In modern Western culture everything teaches us to fulfill ourselves with some type of enjoyment in order to “be happy.” In fact, enjoyment is the primary collective cultural imperative. Psychologically, to enjoy oneself in our culture is much more common of an individual mental narrative than say, the social imperative to sacrifice for the whole (as one among many possible narratives). Nearly everything we can see outside the world of work, and many times within the work world, is an amusement of some kind. These amusements are ways of enjoying ourselves outside of work whether they are hobbies, entertainment, sports, arts, games, social pursuits and so on. The goal in our culture is to earn enough money in order to buy all the forms of entertainment one desires in the amusement park of our society. These forms of amusement serve to cloak the truth about our lives, the work we do, the direction of our society and the horrors that are currently underway throughout the world.
We live in a world that attempts to keep us in a daydream, not only through overtly escapist entertainment but through the pursuit of careers, sex, family life (as an ambition), ambitious goal setting, new electronics, shopping, fashion, watered down religion and of course drugs. This fixation on enjoyable pursuits focuses the mind upon the next thing, situation or goal that can maintain the dream of personal happiness. It is as if everyone in our society is collectively dreaming all the time. We are dreaming of where we would rather be when at work, or dreaming of the next entertainment even while still pursuing the current one.
If you are dreaming, you are asleep. Almost everything in our society attempts to keep you asleep. One might counter by saying, “well I enjoy my dream, what’s wrong with it?” Such a statement is similar to saying ignorance is bliss; usually it is blissful until something bites you in the rear end and you have to wake up. The question is how do we wake up?
If you are dreaming it’s usually because you are too tired to wake up. In order to wake up you have to generate enough energy, once you are energetic enough nothing will stop you from awakening. You can’t build enough energy to awaken if you drain all your energy on various amusements (our collective social goal). Career, relationships, sex, fitness, powerful emotions and so on, can steal your energy even to the point of harming your health (think fatigue, stress, rumination on negative thoughts and emotions etcetera).
We must leave the amusement park of emotions and awaken to reality – the reality as experienced within the body from moment-to-moment. In order to do so we must shift our consciousness away from daydreaming to reality as it is; usually this is painful for people in our society so they would rather keep on dreaming. If we can do this, we can wake up in dreams (lucid dreaming) and daydreams which keep us from seeing reality clearly.
Why awaken? Certainly many of the world’s wisdom traditions speak of the awareness of higher realms of consciousness that are only obtainable when one has done the work of building enough internal energy to awaken. Yet, even in our daily life waking up means being mindful; mindful of the state of affairs we are in. If we aren’t mindful it is very difficult to have a true mission in life. A mission gives life a deeper meaning than just a way to fulfill one’s hedonistic desires.
How do we save the energy that we already have in order to stop wasting it on dreaming and learn to wake up? We focus on activities that balance emotions that have gotten out of control in our amusement park world. Emotions like fear, anger, excitement, worry and sadness. Each of these emotions and others consume huge amounts of energy that can be used to awaken. Many times these emotions arise when the daydream of our amusements are thwarted.
Baring the awakening to higher realms of consciousness, awakening is for the change and improvement of our world in the here and now. Simply by being fully present in any given moment you harness energy wasted on frivolous amusements and bring it to serve the needs of reality rather than daydreams. Dreaming is for those who are asleep, experiencing reality is for those who are awake.
Dan Martin has a masters degree in psychology and runs Afloat floatation therapy in Bellingham WA: www.afloattherapy.com He also writes about consciousness, spirituality and society at: transitionofheart.wordpress.com