As discussed last week, “waking up” is another term for coming to greater conscious awareness. (See: Waking Up to Our Bigger Selves.) How do we come to such awareness? By grounding ourselves in the present moment. When we rest in the present, we’re not anxious about the future. Moreover, we don’t let past pains haunt us. We let go. Naturally, that requires faith. In the end, faith is always what saves us. It sets us free. Moreover, it brings us true inner peace. (Read more on these topics in The Judas Syndrome.)
To Be Fully Aware Is To Be Open
Sadly, it’s hard to be open. And in the age of character disturbance, it’s particularly difficult. The world has never been a very kind place. Trials abound. And pain at someone else’s hands is always lurking around the corner. That’s perhaps truer today than ever before. To be genuinely open, however, we have to accept the inevitability of pain. Moreover, if we don’t transform any pain we do experience, we’re certain to transmit it. That’s precisely how the world got and remains so broken. In our own pain, we inflict pain on others. Most of the time, we do it unconsciously, unwittingly. The more character-impaired among us often do it deliberately. but either way, this pain infliction is an endless, vicious cycle.
What we do with our pain is the heart of all spirituality. It’s also the heart of integrity of character. And the first step (or “commandment”) of growing in character is stepping outside of ourselves. It’s moving past our inherent egocentricity. And it’s heightening our awareness of the larger reality. Part of that reality is that we are all broken. The most troubling things we see in others reside in us, too. Once we step outside of ourselves in faith and trust, we can come to conscious awareness of the inherent interconnectedness of all things. We come to realize that everything belongs. Then, we can open our hearts.
What It Means to Be Open
Being open in heart doesn’t mean we let folks run over us. Nor does it mean we endorse every action someone takes. Openness is not moral or ethical relativism. We still need limits and boundaries. Rather, to be open is to let go of fear. And genuine openness and conscious awareness go hand-in-hand. We become more aware of the greater realities around us. And we get more fully in touch with our own inner reality. In the process, we expand our conscious awareness. We become more fully awake. Awakened, we’re better able to mindfully process our experiences. That makes it easier to truly profit from them.
Controlling the Gate
We don’t realize it, but we control the gate to our heart. Unfortunately, we tend to let the world and its trials take control. We reflexively close our heart’s door in response to pain. Moreover, we can just as unwittingly fling the door wide open in response to something alluring or that appears to offer us pleasure. Mindfulness is about standing ever alert and awake at the gate. And there’s real power in knowing who truly holds the key. We do. We simply don’t have to become hardened in the face of hurt and disappointment. Nor do we have to let our passions and urges unnecessarily expose our hearts to injury. What we tie ourselves to in our outer world binds us on the inside. And what we let go of frees us. That’s the secret – the key to accessing the bigger world just waiting for our discovery.
Revisiting the “First Commandment”
Here again, from Character Disturbance, is the “first commandment” of character:
You are not the center of the universe. Rather, you’re a part of a greater reality more vast, complex, and wondrous than you can possibly imagine. You inhabit space with many other persons, creatures, and objects of creation. So, be mindful of how you, your urges and desires, and most especially your behavior impact everyone and everything else that exists. And conduct yourself with both caution and concern for the consequences of your very presence.
We’ve been talking about the spiritual dimensions of this commandment for a few weeks now. Heeding this command involves more than striving to be a responsible person. It’s more than being a good citizen, parent, spouse, etc., too. It’s really about losing your small, egocentric self and awakening to a much bigger reality. And it’s finding true emotional and psychological health in a healthy spirituality.
Next week we’ll begin taking a look at the spiritual dimensions of the second commandment.