on sleeping and waking…

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep.

You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.

People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.

The door is round and open.
Don’t go back to sleep.

From Essential Rumi
translated by Coleman Barks

A friend who was getting off an antidepressant after many years told me not long ago that he felt as though he was finally “waking up.” He had not realized how asleep he’d been all those years. He was sleepwalking, he was numbed to the world, to his wife, to himself. This was protective at first, it saved his life perhaps. The struggle now though was to walk through life finally awake, feeling the pain and the hurt and not dying in the process.

The reminder to me when I read this poem and when I think of my friend’s experience is that dulling the pain has its moments but those moments have to be temporary.  It cannot be the full story of me. As much as I joke to my husband and my friends that I’d rather medicate my pain- order another margarita, sneak another piece of candy, sit in my car outside the gathering of people I’m avoiding, watch reality TV- I know it only prolongs the pressure. It doesn’t dissipate anything, it just pushes it down the road. I have to want to stay awake and in the absence of that, sometimes I have to do it anyway.

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2 thoughts on “on sleeping and waking…

  1. “It may surprise you,” he said, “if I say the chief feature of a modern man’s being which explains everything else that is lacking in him is sleep. A modern man lives in sleep, in sleep he is born, and in sleep he dies.” quoted in Ouspensky: In Search of the Miraculous.

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