Sleepwalking

“Never awaken a sleepwalker”, says the old myth. The reason given was that it would be such a shock that the sleepwalker might die. Not so, says the general manager of the California Center for Sleep Disorders, Michael Salemi. Yes, it might be a shock, and yes, the person might be upset or perhaps disoriented for a time, but die?  Nope. The experts now say that’s just not the case. And another myth goes down the tubes.

The problem is that the humans – aside from a few avatars who may be amongst us – strolling along on planet Earth are sleepwalking! We are oblivious to the Now moment which is the only reality there is.  To say we “spend” our time is accurate… We fritter it away like quarters in a slot machine… and those precious moments can never be regained. Once spent, they are lost to us forever.

Why do we sleepwalk?  Because we keep buying the illusion that this world of worry, fear, and guilt is REAL. We devote our attention to the realm of thought and feeling, both of which exist in mind only. Thoughts arise out of nothing and then subside into nothingness. While those thoughts are on center stage, however, our habit is to believe they are REAL… to so focus on them that they then produce emotion which is highly entertaining to us humans. Fully consumed by the thoughts and the resultant feelings, we then are compelled to speak and finally act from that charade.

Every once in a while we do awaken. In fact, we have moments of wakefulness off and on each day. When you are yawning or laughing out loud, there is no thought process going on. Other gaps in thinking happen all day, but we do not even notice them.  Worse yet we devalue those moments, (if we notice them at all) as ‘unproductive’ or ‘boring’.  True to our worldly programming we place greater value on thinking and feeling than we do on BE-ing.

Here’s an example: You’re on a picturesque white sand beach just before sunset. You are seated and comfortable so that you can just drink in the beauty before you. The waves lapping on the shore are the only sounds. Your breathing slows and gradually your usual racing thoughts subside and are still but you do not notice that. You have become one with the tableau before you… there is no line of demarcation between you and the fabulous scenery.

Then the thought arises, “Oh, wouldn’t Robert love this! I must go get him so he can share this with me!”  And that thought grabs your attention.

What just happened here?  You left Be-ing for Do-ing.  You abandoned the Oneness of Being to retreat into the familiar haunt of your thoughts. Now you are caught up in thinking ABOUT the sunset and ABOUT how Robert would enjoy the experience. The bottom line for you though is that you left the experience completely to re-enter familiar territory; thoughts and feelings.

WAKE UP!  You have the opportunity right now! If you are reading this, and if it pricked something in your awareness, then you can choose to awaken right now. You cannot choose to awaken forever and ever. It is a moment-to-moment experience. But you CAN choose to be awake in THIS moment.  This N-O-W.

You are invited. All are invited. The Now is available to us all.

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Bloody Scissors

The urgent call came over the radio: “Ms. Laursen, please report to room 1106 immediately!” I took off running and arrived at the classroom out of breath but within three minutes.

The classroom door was slightly ajar and the teacher stood in the hallway speaking in hushed tones to an administrator. As I approached the pair, I could see that the teacher was in tears and breathing hard. Her hand rested on her chest as she tried to will herself to slow down and breathe.

The incident had lasted less than a minute but it had left a lasting impression on a stunned teacher and 27 shocked 9th graders.

Class had started as it does every day. Ms. Lopez greeted everyone and then took attendance. They were one student short. But since William’s attendance had been spotty lately, it was not of great concern. Moving on to the day’s lesson plan, Ms. Lopez instructed the class to read chapter 3 of their current novel and then they would discuss it.

The teacher had returned to her desk where she began writing a note when the door burst open. In strode the missing student. William walked purposefully to the teacher’s desk. His left forearm was exposed and bloody. In his right hand he clutched a pair of scissors; they were held high and pointing downward as if to attack. Blood dripped from the scissor blades to the classroom floor just as it dripped from the his left arm.

He reached the teacher’s side before she could react. Later she would say that she froze; there was not a thought in her head – only the body’s reaction to what appeared to be an imminent threat.

Unusually tall for a freshman, William came to a stop right next to Ms. Lopez and he towered over her with the bloody scissors held above her head. He spoke calmly, “I think I need to see the nurse.” Recovering her senses, she ordered him to leave the room. To her surprise he complied. She quickly followed him to the door directing another student to call security right away.

Just outside of the classroom she was able to persuade the boy to release the scissors which she quickly tossed through the open doorway onto the classroom floor. In a matter-of-fact tone he told her that had stolen the scissors from his first hour teacher. “Why would you do that, William?”, she asked. Emotionless, he replied, “Because they were lying there.”

Scissors in hand he had walked straight to the rest room during the passing period. There he proceeded to carve up his left forearm. This wasn’t the first or even the fourth time William had cut himself severely. And just two weeks prior to today’s incident he had added a new behavior to this repertoire; he had darted out directly into the path of an oncoming school bus. Luckily for William, his timing was off and the bus missed him. That episode led to his being sent to a lockdown facility for 10 days, but he had been released on Monday night of this week… less than 48 hours ago. As they signed him out of the facility, his parents were reassured that he was stable now.. no longer a danger to himself or others.

By the time I reached the classroom William was en route to the health office where his wounds would be treated. His parents would be called to come get him.

Sending the teacher off to regain her composure, I entered the silent classroom to see that 27 pairs of eyes were riveted on me. There wasn’t a sound… until I began to speak inviting them to begin to process the shocking incident they had just witnessed. Two girls began to weep… Three others described step by step what they had just seen… A boy mentioned that he and three others in the class had been on the bus two weeks ago when William ran out in front of that vehicle loaded with students. They had seen his face on that morning… and now they were remembering that scene all too vividly as they also processed the image of William holding the bloody scissors over their teacher’s head..

Before the day was over more than 15 of the 27 freshmen in the class had found their way to the counseling office. More will be seen tomorrow.

The Christmas Socks

A special visitor bounced into my office. It was not one of my usual constituents. No, this individual was much shorter, more enthusiastic and markedly more open than the customers who darken my office door on a regular basis. Seven year old Autumn had brought me some of her holiday art work. She reached into her tote bag, pulled out a sheet of paper and proudly presented a colorful crayon picture of a Christmas stocking. Next to the stocking she had written “To Mrs. Willig   FROM Autumn”. Since she is presently learning cursive writing in her second grade class, the words were carefully and laboriously formed in script. For her writing implement she had selected orange Crayola. There were some flourishes at the end of her name; creative license at its finest.

Naturally, she expected this masterpiece would be given a high profile display spot.  We selected my office door right at 7 year-old eye level. The stocking was affixed to its place of honor with the obligatory pieces of Scotch tape.  Satisfied with that procedure, Autumn turned her attention to the next subject, her list for Santa.

We discussed her concerns over whether or not she had been good enough this year to warrant Santa’s largesse. After confessing a few things she had done to her most annoying little brother, she finally decided that over all, yes, she did deserve the presents she had requested. We went on to discuss what kind of cookies she plans to make and leave out for Santa. With a glass of milk, of course.

Then she turned her gaze to me, suddenly somber. Had I been good enough that Santa would slide down my chimney to leave presents for me, she asked. I paused, giving her query the gravity it deserved.  We discussed my 2014 behavior a bit before her face relaxed. “Then Santa will probably bring you some presents”, but she did not look all that convinced. Then for the 64-dollar question; exactly what had been on the list I had submitted to the Big Guy?  “Christmas socks”, I blurted…Her little brow furrowed and she pursed her lips. “Wellllll…”, she finally offered, “We never know for sure until we wake up Christmas morning… but I really hope he brings you those socks.”

She went on her way soon after that, but on Friday afternoon she returned. I saw her coming down the hall; a 40 pound dynamo of energy. She was fairly bouncing up and down with excitement, and her grin was a mile wide.  Clutched in her hand was a small and slightly mangled holiday gift bag which she proudly handed across the desk to me.  “Open it! Open it!”, she squealed. Clearly, I wasn’t moving nearly fast enough to suit her.

Beneath the wadded-up tissue paper at the top of the bag lay a pair of Christmas socks. “Aren’t you EXCITED????”, she cried.  “I was worried that you hadn’t been good enough this year. That maybe Santa would fly right over your house and give your socks to somebody else. So I wanted to bring you your socks JUST IN CASE!!”

There is nothing quite like the infectious enthusiasm of a seven year old worried that Rudolph and the team would pass her friend by when the big night arrived.

Hypnosis is the world’s modus operandi. We move from event to event, or so it seems. In truth we entertain thought after thought and the apparent ‘outer’ events mirror those thought patterns. So, how have you spent your attention this day? What have you created with your precious energy/attention?  It will surely come to you, whatever it is. But it will appear in the ‘outer world’ masquerading as coincidence, random circumstance or just dumb luck. Whether that “luck” happens to be good or bad is immaterial. In fact that ‘luck’ is in truth only neutral. It is by the labels that we choose that the occurrence is categorized. And we will react both mentally and emotionally according to that label.

Beware of labels!

Tyrannical To-Do List

The ubiquitous To-Do-List, hereafter referred to as the TDL, is a part of the fabric of American life. Most of us keep one, or maybe two. Then there are others of us who keep a separate TDL in each room of the house, one in the office and one in the car!  Of course, now that we have Smartphones there are those high tech listers who keep their TDLs on their phones. That way the list is always at their fingertips.

So what’s the harm in having at least one TDL, you ask? It runs your life!  You check it in the morning and/or evening or you don’t check it at all and feel guilty about it.  We depend on having it; telling ourselves we do not have to hold that item in short term memory because it is safely recorded on the TDL.

The spectrum of items on the TDL is unlimited. We have lists of errands, chores, grocery items, bill pay items, personal care items, shopping items (both in-store and online), tasks to do at work, social events after work.

We think about the list and check it, too, several times a day. And if we go off to work without said list, well, calamity may befall us!  A friend of mine who arrived at work one day without having put on earrings, felt compelled to return home to put a pair on because she knew it would drive her crazy to stay at  work sans earrings. The same holds true for the TDL. Without it we are crazed by the worry of what we might have forgotten.

I keep a TDL in Outlook, one on paper (at least one), and one in Legacy, my (wonderful) genealogical program. It keeps track of all the items I intend to research the first time I get a chance.

Okay, so these lists sound reasonable, right? But how about the TDL within video games?  The brilliant game designers know the human mind very well indeed. They know that we are driven by the tasks that we must do, so they incorporate the TDL into your game progress. ‘What? Close this window?  No, you can’t do that! You are so close to the next level or to the next flight or to whacking this bad guy!’, it says to you. And they keep you coming back with the tantalizing TDL of the future. You’ll earn the next accolade, or the next badge, or hat, or game money or… and maybe you’ll earn a couple of each!

The human mind is habituated to reaching into the future. That is precisely why the TDL is so compelling.

And what if you don’t get something on the TDL done? Do you just move it forward to tomorrow’s TDL? Do you write down things just so you can cross them off? Because it feels so good to cross items off the list, right?

Try going through a day without putting down anything or checking anything off a TDL.  In fact, don’t make one at all.  Are you sweating a bit just at the thought of that? Then plan this experiment for a weekend day.  Just see what happens! Watch how many times your mind tells you that you should just jot down a couple of things. And how many times do you reach for that TDL on paper or on the smartphone just by force of habit?

It does have its place. The TDL is helpful. I’ll be the first to admit it. But guess what? When we step out of this body when the Cosmic Alarm tolls for us, there will be plenty of items remaining on the TDL.

It is okay to stop… to simply stop this mad busi-ness as if we were going to win some kind of heavenly prize for being the one who does the most chores.

Bottom line: we are human BEINGS – not human DOINGS. It is okay to s-t-o-p now again – to put down the TDL, focus on our breathing and know that right Now all is well. The Universe if complete and balanced just as It is.

The Moat and the Drawbridge

The news yesterday was staggering. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords shot in the head. Five others near her shot and killed including a nine-year old girl and a federal judge.  Fourteen others wounded. They were in front of a Safeway store at the intersection of Ina and Oracle Roads in northwest Tucson… a store where I have done our grocery shopping on countless occasions.

Yet there it all was on the television screen.  Places I know very well, People I know, too. The Old Pueblo making national news in an unimaginable way.  Seeing the now infamous Safeway store on CNN and MSNBC was a jolt. Learning of the murders and of Giffords’ grievous injuries on a national news outlet was shocking.

There is a human instinct that then kicks in. It is the urge to withdraw; to build a moat around yourself and pull up the drawbridge over that crocodile-filled moat.  Isolation is tempting and even attractive.  The craziness is, after all, out THERE. Isn’t it?

The “out there”, however, is only a projected image of what is within us.  A decision to withdraw from the world is usually a decision made from fear and fear is what caused this horrific tragedy in the first place. The gunman was so out of his mind with irrational and deranged fear of something that he opted for murder as a solution.

Was the killer crazy? No doubt. But if we choose fear and allow it to dominate our thoughts and feelings, then we begin to create for ourselves a fear-filled environment. The only sane choice for all of us is Now. To face and accept the horrific facts of this event and to remain open to Now regardless of our emotional reactions. That is the choice for Love.  Choosing Now is to choose Love.

Detachment

The more we focus our powerful attention on a problem, the farther away we drive the solution. In a balanced Universe the perfect solution must exist simultaneously with what we have labeled a problem. By detaching our energy from the “problem”, we open inner space to receive awareness of the solution.

Awake or Asleep?

To attend to the ‘who’ is to sleepwalk. To attend to the ‘What’ is to awaken.

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