Monday, November 12, 2007

Awake (A Mondacular Meditation)

What does it mean to be truly awake?

Some years ago (I honestly am not sure when it began), I started a phase of my life in which I feel sleepy much of the time. Sleepy because my contacts aren't quite right and my vision is rarely clear? Sleepy because I just actually haven't had enough sleep? Sleepy because I've had too much sleep? Sleepy because my body is sluggish -- maybe I have Epstein-Barr? Sleepy because I don't get enough exercise and therefore have bad circulation? Sleepy because I exercised too much? Sleepy because I have low metabolism? Hypothyroidism? Who knows? All of these are possibilities. But, none of these things is necessarily the cause.

The times when I have been clear really stand out to me. I was alert during conversation with someone. I was able to explain something interesting and complex -- how the vocal folds function or how we breathe, for example. I gave some good and much-needed advice. I made some important decisions that helped solve a tricky situation. I was there. I was awake. I was "on". I felt alive. The way I feel most of the rest of the time is like I'm in a fog. I feel like I'm covered in a kind of energetic goo - some sort of blanket that makes swift moving difficult - that makes it difficult to think and to act. I am slow. I mumble or make incoherent sentences. I can't remember things that have happened in the short term. I can't think of what I want to say.

What does it mean to be awake? (Does it mean I've just had a cup of coffee?) We all function at different levels. We all have different expectations of ourselves and how we'd like to fit into the world. I'm obviously still functioning in this world. I have a graduate degree, hold a job, have friends, get things done, etc. etc. I'm not in a mental institution. It's not like I have some sort of serious medical condition that is preventing me from living a normal life. So, perhaps the reason I feel I am not awake is because I know I can function at a higher level than I do and I really, really *want* to. I know I am capable of more and I won't ever be satisfied with less. Well, ok, and I'm sleepy a lot.

But again, what does it mean to be awake? Is it about being in synch with the pace of the busy city around me? Honestly, living in the city makes me feel much more alive than living in a smaller town. I wonder if the city itself helps bring my energy level higher? But, sitting on top of a mountain looking out at the valley below (or walking in the forest or standing by the ocean) makes me feel really alive, too, so then maybe it's just about being able to tune in and resonate with my surroundings. Is feeling awake about being aware -- being fully able to drink in my environment and interact with it (as opposed to just watching the world go by)? Is feeling awake about recognizing where I am in the universe -- being able to own my unique space in the cosmos and step out of the human routines that make me forget the larger picture? Is feeling awake about owning the choices I have made for my life and knowing that I'm free to continue making my own choices? Or, is it simply about following the proper formula? 8 hours of sleep + proper diet and exercise + Magic Pill = Awake

What does awake mean to you?

**PS - I just ran across an article about how napping can increase your longevity. I have often thought that taking a nap in the middle of the day would help me feel less sleepy. But, where do I take a nap in the middle of the day? Should I just spread out my sleeping bag on the floor of my cubicle? on the sidewalk? in the back seat of my car in the company parking garage? or just lay my head down on my desk? I've heard about places in Japan where you can rent a cot to take a nap in the middle of the day. As far as I know we have nothing like that here.

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