Living Awake

Living Awake


I sense that our humanness is not an impediment to waking up, but rather something to wake down into.”

From an early age I wanted to be a “spiritual warrior”—strong, clear, fair and peaceful, living a life aligned with a divine purpose. I might have said, “I want to live awake,” without any idea of what that truly meant. I thought that state of being was reserved for avatars and extraordinarily skilled masters, meditating in contemplative monasteries.

There is nothing extraordinary about me. I wasn’t dealt the “monastery card” in the hand of life. And I’m certainly not an avatar. I’ve lived quite ordinary, with the benefits of education, a sustaining vocation, and raising children. I’ve experienced sexual violence, divorce, and the struggle of addiction followed by a life of recovery. I was never able to leave my life for lengthy contemplative retreats, and certainly not for extended periods of transcendent bliss.

Although a mystic at heart, I was unaware of how many obstacles existed between me and the Source of all life. Like many, my debilitating birth defect was unworthiness—insecure, never feeling “enough.” So, I became a “human doing” rather than a human being; never fully present; always calculating the next thing I needed to do to be valued, to be good enough ... to be safe.

With the arrival of my fiftieth birthday, doors started closing. My health was in crisis. What I thought I was supposed to do with my life was thwarted at nearly every turn. I longed for a training that would help me transcend my human existence ... which is what I thought “waking up” was all about. And then I found the Nine Gates Mystery School. It wasn’t a training for transcendence, but rather an experiential calling back into my body, with tools that would enable me to use life as the profound spiritual awakening it was always meant to be.

Over a decade later, I find the Mystery School teachings alive inside me as an ever-deepening, unimaginable truth. I realize that far from being something we need to transcend, our human form has deep purpose. All our senses—our capacity to feel and move and express and create—make us integral partners in the unfolding of conscious awareness. We do not simply live on this Earth, but we each have an essential role in birthing the new.

The real voyage of discovery consists,
not in seeking new landscapes,
but in having new eyes.
--Marcel Proust

Rather than transcending this earthly experience, living awake calls me to transform my relationship to it—to transform my perspective, habits, reactivity, and embodied vibrational capacity. I sense that our humanness is not an impediment to waking up, but rather something to wake down into, so that whatever gifts we may have to offer can be brought to service in the most useful way. As one of my Buddhist teachers puts it, “There is no way out. The magic is to discover that there is a way in!”

In my awakening, I have tripped and floated, soared and felt like I was drowning. It’s felt like my skin has been peeled off so I could become that sensitive, that sensate. There have been moments of breathtaking, heartbreaking tenderness and impossible beauty. And there are times when I find myself right at the center of all existence; in the stillness that precedes form. But most of the time, living awake simply means saying “yes” to the world in which I live. Choosing to serve with a compassionate, non-reactionary view, wherever I find myself.

Engaging deeply in spiritual practice is my foundation for stabilizing wakefulness. I have gathered practices and tools over this lifetime—tools making it possible to ground, to stand still embodied, sensing the coherence behind chaos. There are tools, like my own breath, that bring me back to presence, focusing my complete awareness … just right here!

One Breath Meditation
(recorded by Deborah Jones, Spiritual Leader for Nine Gates Programs)

The most important skill I have learned is to return to my practices when I get off track. I can easily delude myself that I don’t have time for transformational, spiritual practices. Easy to habitually lean into what I am facing and shoulder the burden with my old habits and my thinking mind. Spiritual practices, however, have become my harbor in any storm, my friend … my homecoming. And I’ve learned that when life pulls me into worry and distraction, self-criticism never serves. Instead, I simply, return, return, return; recognizing that each time I am hijacked by reactivity, or distraction, or dullness, a great teacher has arrived. I simply wake up!

I wouldn’t trade my commitment to “live awake” for anything. I know that the quality of my consciousness adds to the pool of conscious awareness anchoring in new insight, wisdom and peace on our Earth. We all have our place. No one is too small, too unworthy, or too ordinary. The ultimate realization for me is that living awake is a decision in this moment ... not a destination to ultimately arrive at.

There’s no other way to be.
No other place to be.
We are all needed.
What view will we choose?

Guest author Susanne Olin is a graduate of both the Nine Gates Mystery School and the Esoteric School. She is devoted to the spiritual path of Wisdom and a life’s work of bridging the divide between religions, cultures, races, and ideologies. Susanne is an interfaith minister, spiritual counselor, and coherence facilitator for individuals and organizations recognizing that the divisive nature of rigid beliefs and ideas hinder a greater awareness. Understanding that our humanness is not an impediment to waking up, but rather something to wake down into Susanne works with Nine Gates Programs as a senior staff member, helping all beings develop the skills and embodied vibrational capacity to “live awake.”

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