Presented by Rich Hayes
at The Unitarian Universalist Gathering Housatonic, MA July 21, 2019
In his book, “Awareness: The Perils and Opportunities of Reality”, Jesuit Priest Anthony de Mello says we are asleep. He’s unequivocal about it. He says that we may believe that we wake up every morning and go about our lives wide awake, but in fact we are mostly sleep walking through much of our day, and most of our lives.
He says we’re a little more awake every now and then, but mostly we’re just caught up in opinions and beliefs, and ideas, and roles that we are invested in. As he puts it: We are trapped in a story that has been taught to us through “Conditioning” that begins at the earliest of ages, and it is through this conditioning that we view the world and life.
We see the world NOT as it IS, but as WE ARE. Or more correctly, as we believe we are.
BUT WHO ARE WE REALLY???
A few years ago I had a dream that was quite remarkable. I woke up in this dream. When I say, "woke up", I am referring to the same waking consciousness I am using right now as I speak to you all. I will not go into all the details of the dream but I will tell you that in this dream I found myself in an old Victorian style house and realizing I was awake I went over to examine the mantle over the fireplace. I touched it and felt the wood under my hand, I saw the texture and grain of the wood. I looked around the room and everything was sharp and clear and I thought to myself, "My mind is creating all of this". After waking from this experience I never looked at this world in quite the same way again.
Am I the dream or the dreamer?
This book found me! It found me thanks to a recommendation by the wife of a patient I was visiting - I had never heard of this man before! I say I was ready because I had been asking this question. It’s amazing what the Universe can do when you start to ask it for help.
De Mello’s book was written over 30 years ago - it is a bit jarring and at times confrontational. He repeatedly asks the reader: “Who are you?” He’s not asking your name or what you do for a living, not your nationality or ethnicity, not your education or title or social standing or bank balance! He says: these will ONLY lead you away from it –not closer to it!!!
Closer to “what” you might ask? Well, I can’t tell you that. It’s not for me to say. It is for you to discover.
I’ll invoke Rumi, here: "You run from room to room searching frantically for the necklace that is already around your neck."
OK, so maybe I’ve annoyed you or confused you this morning. Maybe this all just sounds way too “abstract”. That’s OK - as a matter of fact, that's good. Maybe you think I’ve finally gone off the deep end. Maybe I have.
After all, I sometimes do ask myself if I’m dreaming or awake. I sometimes question what I see! I often question what I hear. I sometimes ask if reality is real or just my opinion of things. Maybe it's a combination of both?
This all sounds a bit disconcerting, doesn’t it?To paraphrase an old Neil Sedaka song, “Waking up is hard to do…” And it is. In my experience and judging by many accounts, it seems that this usually happens due to some crisis or painful situation-maybe a major life change or tragedy. Something shakes us and gets our attention.
Well, looking at the current situation this may be one of those times on a collective level. Maybe this is our time?
The one who was said to have awakened, the Buddha, exclaimed that if we saw reality as it truly is we would throw our heads back and laugh at the sky.
What? Does he mean things aren’t as grim as they seem? Is he trying to tell us that we’re caught in the play, thinking it’s real and don’t see the curtain ready to come down at the end of the performance?
What if it IS like that? What if we get to the end of this life and we don’t die, but we wake up? What THEN? What if we are so much MORE than we’ve believed we are? What if…? What if we realize we are the dreamer? What then? Perhaps we can change the dream. What then?
You might say that this isn’t practical-It’s not rational. Well, think of all the music and symphonies, the literature and inventions and innovations that never would have happened if someone had decided to be “practical” or rational!
We are all called to wake up.
I’ll end with some more from Rumi: 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. Perhaps we can change the dream. What then?