A Lifestyle for Awakening
The lifestyle of most Americans isn't conducive to awakening, either to becoming awake or staying awake. It's designed to attain the ego's goals: money, power, status, comfort, pleasure, beauty, possessions, and security. Our American culture gives lip service to other values, such as love, kindness, and togetherness, but the ego's values come first.
In our culture, we see what the ego wants as necessary. We don't think we will survive or be happy unless we achieve a certain level of power, comfort, security, and material wellbeing. The sense of needing such things is very deeply ingrained, so much so that we often don't question our devotion to these goals. If we do question these values, we run into opposition and fears from others, who sincerely believe we won't be happy or survive without putting the ego's values first.
Because our culture is so focused on having fun and acquiring things, people are very busy working, playing sports, going places, and shopping. Their lives are a whirlwind of activity, with hardly a moment to just stop and see what's going on, on deeper levels, or just experience the fullness of the Now. People take much pride in how hard they work, how busy they are, and how little they rest. In a culture driven by the ego, there's little time for contemplation, meditation, walks in the woods (what woods?), creating, gazing at the sky, playing with children, or just being.
The spare time people do have is often spent in front of the television, watching other people's harried and problem-driven lives. Advertising and most television programs reinforce the ego's values. Watching television makes us want to be richer, more beautiful, more powerful, and more successful than we already are, and it makes us dissatisfied with our lives. Television convinces us that happiness lies in the ego's superficial values.
Everywhere we turn, we are confronted with the ego's values and with people struggling and striving to look better, be better, and get more and better things. To awaken from the egoic nightmare, we first have to see that the world the ego creates is a nightmare. Then we have to be willing to make other choices, to structure our lives in a way that puts what matters most to us first.
What does matter most to you? What do you really want? This is a very important question. It's fine if what matters to you is getting what the ego wants. Sometime, in this lifetime or in another, that will change. Just be clear that awakening isn't a way—a more spiritual way—of getting what the ego wants. Awakening is the realization that what the ego wants is irrelevant to life and to our happiness. What does Essence want? That is the question. What is the deepest desire of your soul for this lifetime and for this moment? If your deepest desire is to awaken, you will feel that, and you will be drawn to work, activities, people, and a lifestyle that will support that.
Being involved with work, activities, and acquaintances that aren't aligned with Essence's intentions and don't support awakeness makes awakening more difficult. This may seem obvious. However, people often want to awaken because they feel stuck and unhappy in the life they have created, and they assume awakening will make it possible for them to be happy in those circumstances without having to change anything. But awakening is more likely to move us out of unsuitable circumstances than allow us to remain in them.
If your life is already aligned with Essence's intentions, it will be infinitely easier to awaken, especially if you make time to meditate, rest, and just be. Meditation, resting, and just being are important before and after awakening because these activities help us align and stay aligned with Essence. To discover what Essence intends, we have to be in the Now. A life full of stress and involvement with the egoic mind takes us out of the Now and out of touch with Essence. Essence can still reach you, but if you are dedicated to the ego's world, will you listen?
Essence requires some stillness daily and a willingness to listen and be guided by Essence instead of the ego. The ego will try to keep us tied to it with fears—of not being rich or beautiful or powerful enough, of not having enough, of not being loved, and so on. The egoic mind will tell us that following our Heart is dangerous and that we won't survive or be happy if we don't listen to the mind. Disregarding such fears takes courage and trust. So what will you trust—the ego or Essence? Which is more trustworthy? What are you trusting now, if not Essence?