A Prayer For Awakenings

Dear Vibrant Voice of The Universe,

We want to be awake. We yearn for more than humdrum routines and superficial meaning. We want spirit-filling awakenings

We ask to be filled with deep love and awe-inspiring compassion. We ask that your voice wake us up to the beauty and mystery in our lives that we have overlooked. We ask that your voice show us the suffering people, the ravaged earth, and the wounded souls that we have overlooked as well.

We are seekers of wisdom and love. Please help us be awakened to the wisdom and love we already have, and help us stay on paths that leads to more. Help us stay awake to the needs and glory of ourselves and this world.

Amen.

Want to share your prayers, poems, or thoughts on awakenings? Share them below in the comments section!

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Waking Up

A Good Morning in Thailand

I’m tired of being tired. Not just the physical tired, but the emotional tired that comes with stress, living in another country, work, a busy life, and a multitude of other problems clamoring for my attention at any given moment. I’m tired of rolling out of bed and mechanically getting ready to hit the grind. I want to live my life, not just survive it.

So this week I am waking up saying, this morning is for ME. I will fill my own bucket with sunshine, peace and purpose before I go out and start filling the buckets around me.

I stretch. I put my arms over my head and breath deep enough my belly looks like a balloon. I take a moment to remember how incredible having life is, and how beautiful it is to take one breath, and then another.

I dance, sing, hum, or spend a minute listening to the birds or Spanish ballads. I put at least a moment of music in me because there’s something about having a song in your heart that brings joy.

I read. Right now it’s one or two verses from Ecclesiastes, or a poem by Dylan Thomas, or a moment with something I already know from my Chinese book to give me a little extra confidence. Words bring life, and I choose to put those words on my tongue like nourishing honey.

I soak in the sunshine. If there is no sunshine, I look at the trees and remember that they too are waiting for the sun to come back, and they do so with patience and grace. I try to stand tall like they do, and hope I will be as wise as they are some day.

I eventually get to work, have my breakfast, and drink my coffee. I try to remember to keep all the things from the morning in me, and to take another deep breath when needed.

Habits are hard to form. There will still be days when the thought of getting out of bed is painful in itself, when life seems too stressful to face, when the thought of doing it all again brings dread. But if I can breathe in and sing my blessings even one more time this week than last, I know I’m learning to wake up right.

You Are Not What You Do

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“Who looks outside dreams; who looks inside awakes.” — C.G. Jung

By: Jenni Taylor

I’m what you call goal oriented. I aim for a solid A in my life- not an A plus, mind you (silly overachievers) but I try to be pretty darn good at whatever I’m doing. Sometimes it comes easy, like when I’ve just rocked a class with my skills and spread the knowledge, strutting out of the classroom with some designer shades and a cardigan like the badass I am. Sometimes it’s not so easy, the days when I sit down to write a sentence in Chinese with characters I have practiced thousands of times and then draw a complete blank, staring at an empty page and feeling utterly useless.

I fill my life with goals because I like to feel important. I like to feel acknowledged. I like to feel accomplished. But I remember those days when I was younger, trekking through the woods, the camp days where mirrors didn’t exist and my muscles were tenuous and strong and I touched the bark of trees thinking, I could go my whole life without a name, as long as I am here, as long as I am loved.

It’s becoming surprisingly hard to get back to those moments, those pure moments of childlike faith in unconditional love and the everlasting power of hugging a tree. Opening my heart to the world used to be easy. Now, it takes sincere practice, which is more of a failure than a success these days. I am constantly having to reawaken myself.

I was always told you are not what you do, but it’s a lesson I seem to have to learn over and over again. So here I am, ready to learn yet once again, to let go of the nonsense gripped so tightly in my fists and open myself again to being loved- just for me, little me looking out my window waiting for dreams to come.

I’m not what I do. Are you? Let’s live a life constant reawakening together.

Awakening to the Unity of Grief on Easter

 

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“Record my misery; list my tears on your scroll” –Psalm 56:8 NIV

By: Autumn Elizabeth

This is the first Easter that I won’t call my grandmother. I won’t update her on the sermon I heard, or tell her about which language I said the Our Father. I won’t describe the city I am in, the old church I found, or the breathtaking celebration of Easter I discovered. After years of celebrating Easter all over the globe, this year I will tell my Easter story to no one.

Except, I am not alone in my loneliness. Holidays after losing a loved one are always the hardest. The pain of their absence is keenly felt when we see their empty chair at the decorated table, their empty pew at high mass, the empty entry in our contact log.  This is the part of humanity that becomes general, global, universal. Whether it is Passover or Easter, Eid al-Fitr or Holi, the missing presence of a lost loved one is palpable.

As some point most spiritual quests must deal with death, with loss, with grief. In this way, we as humans are united. Not one of us can live forever, not one of us can avoid loss. As we grieve we must awaken to new possibilities, new life. As we celebrate holidays, we must awaken to our unity despite our differences.

This year as I awaken to a glorious Easter morning, as I attend a beautiful Easter mass in an ancient church, I will grieve the loss of my grandmother, and that grief will unite me with strangers I haven’t met yet, and I will find me someone new with whom I can share my Easter story.

On Being Awake

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By: Jenni Taylor

I want to be awake. Those neurons are firing in my brain, and I want to know the intricacy of each. I run and feel my heart pound and never want to forget how each beat is a gift. I breathe in that qi, that breath of life, that beautiful oxygen filling my belly and my back all the way down to my toes and I know my body is more amazing than I will ever be able to understand.

I want to feel amazed. I want to tell my students to draw pink trees or purple trees or green trees if they like but only if they want it to be green and not because they have to. I want to stop for that moment at night when I’m alone on the pavement looking at the sparkling city lights and feel that I am part of something so big and so beautiful and realize it’s not lonely at all, just quiet. It’s the quiet that comes before taking a leap of faith, and I wrap it around my heart like a promise.

I want to live bravely. I want to sing to the Chicago south side soulful church beat I grew up with, and stylize my oohs and ahhs with loud obnoxious ecstasy. I want to bravely learn to love myself on the days when all I see are flaws. I’d rather my heart be two sizes too big with enough room for tears instead of two sizes too small with no room for love.

I want to be wise. I want to embody Sophia, the wise woman, every day. I want to grow wrinkles that tell stories and laugh lines that show a life well lived. I want to ask the right questions, even if the right answers are hard to find.

I want so many things. It’s my time to get out of bed and live my life awake.

My father says that almost the whole world is asleep. Everybody you know. Everybody you see. Everybody you talk to. He says that only a few people are awake and they live in a state of constant, total amazement. -Meg Ryan as Patricia in Joe Versus the Volcano

Secular Spirituality: Is That a Thing?

Today’s post comes from Hailey Kaufman, who studies philosophy, biology, and religion at Webster University in St. Louis, MO.  Her post advocates for the possibility of  spiritual awakenings of atheistic communities, and she’s not talking conversion here folks! What Hailey offers us is a great deal of wisdom, and love, and intellect, on spirituality for everyone, regardless of their beliefs. You can find more of Hailey’s work on her Tumblr and her personal blog.

Coming from a community of a non-theistic persuasion, I notice a great deal of hostility toward the word “spiritual.” Most atheists with whom I spend my time never use this term, some making a strong attempt to avoid it. Even Tim Minchin, a fantastically intelligent musical comedian, whom I admire for his gift with words, has claimed he is not spiritual at all.

What bothers me is I can tell that he is. Look at his poem “Storm” in which he revels about the vastness and beauty of the corporeal world:

Isn’t this enough? Just this world? Just this beautiful, complex, wonderfully unfathomable, natural world? How does it so fail to hold our attention that we have to diminish it with the invention of cheap, manmade myths and monsters?…I am a tiny, insignificant, ignorant bit of carbon. I have one life, and it is short, and unimportant, but thanks to recent scientific advances, I get to live twice as long as my great, great, great, great uncleses and auntses. Twice as long to live this life of mine.

The last portion of “Storm” is a spirited piece of writing. Minchin obviously feels a deep connection with something larger than he is. Whether or not his worldview involves “spirits” certainly does not dilute that fact that he feels spirited about his existence.

I want to argue that the spiritual life is something every human deserves. It is a practice, a way of being, that should be pursued regardless of one’s belief in gods or the supernatural.

Writers and speakers like Pierre Hadot and Alain de Botton have argued the need for spiritual guidance and exercises even outside the realm of religion. Hadot writes that according to a  Stoic-Platonic view of therapy, the spiritual exercise can be one of an array of practices. Attention (presence in the current moment), meditation (putting information into context with the big picture), intellectual endeavors (reading, writing, listening, research), and self-improvement activities are all, according to Hadot, ways to embrace one’s own spirituality.

De Botton argues that an atheism that simply rejects supernatural claims and stops there is “too easy.” The rejection should be just the beginning on a path to a more fulfilling, spiritual life. He suggests ways the secular world can “steal” from religious traditions in order to make the secular world more welcoming to spirituality – that is, more welcoming to ideas and exercises that enliven us at our very core.

De Botton holds that secularism should not be synonymous with stolidity. I would go so far as to argue that a fulfilled secular life cannot be without its spiritual moments. Think of the feeling you get when you lie out on a moonless night and survey the Milky Way above you. Think of the last time you felt a sense of awe, a stirring feeling in your gut that you’ve just witnessed something deeply important. Mysterium tremendum: a profound terror of the large and mysterious; mysterium fascinosum: a profound fascination with the large and mysterious.

These are not emotions reserved for the religious, nor should they be, and perhaps we should encourage them more actively in the secular realm. As complexly thinking and feeling animals, we each need a way to become orientated to our inner and outer environments, and that is precisely what spirituality is. A pupil of Epicurus, quoted by Hadot, puts the sense of the spiritual potently:

The walls of the world open out, I see action going on throughout the whole world…Thereupon from all these things a sort of divine delight gets hold upon me and a shuddering, because nature thus by your power has been so manifestly laid open and unveiled in every part.

Awakening to War

Hope of Life

“We’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen.” ― D.H. Lawrence

Today’s post again focuses on the conflict in Syria. Shaza Askar’s perceptive put a human face on the tragedy with wisdom and grace. Hopefully, this post will wake us all up to the realities of war, and guide us to work for peace.

Syria’s turmoil began with protests against the regime back in March 2011. A year and a half later it was formally declared a civil war. Three years later, the war has affected the world, even the international community has stepped in after accusations of chemical weapons use in the suburbs of Damascus in August 2013.

The human cost is high and continues to climb as fighting rages. The death toll now exceeds 130,000 and more than eight million Syrians have fled their homes, seeking refuge either in neighboring countries or other parts of their troubled country.

I was living in my home city Homs during the outbreak of the war in 2011. The beginning of the war, or let us say revolution, was frightening because no one could guess where it might take us, or what my country’s future was going to be like.

Since my family house was near the Old City of Homs, a center of action, we had a greater share of tragedies. I can clearly remember how it all started, the protests, the first confrontations between the rebels and the government army, the deployments of tanks and soldiers down the streets, and the raids on the houses.

One June morning in 2011, I awoke to find seven tanks on my block. At that point I knew, a real war had started. There was one time that my sister and I were walking home and suddenly two groups were shooting all around us, we ran like crazy for almost 200 meters to reach to our relatives’ house. We stayed there until there was a break in the battle and we could finally go home.

The scary thing about Syria is that even if you are in an area that seems calm, there are still airstrikes. There isn’t a no-fly zone in place. And there are airstrikes all around the country. So at any moment the veneer of calm can be shattered with an airstrike or with an artillery round. Consequently, civilians were indiscriminately being killed, and who is the murderer? It is an unanswerable question since there are quite a number of armies, groups, and affiliations which are fighting in my country.

I awake every morning knowing war is ravaging my country, I awake every morning knowing people in Syria will die. I awake every morning knowing being alive is a blessing.

Awaken Your Spirit

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Welcome to Awakenings month!

In many parts of the world, plants are beginning to bloom, birds are chirping, everything is coming alive.

So in the spirit of this enlivening sense of the earth’s reawakening, we invite you to submit your posts on this month’s theme of Awakenings.

We would love to see your photos, lists of things that awaken your spirit, or posts about how your have been awakened on your spiritual journey!

Of course, we are also accepting posts for next month’s theme of strength too!

Hope to hear from you all soon!

With Wisdom, Love …and Lint,

Autumn and Jenni

P.S. A few days ago we marked the one year anniversary of Searching Sophia’s Pockets! Thanks for taking this journey with us!