Beyond living and dreaming
there is something more important:
And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.
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. **