Waking Up and Falling Asleep

sunlight through canopy of small oaksAs I listen to the lectures at the Zen Center, I keep thinking that I too want to offer something about a practice that we all share. I’m referring to a practice that everybody already knows intimately, even if they don’t usually think of it as a practice: waking up and falling asleep.

For me, waking up and falling asleep is one practice, and that practice is about a sense of physical location. Odd as it might sound, when I realize my physical sense of location in space, and realize it as it occurs from one moment to the next, I wake up or fall asleep as appropriate.

This is useful, when I wake up in the middle of the night and need to go back to sleep, or when I want to feel more physically alive in the morning. This is also useful when I want to feel my connection to everything around me, because my sense of place registers the contact of my awareness with each thing, as it occurs.

Just before I fall asleep, my awareness can move very readily, and my sense of where I am tends to move with it. As I wake up, the same thing is true, although I sometimes overlook it; my sense of where I am tends to move as my awareness moves. At these times, I realize that my ability to feel a sense of place is made possible in part by the freedom of my awareness to move.

I sometimes overlook the movement of my awareness because I attach to the feelings that arise in a particular instance of awareness, or I am averse to the feelings, or I ignore them. The result is that I lose my ability to feel the movement of awareness. At such a moment, I have the opportunity to witness first-hand the connection between attraction, aversion, or ignorance and the loss of my ability to feel. As I experience such a witness, my ability to feel returns to me, and with it my sense of the movement of awareness.

To me, what we do at the Zen Center is all about regaining a sense of place in our lives, about living life from exactly where we are. When we live our lives from exactly where we are, we make space for others to live their lives from exactly where they are, and in the process we discover the real connection between us all; this is the connection that depends on our ability to feel rather than on appearances, and so permits us to act appropriately even in the midst of our changing circumstances.

There’s really nothing I can do to practice waking up and falling asleep, other than to accept being where I find myself at the moment. The beautiful part of it is, that’s exactly the practice of waking up and falling asleep.

copyright 2011 Mark A. Foote