Everything in our lives
can wake ups up or
put us to sleep,
and basically it's up to us
to let it wake us up.
Every day, in each and every moment, we can choose to be aware and awake. Yet many people often go through each day and consequently through life, on auto-pilot, distracting themselves or living in their heads, not really noticing their surroundings, their feelings or other people.
Life's challenges and uncertainties often cause people to figuratively go to sleep- fear or anxiety can cause dissociation, a splitting off or distraction from whatever may be troubling. This going to sleep can become habitual; you may not even notice that you have gone off into fantasy or are ruminating obsessively.
Or you may go on a hike alone or with others, get a massage, work out at the gym, or drive and be lost in thought or conversation. Can you feel the massage or is the conversation ( with the massage therapist or within your own head) taking you away from the experience? As you think or talk while hiking, are you aware of your surroundings? As you drive are you lost in thought and suddenly find yourself at your destination without much memory of the drive? Can you feel your body, your muscles working at the gym or are you distracted by thoughts, reading or music? Are you awake or asleep to the moment?
And there are the addictive ways of staying asleep for long periods of time: alcohol or drugs, work. sex or porn, TV, sleep, food- the list is endless. Almost anything can be used to put you into a trance-like sleep to not experience whatever is going on, inside you or in your surroundings.
Sleepwalking through life has become rampant in our culture and I believe that the popularity of mindfulness at this time is a direct response to this phenomenon. Mindfulness and meditation are useful tools in waking up and learning to live in the moment whether it is joyful and happy or painful and sad. Staying awake is a choice that needs to be made again and again, moment after moment. The benefits however, are enormous- you will inhabit and live your life more fully!
The true art form is
being a human being.
I am frequently awed by the way in which each person I encounter is a unique expression of being human, as unique as their fingerprints are. Even identical twins are never completely the same. Everyone shares the human condition and yet expresses it in a completely new and unrepeatable way.
I reflect on this often in my psychotherapy practice. All people share a basic human experience and yet each has a completely creative way of consciously and unconsciously adapting, surviving, thriving, developing, responding and reacting to their life circumstances. The combination of nature and nurture is powerful and sculpts the artistic creation that is each life.
In therapy (as in life), each person has a completely unique way of facing, overcoming and healing from wounds and trauma or simply the general vicissitudes of life. Depression, anxiety, fear, sadness, loss are faced and confronted in a way that is unique to each individual, finding within themselves different symbols or metaphors that assist in that process. Some people are more resilient than others, some find the courage and strength to change and some do not.
Works of art are not always what we might consider aesthetically beautiful- in fact some of the most powerful music is atonal, some of the most moving art is dark or stormy, some of the most evocative dance is wild and fierce. These are apt metaphors for the mysterious and numinous creativity that is each human life.
Peggy Handler, MFT, is a psychotherapist in San Francisco's Noe Valley