How to Be Awake but Not Dead
By Scott Kiloby
If it seems difficult to be awake, it is even more challenging not to be dead while you are awake.
Being awake is all about recognizing that you are not your thoughts, emotions and sensations. Like birds passing through the open sky of the present moment, these things come and go but they are not you.
And yet, quite often, this is experienced merely as a head awakening, where the body hasn’t come into alignment yet. It’s common for people to have this kind of head awakening, ride on the pink cloud of the peace or bliss of this newfound freedom for a while and then to find out that the body takes a while. You can see it in their eyes if you go to satsang. They are clearly in the here and now, but the body contains dense contraction, anxiety, depression, addiction or trauma. Some have even lost touch with their humanness. Simple human things that used to bring them joy are gone. The little human quirks that made them unique are null and void. The aliveness is drowned out because the body is constricted in various ways. There is a deadness. This is common, but it is not necessary, if one remains open to exploration well after an initial head awakening.
So here is how to be awake but not dead . . .
If you feel numb or sluggish, most likely it is a story that hasn’t been investigated. And tethered to that story is an emotion that has not yet been felt consciously and directly. Feel it. If you have spent many years avoiding that feeling, perhaps the emotion has now become frozen somewhere in the body as a contraction. There is dissociation, a turning away from that sensation and towards anything that might numb it out of your awareness.
Explore that contraction with utter love and curiosity. Sit with it in the infinite patience of the present moment, without trying to get it to go away. Welcome it. Make it stay just by feeling it. Notice the space around it as you do that. Welcoming it in this way reverses all that resistance to it, all that trying to make yourself feel better, which really doesn’t work because it involves the personal will. What we resist, persists. In the head awakening, you noticed that you are not that movement of personal will. You are not those thoughts that are trying to get somewhere. Let that seeing come into the body.
Presence is seeing that you are not that sensation. But the danger lies in saying, “I am not my body” or “I am not this sensation” far too soon. If the sensation is there and it is running your life in any way, by virtue of a corresponding deficiency story, depression, addiction, anxiety or trauma, then YOU ARE YOUR BODY. On some level, there is identification with that sensation. Bypassing is pretending that you see that something is not you, when in fact the identification is still there. These unexplored sensations steal your joy and peace. They make you feel dead. They hush your creative voice. They create a disconnection from others. They make you reach for the wine, cookies or the internet as a way to escape. They make you overcompensate, by developing or following elaborate conceptual frameworks about spirituality, making life far more complicated than it has to be. A good way to avoid really experiencing spirit is to think about it a lot and ignore that your body is still experiencing identification with form.
When these contractions are explored, and not bypassed, you feel alive, vibrant, awake.
You are awake but fully human.
You are free but not tied to the idea that you are free.
Simple things in life bring you joy once again.
You don’t mind the quirks of your personality and you aren’t trying to get rid of them or act enlightened.
You feel compassion for no reason at all for others who are suffering.
You feel a connection to others while also seeing that there are no others.
You love yourself while also seeing that there is no self.
You don’t mind these paradoxes at all.
You have a voice that soars because there is nothing blocking its expression.
You have a heart that is open and that doesn’t mind being broken.
You feel everything, are more sensitive, yet you are increasingly free of suffering around those thoughts and emotions.
Your body feels light and transparent and you can truly say with a straight face, “I am not my body” without bypassing.
Your addictions fall away naturally.
Depression seems like a faint memory.
Anxiety is no longer there or lies at a bare minimum because you have faced or are facing every fear.
Trauma is absent because you loved yourself enough to explore every bit of it and release yourself from its magnetic pull.
You don’t mind thinking anymore. When thoughts are no longer stuck to emotions or sensations, thinking is play.
And yes, yes, maybe eventually, you come to discover a sweet silence in which many thoughts, emotions and sensations do not arise anymore. Maybe you realize a profound peace, joy or bliss that is there most of the time. But if that happens, it will happen right on time and not a moment too soon. It will happen naturally. Trying to make that happen just through a head awakening, before the body has come into alignment with that awakening, will just frustrate you. It probably won’t happen actually. It will be like false silence, love, joy or peace, where you are pretending that your body does not have needs or that it doesn’t need to be explored. That is the deadness.