We are lost in a world of thought. This is what it means to be asleep in Buddhist speak.
When we are lost in thought we are in a world of our own making, and we are not present with what is really happening. Waking up means to be fully present in this moment. We drop all the thoughts and stories and habitual ways of operating and we just wake up for a moment before going back to sleep.
It’s ok. This is what humans do.
If you begin to notice the content of your thoughts, you will notice that the voice in your head can be like a small child who is judging everythng it sees and feels. “I like this”, “I don’t like that!” “This is good and I want more!” We are rarely peaceful. Our thoughts are telling us that if we can get things just right, we will be happy. And, as Pema Chodron says, “...our patterns are well established, seductive, and comforting.”
If all your patterns are working for you, by all means, carry on! If not, the most direct way to learn to wake up is by meditating.
I can’t meditate!
If you think that meditating means to clear your mind of thought, you will always feel like a failure. This really can’t be done. Our mind generates energy as thoughts, and this is what it’s supposed to do. So, much of what we call meditating is growing our awareness of when we are lost in thoughts. The moment we notice that we are thinking, we are awake! And we come back to the breath. This happens over and over, and with practice (on a good day!) you begin to be able to relax the mind a bit more (and create less thought energy) , and you begin to notice stillness between the thoughts.
Like beginning anything new, it’s difficult to do without guidance and support. If you are interested in growing a meditation practice, I highly recommend checking out a meditation center.
What are other ways to wake up?
Any type of coming into the present moment is waking up. Eckhart Tolle writes profoundly on this subject in The Power of Now and A New Earth (where he breaks down his concepts a bit more).
Letting go of thought can also happen when
You drop your focus down into your body. What do you feel?
You use any sense perception to notice vision, smell, feel, sound, without attaching a story to it.
You bring focus to your breath.
Do something different, which encourages you to notice more intently.
Why meditation is a mental health super tool…
In therapy we look at what is not working, with the intention of letting go of old patterns and creating new ones that suit us now. We cannot create a new experience while we are sleeping, because the process of thinking what we already know only recreates what we already know. (This is how patterns set in, which lead to what we think of as our personality.)
You are so much bigger than your habits.
Understanding when and how to use the mind, and when and how to let it go can bring greater understanding into creating change. Every time you realize that you are lost in the same old thoughts, you are awake! Your awareness taps you on the shoulder and says, Pay Attention!
Meditation grows your awareness and ability to stay present. Intention to wake up, one moment at a time, is everything..