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Awakening (1)

Beyond living and dreaming
there is something more important:
waking up.

-Antonio Machado

And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.

-Mark 13:37

The last few weeks I have been struggling with some medication I am taking. It has done a wonderful job keeping my migraines at bay but insomnia has been its worst side effect.  While it is a gift to not have the migraines regularly I have been sleep-deprived for far too many days to make it worth it.  So as I began to prepare for the Advent season and reflect on the readings I had to laugh at the gospel for this first Sunday. “Keep awake” Jesus tells his disciples.  I know that what I need more than anything right now is a few nights of good sleep to refresh me and this weekend has been a time to curl up with Petunia and catch up on sleep, while considering my other options for migraines. I know the scripture isn’t validating insomnia, as sleep-deprivation can have terrible long-term consequences for the human body. We are being invited, however, into a state of alertness, watchfulness that really only comes when one has rested well also. What I hear in these words is a caution against the temptation to succumb to the busyness of life, to pile on commitments so that one never has time to really rest well and so is always too weary to be truly alert.

I do love the image of awakening as a metaphor for the spiritual journey. The mythologist Michael Meade describes the primary metaphor in Western religion is that of the fall, we are a fallen humanity needing to be redeemed and so the emphasis becomes salvation. But in Eastern religion the metaphor is of a humanity that has fallen asleep to our true nature and forgotten who we are, so practices emphasize learning how to re-awaken to our truest and most authentic selves. One of the great gifts of inter-religious dialogue is the expansion of vision we have for how the world operates. Each is a metaphor, a way of thinking about things. Each contains some kernel of truth. These two ways of seeing the world may seem at odds, but the nature of religion is paradox, and so each offers us a part of the whole. And one vision is never the entirety of what is possible or true. In Jesus’ invitation to us, he is calling us to this practice of becoming fully present to the moment and not falling asleep by dwelling in the past or worrying our way into the future.

In the invitation of Advent to prepare for the birth of God into the world, we are invited to awaken to the sacred possibilities deep within us, to shake off our slumber, open our eyes wide and discover the sacredness of everything we encounter.  This requires that we are well-rested, that our lives feel somewhat in balance so that our energy can be focused on this important task.  So part of my own work this season is to examine the ways I keep myself asleep or numb and to make sure I am rested enough to be alert to the holy moments. Sleep as a spiritual practice is always a good thing in my book. Awaken my friends, begin by breathing in beauty of this very moment.

What are you awakening to in your life?

What secret gifts are hidden deep in your heart?

Where have you fallen asleep?

-Christine Valters Paintner @ Abbey of the Arts

** Update on Tune: Her biopsy shows that her tumor was mammary gland adenocarcinoma, so it is indeed cancer.  This is difficult news, however, the hopeful part is that the doctor thinks it was all removed and had not spread. She is now much more susceptible to a recurrence though.  So now we are called upon to remain watchful and alert to signs of cancer developing in other spots. We will be seeing a veterinary oncologist in the coming days as well for further input into her treatment. Thank you so very much for your prayers and care. **

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10 Responses

  1. Such wonderful comments, sorry for my slow reply but I leave for a 4-day retreat I am leading tomorrow and there is so much to do! But I am soaking in the prayers and gratitude and lovely, kind words.

    And a special welcome to Marisa!

  2. You have to believe with the doctor that it was all removed. And whatever time is Tune’s time, you have already given her the freedom of true love and companionship. Any time spent together from here on out is a mere bonus. Thank you for also giving us Abbey Of The Arts…a place where we too, can come to learn how to find ourselves. Prayers continue for everyone.

  3. Such a beautiful post, Christine, and equally beautiful responses….a deep bow of gratitude to all. Know that soulful Tune is in my prayers in this uncertain time.

  4. Bodies, our own and those of our beloved 4 legged friends, remind us that this is an incarnational faith we grapple with and seek out. You express it well even in the midst of your challenges and challenging news of Tune’s health. Prayers for continuing wholeness for each of you.

  5. Dear Christine,
    I just came across your blog on a recommendation from Christine over at BlissChick. When I am finished marveling about the ways that God knits the world together and the Universe conspires for bits of inspiration to flash before our eyes in a flawless tapestry, I may have the words to express how happy I was to come across your little corner of the world today.

    I have been dancing with my Catholic heritage for the last couple of years, coming close enough to give it room to blossom and then spinning in another direction and moving away Christianity. There has been a sort of distance from the divine that I have found in Eastern wisdom and earth based spirituality that has allowed me to feel more comfortable. I am finally coming to realize that consulting traditions other than my own allowed me to keep the real presence of God at arms’ length until I felt more comfortable with myself. I think I am finally finding the ability to come back to my Catholic roots and do so as a complete person, ready to offer myself fully to this path. At the same time, I know myself to be someone who needs to keep the fires of many traditions burning in my life, and I was so happy to read how you spoke of inter-religious dialog.

    It seems more than fitting that I am coming more fully into my relationship with Christ on this first day of Advent. Thank you for helping the brilliant message of the Gospel come alive. This is the first time I have ever sought out the text of a daily reading – again, thank you for leading me in that direction.
    Blessings to you in your journey toward health and to your sweet faced puppy dog as well. I so look forward to visiting again. – Marisa

  6. you are such a blessing to each of us! i was reading “lectio divina” this morning and entered into centering prayer. i was really tired and afraid that i would not remain “awake.” it was an amazing time with God and a delightful entering into this advent season. your words as they most often do have enhanced my own experience. this enhancement also reminds me of the ways that other world views, people, religions, etc. can enhance our lives when we remain open and awake!! xoxox

    p.s. give miss tune an ear rub from me :-)

  7. Christine…
    I am so sorry to hear that Tune has adenocarcinoma. Jud just reminded me that our dear Chryssy had this for six years (and we put the poor dear to sleep at 22). He says there is a range in how aggressive this can be. I am still praying that beautiful Tune’s will not be an aggressive form.
    Prayers and love to the three of you,

  8. Christine, thank you for your teaching here — this wonderful penseé, so powerfully and beautifully written. Thank you for sharing your love, and Tune’s journey — as I care for my creatures, a generous and helpful gift!

    In connection to awaking to our pristine original nature, one line that struck me: “…to discover the sacredness of everything we encounter. This requires that we are well-rested, that our lives feel somewhat in balance so that our energy can be focused on this important task.”

    Brings to mind “hitting the bamboo,” an expression in Zen derived from the real-life experience of a monastic who was raking the stones in a rock garden, and during which time he must have become entranced by the repetition of the work. Suddenly one stone popped up from under the prongs of his rake and hit the bamboo handle, and in hearing the sound, he “dropped off body and mind,” and experienced “supreme perfect enlightenment.”

  9. First, let me say I hope the news for Tune remains hopeful. I didn’t know you could get specialist veterinary oncologists.

    Secondly, what a beautiful advent post, although I’m sorry of course about your migraine medication and its effects. I love the metaphor of sleep. It’s used in Enneagram teaching as well – we are asleep while unaware of our compulsive personalities and it is our life’s work to wake up to our true essence.