyone else in your cabin. So, you stumble around waking everyone else up, and now everyone is awake.
The point of this little story is that you don't have to be fully, completely awake to help someone else wake up! You make a difference in our awakening!
Remember the quote from Mark Nepo's book, The Book of Awakening: "We are often called further into experience than we'd like to go, but it is this extra leap that lands us in the vibrant center of what it means to be alive."c
Are you being called, right now, further into an experience than you might like to go? If so, my friends, I invite you to stay awake as you navigate through it. Because when you do, the beauty, the blessings, the awe and the wonder that await you, truly are holy!
Father, Mother, God; I now walk in faith, guided by my inner light. The light of divine wisdom is my moment-by-moment compass, a light by which I see the way ahead. Even when I do not perceive it, I walk in expectant faith for I trust that with each step, the light of wisdom is my guide. Thank you, God. AMEN
aMark Nepo The Book of Awakening p. 58
bInside-Out Healing: Transforming Your Life Through the Power of Presence Richard Moss p. 1[paraphrased]
cMark Nepo The Book of Awakening p. 59