Working out isn’t so hard once I get out of my own way. Last night I ramped up my new exercise commitment from lengthy daily or nightly walks to time spent in the gym. So far the results of my program are slow but definite: my scale is about 5 pounds less than when I set my weight-loss goals in mid-July.
I’m not measuring my success just in pounds lost. The biggest difference in my life from resolving to get back in shape has been in growing my self-trust. Much of my day-to-day life is free flowing, unstructured, and flexible. I like it that way. But when I make a promise to myself to do something, I lose that freedom. This sometimes sets off an inner struggle between warring factions in my psyche, but it doesn’t need to.
If I make promises in line with what my fullest and best self, then conflict need not arise. How can I tell if a promise is made with my fullest and best self? The surest way is to know after the fact. After I have completed a task and feel peaceful and proud, that’s the satisfaction of trusting that I am in right relationship to myself.
Escape from the dreamworld
I’ve also started doing something somewhat out of character, and not in a bad way. I’ve begun to celebrate “ordinary triumphs.” That’s what I am calling the small steps that happen constantly in my life when I become just a bit more fully who I am, more relaxed into a more expansive and loving person, simpler and more confident in the goodness of life.
Yesterday’s Ordinary Triumph was writing in my dream journal first thing in the morning despite a deep-seated desire to sleep. Keeping a netbook computer besides my bed is meant to encourage me to wake up and write down my dreams before they are forgotten. However, it takes discipline to overcome the pleasant sweetness of the dream world with writing so early in the morning. Some mornings the discipline comes easily, but at other times it’s incredibly hard. Yesterday it was extremely difficult, but I did it.
That’s the thing about an Ordinary Triumph: it’s not about the gross act, but about what I felt or knew about myself as a result of doing it. It doesn’t have to be something that will impress anyone other than myself. And unless I realize that it’s an Ordinary Triumph then it may not even impress me. By definition, an Ordinary Triumph feels out of character… but not wrong or bad.
I’ve overcome sleepiness many times before to write in my journal. Why should yesterday morning’s dream be any different, any more special? Who knows. Not “I,” not the self that wants to imagine that I am a machine that should operate in a consistent and predictable way.
Rise of a causal awareness
What matters, what makes the moment of waking up worthy of calling an “ordinary triumph” is that once I overcame the sleepiness I began to appreciate that this was a moment teetering at the edge of my development. I proved to myself that I was willing to experience loss of physical comfort, the loss of intoxicating slumber, the loss of magnificent dreams, and the loss of immersion in subtle experiences.
In the moments of awakening from the dream, I replaced these losses with gradual degrees of increasing clarity and more expansive witnessing of states of consciousness. That “I” that flees the dreamworld is the causal “I”: that generative power to choose between waking or dreaming or sleeping because its identity is not dependent on any of these states.
I’m not sure what Ordinary Triumph I’ll celebrate today, or how many. I don’t know that the scale will weigh. But I’ll know what to look for: Do I feel a little more distinct from the self that I thought that I knew and liked (or disliked)? Do I feel like God is acting through my limbs and voice and mind? Do I feel as if only I would go on experiencing this moment forever that I would be Enlightened (however I am imagining Enlightenment today)?
Awareness may be deepened for some by meditation, but meditation in a specific time set aside for that purpose is not my preferred form of practice. If I am on a retreat or visiting a meditative Buddhist sangha, I don’t mind. Then it becomes a matter of “When in Rome…” Instead, I practice (or fail to practice) mindfulness of all things in all dimensions at all times, transcending my individual body-mind and dropping (or rising) into boundless awareness.
That awareness feels like love to me, a wakefulness that is whole and without fear or judgment. Awareness includes rather than excludes and resists all attempts to extinguish. An ordinary moment becomes a triumph when the Self witnessing the moment becomes aware of an abiding peacefulness everpresent in our midst.