How to wake up in the middle of waking up

This morning I woke up in the middle of waking up.

I realized that I was making a series of definitive statements to myself, declarations about the state of my body and my relationship with the world. I was reconstructing my very identity for the day! The questions to which the statements appear to be answers were either understood, implied, or went by too fast to be noticed.

I have a bit of a headache. That’s unusual. That pain in my left arm that I got up to take care of in the middle of the night doesn’t hurt. The St. John’s Wort Oil I rubbed in must have worked.  My sinuses are less congested. That osteopathic treatment yesterday helped. I have a whole day to finish those two essays for my homework assignment. The uninterrupted hours are nervous-making. I’ve worked the Kabbalistic Universes to death figuring out how they relate to personal and social identity. What I’ve got is far too complicated. I just want to give this group what they need to know now. I want to leave out a bunch of the usual stuff but I’m afraid of over-simplifying it. That other piece – on my relationship with the unknown: I’ve hardly thought about it. The house is really cold this morning.

Then the cat jumped up on me, having noticed I was stirring. She roused me to get her breakfast, ending this bit of waking up in the middle of waking up.

I regularly sleep through this process in the morning when I wake from sleep. What is really going on here?! 

I am reconstituting a self that I recognize, and a life that I recognize. I am naming and rating various body sensations, and in the process making judgments about actions I’ve taken – in this case in the prior twenty-our hours. I am translating certain sensations into recognizable anxieties so readily that I now suspect that I have paired them habitually: only this white wine pairs with that fish. There’s a thing I have to get done, and it has to meet certain standards – of usefulness and clarity that are good enough, close enough to perfection. I am naming an anxiety that sets up my relationship for the whole day – this thing I gotta do, I don’t know how I’m gonna get it done. All this brings alive muscle memory, posture, ways of sitting/sitting out and walking towards/away that shape how I move through life.

There are a whole lot of unthought knowns operating here.

They underlie the process I have described, and they love statements. Subject. Object. Definitiveness indicated by the period at the end. Period. Distinctions. Judgments. Interpretations. And every one of them sets me up to go about my day assuming them to be reality.

I didn’t stop to question the validity of any of it. I didn’t stop to question what I was including or leaving out. I didn’t stop to question the meaning I assigned to a sensation or the judgement I paired with a thought.

Question? Introduce something curvy to slow my speedy process?

I didn’t pause to let in more information or to allow for possibility, until it occurred to me I’d better get right to the computer before these insights could sink unexamined back into unconsciousness.

Then I went into the kitchen and fed the cat.


Read more on other ways of Not Knowing: https://alifeofpractice.com/daily-practices/i-dont-knows-small-life-stopping-and-life-giving/

 

A Who-Is meets the Caterpillar

 “Who are you?” said the Caterpillar

This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, “I—I hardly know, sir, just at present – at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.”

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,  Lewis Carroll

 

Who I believe myself to be

I have been captivated by this question since Alice’s Adventures were first read aloud to me as a kid: “Whooooooo are youuuuuuuuuu?”

Here’s how I might answer the Caterpillar. Most days there is a Who-Is who gets pissed off when I am interrupted, a Who-Is who calms when my cat curls up in my lap, and a Who-Is who avoids looking too closely in the mirror when I wake up in the morning. I trust these parts of me are always somewhere in the room of my Life, even when the proper stimulus has not provoked them to appear. These are things that I think I know about who I am.

It is only practice that has me look more deeply, to see their stories.

The Interrupted One tells this story:

Whatever it is I am doing is important, more important than answering the phone, the door, a question, a request, a demand, an urgency. It’s about getting this thing, whatever it is, done. It’s also about maintaining my preferred feeling-state: the pleasure I have from completion; the nourishment I receive from absorption in my work, in the moment; feelings of usefulness and worth. And avoiding the discomfort, anxiety, even panic, at leaving something unfinished, hanging in mid-air.

Sometimes there is wisdom in turning my back on the interruption. What I am doing actually is more important than the interruption. At other times my task-persistence is a limitation that keeps me from connecting with a real need, a real movement of life. We could call this limitation habit, or compulsion, or even denial. It binds me, and has had some some harmful consequences for the people in my life. Because…

The Interrupted One’s story conveys limitations and wisdom both

What I truly cannot bear is the disruption to my sense of self, my very continuity, which so much of the time hitches a ride on my tasks, activities, and feeling-states, the very idea that I have a self, or am a self.  If I stop, I will go out like a candle flame in a breeze of the unknown. Everything I identify as myself disappears. The “I” disappears. Annihilation is complete.

This story is mixed and mixed up. It carries my neuroses, my personality difficulties. It carries my female lineage, with its theme of abandonment. Those are limitations. This story also bears the wisdom of existential truths:

I am a do-er, a feeler, a thinker, a relational being.

I am a concealer and magician – who makes parts of myself appear and disappear.

I – and the world I live in remain full of mysteries – some of which will be revealed and become known to me, new Who-Ises to be invited in. 

Some of the mysteries, “interruptions” like suffering and death, will remain unsolvable.

And I remain a being of Mystery that, when I remember it, I can approach only as I approach the Great Kindness, with awe and gratitude.

Make room for the Problem-Solver!

There is another Who-Is that gets into the mix: My Problem-solver.

She shadows the one who invites everything in,  wanting to – oh, just clean up the parts of me that show up, make them a little more presentable – or, as my healer once said to me – keep them in the entrance hall, and never quite let them into the house without a shower and a clean set of clothes.

The Problem-Solver also sees the Unknown as an enemy, so she keeps pushing me to discover more about myself or about puzzling or horrifying aspects of Life – wisdom, there. Her limitation: she doesn’t know when to stop. She does not recognize her powerlessness when she is up against the unsolvable, or up against the Great Kindness.

I arrive at a true answer to the Caterpillar as I invite them all in

So, Problem-solver, welcome, please come in.

The Interrupted One, come in.

The Concealer and Magician be welcome here.

Come in all of you, with your stories about who I believe myself to be.

And as I stay with this dance of acceptance and change in this way, I may lose my ready answers to the Caterpillar’s question. But  the Great Goodness has my back, helps me to be in my life just as it is, and to change what I need to change.

 

Today I Show Up to Begin the Hard Work

Dear Tribe –

I am taking my own advice today: show up for the hard work.

I can see I wrote today’s 6 AM post as a letter to myself before Election Day, knowing what I would need to tell myself this morning, knowing I would reach for words and be unable to find them. To remind myself of what is possible. To feel the Universe still has humanity’s back.

There is something larger – call it Destiny, Reality, Human Evolution. Mystery, God, the Quantum Field – that does, in fact hold us together and urges us towards every last shred of personal and collective kindness. Urges us towards unfolding that kindness and bringing it all the way down into this world of structure and organization and government and business.

So here is one way I will show up: in the coming months A Life of Practice will devote itself to exploring identity in new and challenging ways, ways that include not only our personal and family histories, but our cultural and tribal lineages.

It is time to heal and awaken in our social, racial, ethnic, religious, economic contexts – the ones that play out in divisiveness, out-group exclusion, with life and death consequences for so many fellow-humans.

This is hard, painful  and rewarding work, and work I believe we must undertake to transform our perspective and understanding, reveal the obvious we cannot yet see, and guide new creative and collaborative ways for us to live, create, work, play, worship together.

The only motivation I can think of that is strong enough to pull us through this into our future is our yearning to be safe and happy. I mean, really safe and happy, down to the toes of our souls.

Thank you for your responses to this morning’s post, even those who expressed finding it unbearable.

I greatly value our traveling together.