Why is knowing your Calling so important? There's an ancient scripture that says, "Where there is no vision, the people perish."
Sleepwalking Did you see this Coca Cola commercial that aired during the 2010 Super Bowl? It's titled "Sleepwalking."
Have you ever sleepwalked? Maybe not literally—but perhaps you weren’t fully present in a situation or time of your life?
I remember years ago when my kids were very young visiting San Francisco and staying one night in a motel right down town. We were awakened in the middle of the night by the sound of the door being opened. I looked up to see my daughter trying to pull the door open but the chain was keeping it from opening all the way. I called to her but she didn't respond. I got up and pulled her from the door--still no response. She was sleepwalking. And I my heart started pounding with fear at the thought of what could have happened had she been able to open the door and sleepwalk outside!
There are two sides of the same coin of sleepwalking: the potential of danger (the guy in the commercial walked through all kinds of situations with dangerous animals and didn’t even know it) and missing out on life (he was missing the beauty of the African Savannah). Both sides of the coin are sad and unnecessary.
Sleepwalking is a metaphor that mirrors so much of what happens in our culture. We are constantly being bombarded by ideas and concepts that burrow themselves into our brains and result in thought patterns, narratives, and stories we end up telling ourselves and then subconsciously acting upon. Right? Those paradigms and stories end up becoming second nature with us to the point of not even evaluating them anymore. We simply drift through life without thought. Analyze our culture’s evangelism: wear this, look like this, drive this, act like this, own this, be like this … and if you do, you’ll be happy or powerful or popular or fulfilled or successful. And the messages are endless of what is being promised to us to make us who we or "they" want us to be.
Ultimately we should be evaluating these messages: Are they true? Is this real? Am I what I wear or possess or accomplish, or is there something more fundamental and foundational and true about who I am? Or are they illusions, just dreams that I fantasize are true? Am I asleep or am I awake in this reality?
In fact, the concept of dreaming and waking have been used in spiritual traditions for thousands of years as a metaphor for spiritual consciousness and enlightenment. For example, the name “Buddha” translates as “the awakened one." And what was Buddha awakened to? He began to see with clarity what the causes of human suffering were. His awareness led him to develop a path of enlightenment--the way to waking up--to being present in the world in such a way that one sees the truth about self, about others, about life and what it is that brings contentment and happiness.
In the Gnostic “Hymn of the Pearl” from the Acts of Thomas, the son of a King is sent on a mission to retrieve a treasure, but falls asleep and forgets who he is. His father sends a letter to remind him:
“Awake and arise from your sleep,
and hear the words of our letter.
Remember that you are a son of kings,
consider the slavery you are serving.”
The spiritual process of waking up is remembering who you are--being clear about your true identity as a son or daughter of royalty. And then using that identity to measure all other messages and stories we're told by others or ourselves.
Jesus’ name means “Jehovah saves.” And during his life Jesus was called “The Word”—the revelation of God, God’s voice in human flesh. God saves us from ourselves by the inception of a new thought and idea lived out in his life—that we belong to God, God loves us with an eternal love no matter what, we are children of the King. Jesus comes to wake us up to this truth and reality because we tend to sleepwalk and dream, becoming confused into thinking that our dream is reality. So we’re not as aware and fully present as we could be in this life, always running after the wrong dreams.
It's significant to me that central to Jesus' life mission was the clarity he had of his identity. God’s voice and message to him were very real--“This is my beloved son; I am pleased and proud of him.” The Dark Side’s primary goal was to try to call into question that identity and Jesus’ awakened consciousness of it. The Shadow’s continual temptation was to get Jesus to think his identity was a dream—that he wasn’t who he said he was—to keep him from being fully present.
Unenlightened consciousness is indeed very much like dreaming. Our stories we tell ourselves and others, our personal narratives, are often based upon untruth. “I am what I wear or do or have or how others think of me.” “I am my failures or my successes.”
We become entranced with the little details of our lives and the stories unfolding around us. We forget and become unconscious to a larger context around us. We forget our connection to our highest self and become attached to the particulars. Many enlightened teachers have confirmed that the process of enlightenment is like waking up from a deep and not very nice dream.
So the journey of spirituality is the process of waking up to our true reality about who we are. We are daughters and sons of the King; we are containers of the Divine Presence, covered all over with the Divine Fingerprints on our souls, hearts, minds, and bodies. We belong to a Higher Power. We are called to a Higher Purpose.
Truth is, God is continually in us whether we’re awake to it or not. God is continually working all around whether we’re awake to it or not. That’s reality. But how much more effective and transforming our lives become when we awaken to that truth—to be able to embrace it, accept it, know it, see it, be enveloped by it, bathe and bask in it is to really live life fully.
No wonder the Bible says, “As a person thinks in his heart, so is he.” Our thinking, what we consider to be true and real, radically impacts our lives.
Parker Palmer once wrote: “Vocation does not mean a goal that I pursue. It means a calling that I hear. Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am.”
Do you know who you really are? Are you living the truth about you? Would you consider yourself a fully awake person? What tools do you have to help you remember your identity?
Spirituality is about awakening to the truth about who we are, who we belong to. It’s becoming grounded in the Center of our Being by embracing who we are in God. And from that grounding and centeredness, we live as awakened, enlightened, aware, fully present people boldly living out our identity as God's children. We move from sleepwalking to awakening.
Okay, I admit it - I'm drawn to cities ... always have been! I was born and raised through my teenage years in Tokyo, at that the time the world's largest city. Ever since then, whenever I go anywhere, I always want to get to the downtown of any city. Among many things, I especially love the skyline of huge, tall skyscrapers. I love driving home to San Francisco across the Bay Bridge and seeing the massive skyline of downtown getting closer and closer, and then suddenly being right in the middle of it all, feeling awe, inspiration, wonder and excitement that I live here. Is this weird? I think I know why I love this, though. Read on.
My interest obviously got piqued when I read about the world's tallest skyscraper officially opening way over in Dubai last month to a spectacular fireworks, laser, and water extravaganza choreographed to music.
The characteristics are quite impressive: The Dubai Tower's 160-stories reach 2,716 feet. It's so tall that it's visible from 60 miles away, reports say, and the temperature drops 6 degrees from base to peak. Winds at the top can reach 90 miles an hour. The highest floor offers views of Iran. Its elevators will travel the world's longest distance, operating a speeds of up to 22 mph. Its nightclub on the 143rd floor is the world's highest; above it, on floor 158, the world's highest mosque.
The skyscraper is not only a testament to engineering and architectural genius but also to a bold and courageously counter-intuitive vision that gave birth to the original idea. Phil Anderson, managing director of Economic Indicator Services, an economic forecasting service based in London, blogged recently about the beginning of this modern phenomenon:
"Bradford Lee Gilbert designed and built the very first so-called skyscraper in 1887 as a way of tackling a client's unusually shaped six-and-a-half meter plot on Broadway in New York. The solution was to build an iron bridge truss, but stand it on end so that the real structure of the building started several stories above the curb - producing the best design to maximize occupancy and rentals.
New York's press ridiculed the idea. Fellow architects pronounced the building unsafe. Building experts said it would blow over in the wind, if it ever got off the ground. New Yorkers themselves were aghast at the notion of a building that would tower above their side-walk to a height of 160 feet. A fellow engineer and friend begged Gilbert to abandon the idea, pointing out that if the building really did fall over, his legal bill would ruin him. Lawyers confirmed this.
But Gilbert knew better, arguing that the building's structure, with wind bracings from top to bottom, meant that the harder the wind blew, the safer it would actually become. To put the matter to rest Gilbert requested the top two floors of the new building for his offices. And the rest, of course, is history."
I'm always in awe of people who have a vision to do something that is often ridiculed or thought impossible, a vision that is counter-intuitive to conventional wisdom, a vision that takes boldness and courage to live out. When those visionaries refuse to give up, when they build their dreams based upon their best research and understanding and end up producing something transformational, the world is left a little bit better for it. Little did Lee Gilbert know the global legacy he was leaving because of his act of courage and vision!
One of the things I love doing is walking into San Francisco's downtown financial district, right into the middle of that urban forest of monolithic, giant trees. I crane my neck and allow my eyes to follow the path straight up to the top of the skyscrapers. Especially when those tall glass-encased structures, glimmering in the sunlight, stand against a dark blue sky, the feelings I get every time are a mixture of awe, wonder, and hope. There's an instant elevating of my inner spirit and passion for life. Almost a sense of transcendence ... in the midst of the hubbub of activity and life all around me.
Interestingly enough, ancient cathedrals were designed to evoke similar emotions - the human spirit was being led to look up toward the divine as a person's eyes followed the upward lines toward the tops of the spires and high, vast ceilings. A place where the divine and human meet.
That's the way I feel when I'm in the middle of our urban glass "cathedrals" in downtown. I realize that I'm in direct contact with the amazing human spirit of creativity and vision and skill that put these buildings first on paper and then on the streets. It's awe inspiring to me when I think of everything that went into making these dreams reality. All of this helps explain why I love being right in the middle of big city downtowns.
Skyscrapers are by design symbols of the willingness to break normal limits, their peaks pointing to the limitless sky of possibility. Their existence stands as monuments to courage and boldness in the face of ridicule and doubt. In some ways, they're our urban cathedrals for the elevation of the human spirit toward the divine life of creativity and possibility.
I want to challenge myself and all of us urban dwellers to embrace skyscrapers this year as one of our symbols of hope and courage. As we each forge into new territory, I want to live a life of possibility, I want to keep dreaming and planning and working to help make the world a better place. I want to create sanctuaries of hope, where people's inner spirits are elevated and drawn to transcendence, where bigger dreams are dreamed, and profound transformations take place, even when others might ridicule or doubt. And I want to be a part of a community that helps others embrace their highest possibilities, too.
Hey, here's a great idea: maybe we should all take a trip over to Dubai to soak up some of Brad Gilbert's inspirational legacy. If you book me a ticket, I'll fly over there with you! Or just as good for me, come on over to San Francisco and we'll take my favorite walking tour through downtown together ... and see what happens to our spirits.