The Sleep-walking Poet

The following essay is from my forthcoming book, Awesome Your Life: A Journey to Ecstatic Joy through Soul-making

After a human being has glimpsed the outer orbits of heavenly possibility through any means- whether through falling in love, taking an entheogenic drug, dreaming an astounding dream, or being illuminated in a moment during meditation – that person can no longer peacefully snooze through life. If you’re reading this book, I know you’ve had such a glimpse and that you’ve been moved to restlessness.  You may have buried or repressed your season of insight, but it happened, and now you are irrevocably changed.  The period of fleeting transcendence that we’ve Experimented is a wake-up alarm, a call to adventure.  The tremendous beauty of the call is usually followed by a viciously challenging low— the break up of a romance, the come down off the drug, the having to get up and go to work after the gorgeous dream, the doldrums of ordinary existence after a flash or stretch of huge realization.

 

tictac Creative Commons License photo credit: pj_vanf

 

This low and the hopelessness that can come with it can destroy a poet and keep her stuck in an unpleasant state between being fully asleep and fully awake.  Following the awakening, it’s therefore imperative that the poet find a means of integrating the heaven she’s glimpsed with the warp and weft of daily life.  In other words, it’s imperative that she make her soul.

 

There are many forces that conspire against the successful completion of this integration, this making.  Poets are often told that it flat-out isn’t possible to bring heaven to earth.  After a poet talks to therapists and teachers, parents and even friends about his brushes with the infinite and his desire to enter into a lasting and grounded experience of that bliss he will likely be told that what he’s asking for is far too grand.  “No one lives in ecstasy,” a friend once told me. “Your problem is that you want to.” On the contrary, I would say that my problem was at the time, I didn’t know how to. My friend was making the strange and unfounded assumption that I was a being incapable of transcendence and magical transformation.  She likely made the same sad and unjustified assumption about herself.

 

The role of the poet is to essentially heal, transform, and evolve consciousness.  At this fraught time in our planet’s history this role is all the more necessary—consciousness must evolve so that from it we can create what the cultural philosopher Charles Eisenstein has accurately and romantically called “the more beautiful world our hearts tell us is possible.” Too often, however, poets are encouraged to use their abilities to fulfill pre-defined roles in existing institutions: artist, teacher, minister, professor.  These functions serve the maintenance of the existing society, the existing order of things.  Yet the existing order of things is itself greatly disturbed and out of harmony, the product of a level of consciousness that needs raising and healing.  So the poet who works to maintain the present order and to succeed within it becomes out of harmony with herself.  In this condition, she’s a sleepwalker.

 

A sleepwalker is not quite awake and neither is she asleep in her bed. She’s a being maneuvering simultaneously in dreams and in actuality, in danger of destroying herself and those that surround her as she moves here and there without conscious volition or awareness. This is the pain of knowing that there’s a more gorgeous world and yet believing that its manifestation is impossible.  This pain causes a restlessness which is sufficient to make its sufferer stir and wander but not great enough to entirely wake her.

 

To wakeup, the sleepwalker first needs to honestly admit that she’s still asleep—sleeping is all she knows—and a part of her doubts that anything else lies beyond.

 

If you feel trapped or limited in life, admit it.  Admit that the present way of things does not correspond to the deeper truth present within you.  Admit what sleepwalking feels like, the dull pain of it.

 

The burden of a poet is to make consistently manifest for herself and for others the profound love and beauty she’s Experimented.  As long as she denies her duty and her ability to bring forth this manifestation, she stays asleep in denial.

 

Denial of our extraordinary potential as healers and agents of deep change is a huge and pervasive danger to our souls.  It causes us to do taxing and destructive things in order to stay asleep.  In many cases, poets maintain their sleepwalking through acute addictions to drugs, sex, and food.  These addictions are so engrossing and seductive that they consume the spiritual energy the poet could otherwise use to awaken.  In addiction, we become unendingly thirsty for things that are material substitutes for immaterial power.  We try to fill a spiritual hunger with material substances and we end up more thirsty and sick than ever—like drinking seawater and dying of thirst.

 

Less acutely, but ultimately no less destructively, a sleepwalking poet may numb herself with intellectual rationalizations, doubts, and self-criticisms.  She convinces herself that the sleeping world is the only real one and insulates herself from full waking by concentrating intently on the practical details of achieving success and recognition in the sleeping world.  She still participates in an addiction, but on a more general scale—she’s an addict in the societal sphere, through consumption.

 

The frustrations of sleepwalking are so great that the poet may wish for ignorance—to be able to play the game of ordinary life without any suspicion of something more.  But this is impossible. The call has happened.  The restlessness has set in and must be fully dealt with.

 

Posted on August 1, 2011 and filed under Life Adventure.