It was still dark when I woke up, more than an hour before my usual time around sunrise. I sat in the darkened living room my curtains open hearing a few sparrows chirping in anticipation of the dawn. In dark living room with my coffee in hand, I wondered why I woke so early.
The glowing-pink background gave the apple blossoms an amazing tint. It did not last long, only a minute, but long enough for me to capture this image. By then I knew why I had wakened so early. I was called to witness this glorious moment. A few sparrows chirping heightened the magic of the moment. Awake my Soul, goes the song.
Our days in body and spirit begin with awakenings. Awakening is mysterious. We don’t know why or when it occurs before the alarm clock goes off. In fact, awakening is being roused from the habitual, routine and the ordinary into something thrilling, stimulating and new. Suddenly, your senses come alive, seeing and hearing something new and inspiring. A mother feels the quickening of her unborn child.
Three times I experienced it. Words cannot describe what it was like to become aware of life moving within me. Quickening of life and waking up to the life within share in divine mystery. Physical life and spiritual life have in common times of sleeping and waking up. The Psalmist understood our soul’s journey from darkens to glorious light,
My heart, O God, is steadfast,
my heart is steadfast;
I will sing and make music.
8 Awake, my soul!
Awake, harp and lyre!
I will awaken the dawn.
9 I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;
I will sing of you among the peoples.
10 For great is your love, reaching to the heavens;
your faithfulness reaches to the skies.
11 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
let your glory be over all the earth. Psalm 57:7-11
In Awakenings,, Robin Williams, portrays the real life account of Dr Oliver Sacks who worked with people afflicted with encephalitic lethargica, known as sleeping sickness, and their awakenings after decades of being asleep. That glorious sunrise, like Lenard in the movie, I realized how magical waking up can be marvelous but may not last long. It is difficult to hold unto the excitement of being fully aware. The moment is gone, the inspiration may fade, chores demand our attention and the day moves on. Yet, the memory lingers captured in pictures are prompts me to seek out wakefulness. My reflections on “awake” lead me to the verses where the Psalmist pleads with God,
22 Yet for your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.
23 Awake, Lord! Why do you sleep?
Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever.
24 Why do you hide your face
and forget our misery and oppression? Psalm 44:22-24
Job’s dark reflections are anything but glorious, his words speak of the soul’s desperation in the midst of utter misery,
But a man dies and is laid low;
he breathes his last and is no more.
11 As the water of a lake dries up
or a riverbed becomes parched and dry,
12 so he lies down and does not rise;
till the heavens are no more, people will not awake
or be roused from their sleep.
13 “If only you would hide me in the grave
and conceal me till your anger has passed!
If only you would set me a time
and then remember me! Job 14:10-14
Jesus warned his disciples to “stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning—“ Mark 13:35 “Stay awake and pray that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Mark 14:38
Staying awake, synonymous with being alert, being on the lookout. is hard to do especially when we are weary. We read in the Gospels that the disciples could not stay awake in the Garden of Gethsemane, “…. Jesus went back to his followers and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “You men could not stay awake with me for one hour? 41 Stay awake and pray for strength against temptation.”” Matthew 26.
I am left wondering what stirs us to wake up from a comfortable slumber. How do we suddenly see with new eyes and hear with new ears and feel life within us? Swedenborg describes waking into spiritual life after death “as though we were awake; all our senses are as alert as they are when we are fully awake physically-sight, hearing, and strange to say, touch. These senses are more perfect than they can ever be during physical wakefulness.”
The last frontier probed by Psychologists, human consciousness, addresses human awareness of both internal and external stimuli. This can refer to spiritual recognition, psychological understanding, medically altered states, such as the wakeful state brought on by dopamine, administered to Dr. Sack’s patients. Getting back to what happens when we have an awakening, an “aha” moment; we are transformed, somehow changed and motivated to make changes in our life. We become more ourselves than we have been before.
The study of consciousness is a thriving field with many different theories. I am at my very best in the morning before I begin my daily tasks but that is not what awakening or quickening is about. New purpose, new way of being, insights are only in a potential state and do not come into our consciousness until the moment of “awakening”. I knew I was carrying a baby several months before I actually felt the ”quickening”. The sensations I felt confirmed I was carrying a new life. That is awakening, it is a knowing beyond thinking, it is more real than anything we can think about. Awakening may usher in a new level of consciousness. Many psychologists researched various levels of consciousness. In Psych 101 I learned about Sigmund Freud who described three facets of the psychic apparatus: the unconscious (id) or instinctual facet, the preconscious (ego) or rational facet, and the conscious (superego) or moral facet. Many other theories and descriptions of levels of consciousness take either the medical or pathological perspectives to determine consciousness using the Glasgow Coma Scale,
lean toward ancient Indian Vedas texts take a view of unified consciousness, with a key difference in the purpose of human ascension from stage to stage. The ultimate being to attain pure knowledge and intelligence. The Seven Chakras
describe the gradual progress toward the spiritual level. Surprisingly, the Vedic vision of consciousness in stages resemebles the developmental stages in the groundbreaking work provided by Jean Piaget. He provided e foundations for understanding the evolution of the brain’s capacity throughout the human lifespan.
Piaget, Erickson, Kohlberg brilliant researchers in the field of human development did not delve into the field of consciousness nor did they shed light on how sudden bursts of inspiration or insights occurr in human consciousness. James Fowler
a developmental psychologist at Candler School of Theology, proposed stages of faith de development throughout the lifespan.
In his seminal work, Stages of Faith though closely related to the work of Piaget, Ericson and Kohlberg regarding aspects of psychological development in children and adults, Fowler steps into the world of spirituality. However, in spite of dabbling in spirituality, Fowler remains firmly in the idea that everything happens in stages and barely touches upon the sudden, unexpected incursion into the unexplainable transformative experiences.
Understanding human development in stages is perfectly logical and reasonable because we experienced being small barely walking, beginning to read, learning our multiplication tables, a new language or new skill from our early years to our present stage in life but stages of development do not explain how we can jump into a whole new way of being. Suddenly aware of inward realities. Being awake to new realities does not fit into stages because it is another level of consciousness and this level of consciousness is not measurable by any test.
We can be more watchful and alert to receive new insights. Prayer and meditation tried and true pathways for Spirit’s presence. Mystics and saints appear to have access to higher levels of consciousness and awareness of the spiritual realms. Hildegard von Bingen, (1098 –1179), a German writer, composer, philosopher, Christian mystic, Benedictine abbess and a visionary was one such a person . From all accounts, Hildegard experienced “awakenings”, spiritual rousing throughout her lifetime. Her works of art and music are all inspirations from the spiritual realm.
We do not have to saints to become aware of all that is in and around us. We only have to ready to experience consolations, insights and inspirations. We must be awake to the stirrings of Spirit within. Spring is the season to tune into the new life around us.