I don’t know when the word was first used or how it became a trend, but it is as dangerous as it essential for our kind. The word is “woke.”
There is the sound of low and full ringing. Like a mother’s grace, it is subtle, yet respectfully powerful as it rolls down over sparkling, dew-painted grass in the last few hours before dawn. The sound confidently approaches the doors of the canvas tents that stand among the hills. By the time the sound reaches my ears, my eyes are already open and I sit up in the darkness on a simple bed of two-by-fours and a thin layer of cushion. I put on my slippers and begin to navigate the small dirt paths, making sure to not make eye contact with the rest of the men that walk to the same destination. There are small beams of light bouncing around from the only technology we are welcome to possess: flashlights. We enter a main building and walk down a corridor to the large, dark room at the end. In the silence of breathing, we sit together. My eyes close. Here, in this way, I will spend eleven hours of the day for the next six days.
This is a practice called vipassana. There is as much pain as joy in the word for me. When I think of “woke,” I think of this time in my life, especially. I made it to the end of day six of ten before I had to leave because I was so woke. I had no need or want for more than this. Everything was new and overwhelming. As though I were a baby, I looked around in astonishment. The chance that I might ignore any little detail of existence was squelched. All of the truths we are so removed and comforted from were crashingly evident. Each star in the sky was speaking the original language to me. The impulse that instantaneously moves each finger, I was aware of. The voice that incessantly speaks to and for “me” was nearly silent. All beginnings and ends converge, bending linearity into a circular breath. I was absolutely ecstatic. I was absolutely filled with terrifying spiritual pain. “I” was dead.
I am not able to say what woke means to each individual, nor am I arrogant enough assume, but for me, this was it. Lucky, was I, to have a terrific support system following this process. As I mentioned, it is dangerous. We see these states arise in our society often and write them off as crazy. We can even write ourselves off as crazy if we don’t understand this awakening. This beautiful place of awareness is so delicate. It is a balancing act on the head of a pin. It is from here, I believe, that the greatest of all gifts of wisdom emerge. It is, while here, that our entire societal construct pushes us from every direction to be thrown off the head of the pin back into the matrix as “crazy.” This type of abrupt removal from a spiritual awakening is like an abrupt removal from a heroin detox from the “support” of a fellow addict. What we do not know terrifies us so much that we silence these voices so that we can go to work and buy our next order from amazon.
Why do you think it is the case that our celebrities go “crazy” and do things like overdose? Is it because they’re inherently unstable and destined for it? Being in such states as I have, I would say no. When you have reached to peak of societal success, it is like you are on the Truman Show and realize all the buildings are facades. We all laugh and point our cameras at the stumbling artist, trying to get a photo of them in this painful place. We aren’t taught to, or even how to, support these individuals through this process, though in other cultures it is considered the awakening of a healer or shaman. We laugh at them until it get’s old and move on to the next person. It doesn’t happen to celebrities alone. We have all seen streets lined with our “crazy.” We have all had the high school friends that went “crazy.” Our friend’s aging parent that went “crazy.” Yet, our laughing selves are so sane. As we sit here, at an inner rolling boil that we never speak of, lavishly draped in material distraction, apathetically orgasming in ego, choking out the starlit sky, we are fucking “sane” and never question that or you will be our next victim.
I do believe, as dangerous a it can be to become “woke” in our society, it is an essential direction for us. We need to honor and support the woke, and those on the journey. If we are to use the word as a trend, we should also put integrity into it. Not that we need to approach it without some humor, but we should attempt to learn the gravity of it as well. We should respect those who undertake such spiritual journeys. We should be bold enough to make some gentle spiritual journeys of our own so that we may learn of their power and application for a better future and understanding of these states among our fellow inhabitants.
I certainly don’t find people who use the word “woke” as a trend to be anything of the sort most of the time. “Woke” is apart from ego. We may all like to entertain the idea that we are woke until you feel the truth of what that can truly mean for you. There's nothing comfortable, fun or sexy about what I know of it. However, I do like that it’s trendy to push in that direction. When such things become trendy, it is a whisper of truth. Perhaps some souls may push enough to fall into a true woke one day, whether on purpose or by accident, and if it's merely because of a trend, that's enough for me.