This post follows on from my previous post, The Journey Beyond Therapy, where I briefly outline the spiritual or transformational journey. At the end of this blog I also include a short guided practice as ‘food for the journey’.
Waking up is about awakening our sleeping potential. This means more of us coming online, finding a deeper connection within ourselves, with others, the greater whole, the natural world, the cosmos, God. As our awareness begins to expand we connect with some of the overlooked or forgotten parts of ourselves. Faculties such as love, intuition, compassion, patience and wisdom become more available to us.
We begin to sense a growth in wholeness or completeness: we can include and embrace more of ourselves in this growing awareness. It generally involves embracing more richness of life, our perception shifts and the world seems a little brighter. For many, it involves a dawning realisation that we have a deeper spiritual self that glimpses a connection to a bigger whole, it’s as if the individual wave knows it’s connected to the vast ocean.
We go beyond some of our egotism, no longer solely identifying with the superficial or surface aspects of our physical self, we break through to the depth dimension within ourselves. It can be likened to the butterfly emerging from the cocoon, we break open to a more expansive and more unbounded sense of self. This expanded awareness generally has softer edges and can flow more easily in life.
It often has some positive effect in daily life, relationships may become more harmonious as we feel that we don’t have to defend this more strictly bounded sense of self. An example comes to mind of a friend who had a habit of trying too hard. This led him to be crippled by performance anxiety over various creative projects as he felt that he had to do them perfectly. He wasn’t able to let go and flow with his projects and let his creativity emerge. However through his meditation practice and growth in insight, he was able to relax and as a result he was able to tap into a rich reservoir of creative ideas and complete his projects with finesse and style.
Waking -up is generally not a one-off event, but a process of continuing unfolding. A regular spiritual or contemplative practice nourishes and enhances this process. A meditation teacher I know, uses an analogy to describe the effect of a regular meditation practice. He says it’s like tapping away with a small hammer at a very solid brick wall until one brick is finally loosened and the light from a beautiful radiant sun-drenched garden shines through. After more time of diligent practice another brick is removed and more radiant light, peace and expansiveness breaks in, and so on. We are waking up to something that was there all along but went unnoticed under our eyes.
Contemplative practices for waking-up are innumerable and if you are just starting out on the spiritual journey it is wise to get some guidance from someone who has been on the journey for a while who can help advise as to which practice may best suit you. However it is also vitally important to listen to your own intuition in this matter. To tune into your own ‘still small voice’, which acts like an inner compass helping to guide your journey. It’s as if your inner knowing or inner wakefulness resonates with a certain practice and nudges you away from another practice which is not for you.
I’d like to offer one such practice that may be useful in these difficult times, known as the Welcoming Practice. To begin with think of a recent conflict, tension, worry or difficulty you have faced, and with that in mind start the practice. (This version of the practice is based on the work of Cynthia Bourgealt.)
3 Step Welcoming Practice
Step 1: Focus, Feel and Sink Into
Pay attention to what is present for you, in your body. What are the body sensations you are currently experiencing? Resist the urge to change anything or figure it out. Stay present with it. What are your physical reactions to worry, fear, envy etc.? Connect with the signals your body is giving you in this moment. Experience it, feel it, stay with it.
Step 2: Welcome and Embrace
Welcome the feelings and sensations. Open yourself to them. Resist the urge to reject, suppress or deny them. When we welcome these, we reduce their power. Do not rush through this step. Repeat step one and step two until you can honestly and openly welcome the fear, worry, anger, jealousy, or whatever the difficulty and their attendant body sensations. It’s here anyway, let me feel it.
Step 3: Let Go
Name the feelings and sensations and let them go. This is not a one off exercise. You will have many opportunities to let go. To the best of your ability, acknowledge, welcome, and let go of your present experience with the feelings and sensations. Find a phrase of release that describes your feeling and say it to yourself, e.g. “I let go of my fear.”
Let go of the desire for security or safety, for affection or esteem, for control or power. Let go of the desire to change your emotions, body sensations, thoughts and commentaries of the situation in which you find yourself.
Letting go means going through the experience not around it, not running away from it!
Please find below a link to a live demonstration of me guiding an online group in the Welcoming Practice.