Blackout

Yesterday afternoon there was a power outage in my area. It lasted from 4:30 in the afternoon until 3 in the morning, when the bright lights above my bed came blazing back on to wake me from a sound sleep.

Blackouts are good to remind us just how wired we are. Nowadays, with our smart phones and laptops we are able to keep to our electronic habits while the batteries last. Last night we “roughed it” by watching a DVD on the laptop. I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for dinner. That is also what I had for lunch, while the power was still on.

Living for a few hours without power demonstrated how reliant we become on our habits. So much of our lives we do what we do without thinking about it. We come to think of ourselves as these self contained beings with important things to do with our time. When circumstances make doing those things difficult, we notice how maintaining our habits, which are so basic to our being, depend on the world running as it should. Whenever the world changes its rhythm, our habitual slumber is disrupted.

Our habits provide us with a sense of comfort, security and continuity, perfect conditions for sleeping. Sleep is an essential part of waking up. Any change in our habits, by will or by chance, gives us the opportunity to wake up. The Buddha experienced his awakening 2,500 years ago, at 3 am, as he sat under the Bodhi Tree. At 3 am last night, I  awoke to bright, shining lights filling my consciousness. I turned off the lights and went back to sleep.

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