By Anita Rubin-Meiller
I am an early morning person, so it was not surprising that as I was wondering what to offer for this brief drash, I awoke with these words of the Sufi poet Rumi on my mind:
“The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you- Don’t go back to sleep”
Every year we gather together at Rosh Hashanah to hear the same message sounded through the shofar: wake up, wake up, keep returning to waking up. What is this awakening we are meant to be engaging with this day, the whole month of Elul that preceded it, and the 10 days of Teshuvah that will follow it until we gather again? In his seminal book for the High Holidays, “This is Real and you are Completely Unprepared”, Rabbi Alan Lew offers us many possible answers to that question. In a chapter entitled “the horn blew and I began to wake up” he writes: (this is a time)”to devote serious attention to bringing our lives into focus; to find out who we are and where we are going.” If I am like most human beings, than we all know that this is NOT an easy endeavor. It is a challenge to accurately and clearly assess ourselves, to be completely honest about all the dimensions of our aliveness – our physical, mental, spiritual, emotional and relational states.
I am an early morning person and it is easy for my heart to open to the secrets the breezes of the dawn might hold. It is easy for me to delight in the early morning quiet, in bird song and sunrise and to engage in meditative, contemplative, self-reflective practices at this time of day…feeling openhearted and close to God. But as the day progresses it is easy to be possessed by habitual mind states – expectations, planning, dissatisfactions, wants and to move through at least parts of my day on “automatic pilot”.
“Don’t go back to sleep” Rumi and the shofar shout at us; return again and again to awakening.
My daughter Melissa and I have had a very close and loving relationship with many shared joys and adventures and with plenty of challenges that we have both worked hard at resolving. Her visit home last December however was experienced by both of us as fairly disastrous. We each held the other to blame in numerous ways and after she left, I felt that I did not want to talk to her for a very long time. That feeling was an awakening, a call that I had better look within.
The second line of Rumi’s poem reads: “You must ask for what you really want. Don’t go back to sleep.”
What I really wanted then and now is for a loving, non-reactive, honest and understanding relationship with my daughter. I knew that that had to start with me and so I journaled a lot and went to see a therapist. In that way I came to see what stirred inside of me that contributed to our difficulties during that visit. I saw how guarded I needed to be growing up; how risky it was to be vulnerable or speak my truth. I saw how frequently I was judged and criticized and deemed “too sensitive”. I saw how I have continued to carry this protective impulse even in my most dear relationships where it is the least necessary. I saw how that interferes with honest communication, especially when I am feeling concerned, critical or hurt. I awoke to knowing more deeply that to have what I really want in all my relationships I need to bring awakened attention to hearing the messages of my mind and heart clearly and to discerning if something needs to be communicated even when it is uncomfortable, or if it is something I need to work on within myself.
I know that what I want to manifest in my life, what I am most called to live from are qualities of love, compassion, gratitude and joy. I know that the path to doing that includes actions of connection, deep listening, daily spiritual practices and faith. This does not mean I am capable of staying awake to making them manifest at all times. Sometimes I will lose my way. Sometimes the world, or the dynamics of a relationship will overwhelm.
Rumi concludes: “People are going back and forth across the doorsill where the two worlds touch. The door is round and open. Don’t go back to sleep.”
We go back and forth across the doorsill many, many times, with and without awareness, knowing and forgetting our intentions. We can only do our best to return again, to awaken to being genuinely who we are. Don’t go back to sleep.