The Use of Shocks in Awakening
The alarm clock rings and we are shocked out of sleep; we rise and begin the day from its ring.
What is the nature of the shocks we need to awaken? For our sleep is often deep. Quite small shocks can call us to awaken: the sudden call of a bird, a friend catching our eye, a billboard with our name on it, a harsh word spoken in anger, the remembrance of the aim to be present when passing through a doorway. Shocks can mirror—and, for a moment, arrest—our inner dream world.
If our aim is to awaken, to live in a higher state of consciousness, shocks are to be welcomed as alarm clocks that disturb our waking sleep, that sleep which even in daytime allows us to dream of our favorite subjects of imagination. Shocks make us more sensitive to the moment we are actually in.
Still, shocks which upset the normal patterns of our life tend to be instinctively disliked. It is easy to grow comfortable with the ways we have found to adjust to the world. Part of us fears change and experiences shocks as friction. Thus long-held habits—both inner and outer in form—render us fairly impermeable to shocks. We simply may not be awake enough to allow a shock to penetrate.
Shocks given by a conscious teacher can disrupt long patterns of sleep, the mechanical habits and features which govern much of our being. Such shocks upset our complacency, but galvanize the part that can awaken. Shocks give a taste of what it is to be awake, separating the dreamer from the dream.
– P. D. Ouspensky
How do we crack the seed of what we are to become what we may be? The ancient Mysteries of Eleusis and similar esoteric initiations played a role in cracking the hardened shell of a man’s being, through administering shocks to his concept of himself, and showing him a new self capable of greater awareness. This new self can slowly rise to become sensitive to the shocks that are all around us, at every moment. Major shocks penetrate us even more deeply. The death of a loved one is one of the greatest shocks we may sustain. Such shocks pierce the veil of our imaginary world while we live. What then of our death, a shock sure to come? To create and hold a state capable of passing through death, we will need a level of attention capable of withstanding a shock so major. For now, what shocks must we practice with, in order to be ready?
- Leonardo Da Vinci
When we are capable of sustaining a longer thread of attention, remaining awake for more than a few seconds at a time, the shocks that appear every few moments serve less to distract us than to remind us to stay awake. The force of opposition to our aim to be present has become a reminding factor, aiding the state that is awake. Our concern with the self-winding of alarm clocks or other techniques to remain present can fall away. Here, we use the shock of the moment to be and to remain right where we are.