Thursday, October 6, 2011


Here is my favorite story about Buddha.

One day, soon after Buddha’s enlightenment, a man saw Buddha walking toward him. The man had not heard of Buddha, but he could see that there was something different about the man who was approaching, so he was moved to ask, “Are you a god?”

Buddha answered, “No.”

“You’re a magician, then? A sorcerer? A wizard?”


“Are you some kind of celestial being? An angel, perhaps?”


“Well, then what are you?”

The Buddha replied, “I am awake.”

Every year I pick a word for the year. It’s not a resolution; it’s more of a guide word, a reminder word. Last year my word was “Awake!” Not the adjective, the verb, as in “Wake up!” I put the word on little post it notes everywhere – by my computer, on the bathroom mirror, on the dashboard of my car, on the refrigerator.

Everywhere I looked, my word reminded me to come back from wherever I was and see the world as it really is, as it is right now. I spent decades of my life not seeing the world as it is. Instead, I saw what I wanted to see. I was the diva of denial, the mistress of magical thinking. My life was not real. It was made up, because I was afraid to look at truth. I was living in a dream.

I am here to tell you that living in a dream is exhausting. It takes a lot of effort to maintain illusion. You have to be constantly vigilant, on eternal alert to spot and crush any green seedling of truth pushing through the cracks in the concrete. It is not for the faint-hearted.

Some of you might know exactly what I’m saying. The good news, and it is good news, is that eventually we wear out. The strength it takes to hold on to the dream will give out, and we will let go. We will all see the world as it really is, right now. We will, as the Bible promises, know the truth, and the truth will set us free. Even though it might first, as Gloria Steinem promises, piss us off.

May we all be awake!


  1. I love this. I always try to remain open to new information, new experiences, new ways of being. It's hard because sometimes I can't help but fall into my own mental traps, but fortunately those locks never stay closed in light of a better way when they inevitably present.

  2. Galen: You know you are one of my favorite people, so I feel free to say, "I do live in a dream. And the truth will set us free - even if Gloria Steinem pisses many of us off."

  3. Haven--I think you found the key, pun intended, in recognizing that the locks never stay closed. Thanks for commenting.

    JJ--You know you are one of my favorite people, too, and I'm glad you feel free to say anything you want on my blog. Your paraphrase made me laugh! But I have one question. Are you "living in a dream," or are you "living the dream"? I will claim the latter. Thanks for your comment and for the smile.

  4. hi Galen,
    This post is right on target. Many of us including me have spent the better part of our lives in a sort of "dream state".

    Seeing life as it is is crucial if we want to change it for the better.

  5. Galen,

    You've really infused the word "awake" with meaning! I feel tempted to make that my word now too. And it is in one way because it's a big part of my healing process.

    Isn't it weird how we live in an illusion for decades? I know there's no point in wondering why I didn't get it sooner. Or even why I still walk around 1/2 asleep at times. Waking up is an amazing and beautiful process. Thank you for writing about it.

  6. Justin--I agree. We change the world by changing ourselves. Thanks for your comment.

    Sandra--Well, it's a pretty good word and you are welcome to use it! My word this year is "yield," also a good word! I sometimes wonder, like you, why I "wasted" so much time not getting it sooner. But then time is part of the illusion, yes? We get it at precisely the right moment. And then we get it again...and again. Thank you for your comment.

  7. Galen, Diva of denial.... I love that phrase. Aren't we all, at times. Yes, it's strange we both posted about awakening or awake. We're on a roll!!!!


  8. Hi Galen. Yes the truth can and does set you free. We all have a bad habit of looking at the world the way we want to see it. However I do have to say that I like seeing it in a positive side.

    Taking every day and every moment of that day and enjoying the little things is what sets me free.

    I like that work "Awake" we all need to remember and be Awake.

  9. What a wonderful idea...

    Wish I had thought of that word throughout the years I spent on useless relationships, dead end jobs, etc....

    Visiting from The Blogging Buddies Social Network

    Have an awesome weekend!

    Come on home - mom blog
    Working at home advice

  10. Yep it just might piss us off...

    I am working on my fatigue problems because I just am so upset with sleeping my life away - because I am a make lemonade (or merange pie) kind of person...I just reviewed Toni Bernhard's book How To Be Sick and listened to her interviews on NPR - now there is a person who has Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and is totally awake to her life and the joy of it...
    Thank you I was feeling a bit hopeless when this post popped into my inbox - perfect timing

  11. I do seem to live in a dream world. I try to see everything around me as is but it is hard to change my notions of the world around me.

  12. Manzanita--Great minds do think alike! Thanks for commenting.

    Asma--Thanks for following. I look forward to visiting your blog soon.

    Debbie--Enjoying the little things in every moment is a great description of being awake. Thanks for your comment.

    Carolee--Yeah, me too! But better late than never! Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    Patricia--I've heard good things about Toni's book. I'm glad if my words brought you some hope today.

    Bonnie--We all have notions of the world. For example we might think that the world has basic goodness, or is basically a friendly place, or not. I don't think that is necessarily living in a dream world. I think of living in a dream world as not being present, denying what is real, or trying to manipulate the world. For example, I denied for years the impact that my son's autism had on me and on our family. Thanks so much for commenting.

  13. I'm a bit of a curious dreamer... but still awake enough to see. I think there's a happy compromise in there somewhere [grin]

  14. Jean--Sounds like a happy balance!


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