Waking—Dance Master of Light

Wakefulness raises our being to uprightness like a small flame that ignites. It lives wrapped in the layers that unfold from the changing degrees of our wakefulness.

I woke up this morning. Like every day of my life. Even if it wasn’t exactly in the morning, I woke up at some point. How do I know that I woke up this morning? What does “waking up” mean? Am I actually awake? Waking up and being awake reveal different dimensions of our human existence. There is waking up [Aufwachen] but also awakening [Erwachen] and simply vigilance [Wachen].

The world, as it approaches me as perceptual content, calls me to “wakefulness” every morning. It awakens the light of consciousness in me. It greets me into wakefulness. Or kisses me awake, as it says in fairy tales. I wake up. But there is also an “awakening”, an event in which I wake up further from this wakefulness. The small, fragile flame of the light of my being is ignited—out of me, out of my activity. Only now do I realise what it means to be awake and that it doesn’t stop there. There is also a “vigilance”, where I am called to stay awake from both waking and awakening.

Waking Up or Awakening

Newborns and very small children wake up several times a day. If we observe this, we see a slowly unfolding process leading to the tentative, cautious realisation that “something is coming towards me.” This sensation is the primal event of feeling our way towards something, the actual moment of waking up. The child rests completely in this deep, sustaining “there is something,” something that only later finds its many names or, ultimately, the one, all-encompassing name: “world”. As children, however, we are still immersed in the unmistakable splendour of “there is something that is.”

It is precisely what comes towards me, what carries me through the day, that I have to let go of to fall asleep. Then, in the morning, I can rediscover the original experience of the palpable certainty: “The world is here. I am here.” Rare are the moments when I can stop and slow down the process in such a way that something of this archetypal certainty still shines through, like the gold of the morning hour before the day dawns. When I wake up, inner clarity and daytime consciousness arise at the same time. The world calls me to wake up! Not the still pure, introspective world of the not-yet-determined, but the world in its many varieties of the already-determined. As I wake up, almost simultaneously, the world appears to me. It becomes visible.

Time and again, as I drove through the vast salt deserts in central Iran and along the old Silk Roads, I was fascinated by the way the light called the rows of still-sleeping mountain peaks to wake up and, like a dance master, caused them to appear in delicate, moving colours. Each time, a landscape was invited to wake up by the light and slowly found its context again. I am all too familiar with the similarity to the waxing and waning movements of my flooding, alert attention during the day. Surely there can be little doubt about this being awake? Waking up and knowing that you are waking up, isn’t that one and the same thing?

The question arises in a different way when, in the middle of being awake, I experience a completely new kind of becoming awake. In contrast to other forms of wakefulness, I call it an “awakening”. This is not the same as the familiar wakefulness that I owe to waking up in the morning in dialogue with the world. Waking up has its rhythm, its curve, its shape in time. And its limits. Different ones each day. Each day, I learn how to respond to this.

Awakening is an event that, like every event, is unique. An awakeness that happens, regardless of the circumstances. Awakening is akin to an epiphany. The event takes place within me, not in interplay with the world. What it can initiate is very different. Very often, it is preceded by something unexpected, even shocking. The only important thing is that the accompanying circumstances do not cause this awakening but only enable it.

One thing becomes crystal clear to me when I awaken: before, in the wakefulness of everyday life, I was not awake. It is only now that I am! The question of how I could know if I had woken up can only be asked now. Question and answer are intertwined. This is how I recognise that it is an awakening, not a waking up. I discover what it means to be awake. I can become awake out of myself, in the place where I had already woken up through contact with the world.

Remaining Awake

Even in the first steps towards meditation, when I “gather” myself within myself, a quiet, delicate beginning of this awakening may herald itself. The danger of settling for this and hastily returning to everyday life, where so much is waiting and pressing, is real. If I do this, I did no more than dip my toe in. Because what announces itself has the potential to condense, to become substantial. Unlike when I am awake, nothing comes towards me here unless I produce it myself. This is about the essence in me, about the light of being in every person. I awaken out of this light of being, in the middle of being awake.

From this potency, I can even testify to being awake every day—the place where I gather myself, however briefly, for a moment so that I can listen in to a situation. I do not illuminate the situation. It shines towards me from within. I remain wakeful as it happens. Staying awake after being called awake. Time and again, I reach the limits of my capacity.

When I wake up, I am supported by all that is present in order to stay awake in the light of consciousness of the day-to-day. In the event of awakening, the uniqueness is already given by the fact that it must be limited in time. It remains a fragment, but in the constant standing at the beginning again, it condenses and forms ability.

Waking up and awakening, light of consciousness and light of being intersect in vigilance. I should carry the light of my being into my daily being awake in such a way that it makes itself of service to everyday life without denying itself. By staying. By staying awake.

Translation Christian von Arnim
Image Miriam Wahl, untitled. From: Studien über das Wachen im Träumen [Studies on waking in dreams], watercolour on paper, 32 × 24 cm, 2020

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Letzte Kommentare