With record prices at the pumps, both Freddy and Fannie looking really quite punch drunk, much of California covered in smoke, and an economic forecast gloomier by the day, many people today find that their response to our world has gradually shifted from patient optimism to concern to, well, freakin’ out.
As a writer, public speaker and “awakening coach,” I travel a great deal throughout the US, working with all kinds of people, from CEOs to hairdressers, and from mystics to merchants. When things get this uncertain, we discover that there is not nearly as much difference between us all as we might have imagined. In our ambitions, our dogmas and our prejudices we find a splintered world, when our status quo is threatened we find our common humanity. During the second world war in London, people discovered the same thing. Families who had not talked to each other for decades, because of some half remembered feud, became friends again while taking refuge in the London underground from the German bombing. The external threat provoked a sobering up from small preoccupations.
I have worked with tens of thousands of people over the last decades, both individually and in groups, facilitating a simple shift in consciousness, which we can call “awakening.” Generally our attention and energy is wrapped up in trying to improve our situation: make more money, find the perfect relationship, get the right raise. Perhaps we get a little more savvy, and shift that attention from the external to our internal state: we work on ourselves to become more loving, more positive or even more “spiritual.” Awakening is in a whole different ball park. Awakening happens when you run out of options, when, at least to some degree, you surrender the struggle. Then all the effort that was wrapped up in trying to make things better is freed up, and we relax simply back into ourselves, into a peace and presence that was overlooked in our obsessive activity. And millions of people are discovering, and least in snapshots, that everything goes better as a result.
I have noticed, in my work with people, that difficult times can be a great asset to the process of waking up to this deeper presence. When everything is going well: if someone is in love, or closing a lucrative deal, or buying a new home, the interest in all this is generally less intense. It is often when we have run out of options that the incentive to wake up becomes stronger. Eckhart Tolle, an icon of this kind of awakening, was in a state of suicidal despair when his attention shifted from mind to presence.
Today, millions of people are passing through this kind of a shift: from living from acquisition and ambition, to a freedom from the mind. Perhaps we are facing just the same kind of “bottoming out” collectively that so many people have faced individually, we are running out of options for our avarice, and the American dream is maturing into the global awakening. Some people say that we have few other options.
Over the next weeks and months, I will be offering you very simple short-cuts out of the mind and into the magic of the present moment. Here is a simple tool you can use many times a day to quickly antidote the habit of the mind to be in nervous activity. It is called Pure Waiting.
Whenever you can, sit and wait.
There is no need to distract yourself with filling the gap with random activity.
At the gate at the airport,
In the few minutes before its time to leave the house, while waiting for the bus,
Rather than picking up a book,
Or flipping the pages of a magazine,
Or checking e-mail or switching on the TV,
Just sit and wait.
Present… ready… available.
Waiting for the next thing to happen.
No need to meditate or get spiritual.
Just wait, like a cat, or a bird on a tree.
Become the waiting itself.
Wait for the kiss that kisses your lips
From the inside.