I have been reading Colin Wilson: The Outsider.
Colin Wilson is one of my favorite writers. I started my course of study with him with The Mind Parasites, a science fiction novel, back in 1987.
In the books I have read, Colin Wilson is only interested (really) in a few questions: What does it mean to be a Human Being, and how to accomplish that? What is the purpose of life, and how to fulfill on that purpose?
If we consider the question a jigsaw puzzle, he provides the final picture, and some methodology, I provide mostly methodology.
I need Colin Wilson. My faculties to think “What is the purpose of life” are somewhat impaired. It is not my strength. My strength is to provide Kaizen type (transformative) exercises to
- prepare yourself
- accomplish the task.
Like any worthy goal, the preparation, the becoming the kind of person who can reach the goal, is 99% of the job. 1% is crossing the finish line.
One of the major hurdles along the way is staying awake, or for most of us, waking ourselves up.
We are sleepwalking. We look alive, we look awake, but we are not. We are swept away by “life,” by outside stimuli, societal, or personal, and we are rushing through life without living it fully. Colin Wilson says:
the purpose of life is to live abundantly
But you can’t live abundantly if you are not present to life, moment by moment. If you are speeding towards some destination, totally unaware and uninterested in the journey, you are not living abundantly.
But isn’t this how we live? Completely missing the journey, completely missing life? As if we were asleep on an airplane till we arrive?
One way you have experienced this probably, when you are heading home, and between entering your car, and parking in front of your home, somehow you have no recollection of driving.
Another example: you are making a u-turn on a busy divided road, failing to look at signs… not even considering that the world may have changed since you last did this same u-turn… and you wreck your car and yourself… or almost… just ask Diana or Alex.
One of the exercises Gurjieff invented to keep yourself awake is called
It goes like that: you go through your regular day. So far so good, right? Added difficulty: while you are interacting with the world, include yourself in your cone of vision, while you are observing yourself and what you are interacting with.
One way I used to train this principle (before I even heard about Gurjieff) is, I would ask the trainee to include his/her arm in his field of vision while talking to someone, so they can remember themselves as distinct from who they are talking to.
Never succeeded, I must admit. It must be hard. According to some figures, only one in a thousand is awake at least some of the time.
The other day, while I was driving to my mail box, a 4-mile drive that I do 2-3 times a week, I noticed a blue house on a hillside, a very strong blue, I might add.
I had never seen it, and doubted that there are more than two blue houses in Syracuse… I know where “the other” house is. I really like both. Blue stands out in the lush green… I don’t know. I just like them.
Anyway, that unusual house color gave me an idea: to notice everything that is blue, within my cone of vision, on my total 8 mile drive. So I proceeded to just that.
And something unusual happened.
Everything that was blue was calling to me, everything that had a hint of blue, showed up as blue. Even green was a shade of blue. Cars almost covered by a tarp, bus stop signs, a faded blue house, a bluish jacket on a bicycle rider.
It was sheer delight. I rejoiced over every discovery like a child. I loved every shade of blue.
OK, but why am I sharing this in this article? Because it is possible to remember yourself, i.e. consciously be present to you seeing, to you enjoying, to you being there… as a major spiritual exercise.
It won’t work after a while… it will become routine. But the first few times it will be a blast, and your experience is going to be one of aliveness and joy. That is way being awake feels.