It happens to me all the time: I get hyper-focused on some problem in my life—it might be money, or something that’s up with one of my kids, or I made a mistake at work that sucks me into a self-worth shame spiral—and I lose all perspective.
Life can feel so complicated, so distracting, so busy. Every day, at some point, if not many points, I forget what is essential: that being alive is about more than just solving problems and checking items off my to-do list, that life won’t just go on and on forever, that very little in life is as important as love.
Meditation guru Tara Brach calls this type of falling asleep “the trance.” We get so locked into some small aspect of our being, that we forget what’s truly important. We forget to zoom out and look at whatever situations we’re dealing with in our lives with a larger perspective. We get stuck in the weed of fear, or overwhelm, or we grasp for distractions or addictions. We soak in the false stories we tell ourselves.
I used to think that waking up from this trance was an event. For instance, my first big wake-up call was my brother’s death. The shock and ache I felt after he died was so strong, so overwhelming, so all-encompassing, that my regular coping mechanisms fell away. There was no eating or dieting my way out of my grief, no covering it up with TV or dating or fantasizing. None of my distractions could hold up against the enormity of my loss. Over time, in the absence of these trances, my life got more essential. I honed in on what was really important to me. On who I wanted to be, and how I wanted to spend my limited time on Earth.
That was my biggest awakening, the singular event that shaped my life the most.
But I’m human, and I still forget.
These major wake-up calls we have—when we get sick or an accident shatters life as we know it, or a job or a marriage or our mental health falls apart—are only part of the picture. The intensity of these events can snap us out of the trance, can remake us in hard and beautiful ways. But when life evens out again, it’s easy to fall right back to sleep.
Over and over again, we can wake up.
We can come to. We can get clear and essential.
We can get present.
We can do this every week, every morning, or every hour.
We can get still enough to hear the steady gallop of our own heartbeats, the sweet swoosh of our breath.
We can remember, over and over and over again, that every moment is a chance to shift our perspective, to zoom out or in, to shake ourselves out of the trance and be, just for this moment, awake.
Author: Lynn Shattuck
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy Editor: Travis May
Social Editor: Travis May