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Wake Up Call

Article by Rose Mary Dougherty (April 2019 eNews)

Several weeks ago, I was staying in one of my favorite places—Bon Secours Spiritual Center. It had been a long day, and I was sleeping soundly. At 3:40 am, I awoke with a start to the sound of someone hammering at my door. I could hear a man’s voice, syllables indistinguishable. I threw on my robe and hurried down the corridor where I found the night guard standing by the front door.

“Do you want me,” I asked?

“Your wake up call,” he responded. “Don’t you want to wake up?”

“Yes, but not now,” I replied.

A startled look came over his face. He had misread the room number on the sheet that had been given him. He had called the wrong person.

That encounter with the night guard is a metaphor for my life. Do I want to wake up? Yes, but maybe not now, not in this way. I’d prefer to choose the times I’ll be awake and what my wake-up calls will be. But the poet Rumi reminds me, “The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you. Don’t go back to sleep.” And Jesus reminds me through his words to his disciples, “Now is the acceptable time”—not some “now’s” but every now.

How then be awake in this moment? In retrospect, I realize that in the times I have been fully awake, even briefly, I have let go of the last moment and have not been pre-occupied about the next moment. In those times I haven’t tried to push the past away or cover it over. I haven’t tried to alter the pain of the past or my concern for the future. I just am not bound by either. I can receive the present freshly. For that moment I am awake to what is, without agenda. It is difficult for me to be awake in the present moment when I am overly concerned about how/who I should be in that moment. There is an emptying that has to happen, the kind of emptying we read about of Jesus in the Scriptures: “Son though he was, he didn’t cling to being God.” Jesus, showing up in each moment, just as he was, responded in the moment with no pre-conceived notion of whom he should be, defying the expectations of others. Jesus also did not allow others to cling to what they thought he should be for them. To his disciples, he said, “I need to go from you so you will know the presence of the Spirit.” To his dear friend Mary he said, when he came to her after his death, “Don’t cling to me, Mary. Go share your experience with others.”

There’s not much I can do about the images of self or of others that I have accumulated over the years. They will continue to be there, rearing their heads from time to time. But I can begin to recognize them for what they are, just images and not reality. I can allow myself and others to be freshly who we are in each moment.

There aren’t too many times that I’ve been aware of being awake, but I do recall a recent time. Quite unexpectedly, I was into a very painful confrontation with someone I love dearly. It threw me. For a few moments, I was back into all the old baggage of the past, including the image of myself as the one who should be able to fix our pain. Then there was a moment of clarity, and I was free just to be present in the pain, letting it be what it was. There was a deep sense of trust in the process rather than in my doings in the process. I could let things be. The wake-up call came not so much in the confrontation itself but in the clarity around it. It seemed like the same old stuff, but I could be different in it.

In his poem, “The Guest House,” Rumi says,

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
… treat each quest honorably….

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond
.

We cannot often choose our wake-up calls. Often they appear in the unlikely guises of people we would rather not see or circumstances we would rather not face. But we can welcome these calls, and when we can say our “yes,” gradually life itself, moment by moment, issues its own call. Then there are no more sleeping times; we are always awake.

This article is taken from the Shalem News, Summer 2002.

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