As we think about the coming year, I would like to put before us some familiar words from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden.
As Thoreau wrote about his morning routine at Walden Pond, this led him to some reflections on what it might mean to wake up:
“Morning is when I am awake and there is a dawn in me. Moral reform is the effort to throw off sleep…To be awake is to be alive. I have never yet met a man who was quite awake. How could I have looked him in the face…”
What does it mean to wake up? He’s talking about waking up on the inside, isn’t he? He’s talking about waking up our inner selves.
Before astronauts blast off into space they first go through an extensive pre-flight checklist to make sure every part of the space ship is “awake” and functioning and all systems are “go”.
Just imagine what it might be like to “wake up” all our human systems in the morning before we blast off into the day. It might go something like this:
Is my mind awake? Check. Is my heart awake? Check. Is my humanity awake? Check. Is my sense of joy and humor awake? Check. Is my compassion and kindness and forgiveness awake? Check. Is my sense of wonder and reverence awake? Check. Is my courage awake? Check. Is my love for life awake? Check. Is my love of wisdom awake? Check. (We could go on and on; you can make up your own check list.)
Why is it important to work at keeping ourselves awake? Thoreau says it’s because this helps us to “affect the quality of the day.”
“We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn…I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor. It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue…but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look…To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.”
To paraphrase: Every new morning calls us to wake up on the inside, to experience the dawn within. And the more awake we are, the more this enhances the way we experience the day, and the impact we have on the day.
Happy New Year to all, and best wishes for 365 new opportunities to wake up.