Wake up!

December 20, 2017

Lessons from Faust, by Wolfgang Von Goethe


Its 5:30AM and I am sitting quietly at the small counter top in my Tiny Home. I wake up early because this is the time I find the most inspired, and the most awake. There is something so special about waking up before everyone else does, its quiet, still and dark.  I unearth my old lecture notes from five-six years ago (taken with the same old school macbook I use today!) with excitement about this new commitment to inquiry. As I scroll through my documents, I can envision the room, the students and the rich conversations that were encouraged by my professor, Dr. Ron Glasburg, an absolute legend! I open up my notes and the first thing I see at the top of my page is three questions in big bold letters…

  1. Are you engaged in this life or are you simply going through the motions?

  2. Is the world you wake up to a form of sleep?

  3. When do you feel most awake?

Wow! Those are some hefty questions!!

(read the previous blog post "Re-Hashing Old Lessons" to understand the background behind this post)


We start with the story of Faust a story by Wolfgang Von Goethe. Faust is a character and archetype of the “everyman” who longs to find the meaning of life.  A doctor and a scholar, Faust longs for a deeper understanding of what lies within, being the internal reality of the soul.  The story depicts the struggle of humankind to find balance between the enjoyment of external temptations and distractions but still foster a higher consciousness and internal wisdom connecting you to your soul.  The God and the Devil characterize the internal and external contrast.


The Devil presents an experiment to God to see just how loyal mankind is to the scriptures of “the kingdom of heaven is from within”.  The Devil will attempt to convince Faust into a life of purely external, hedonistic tendencies. If the Devil can get Faust to admit that he can find the “kingdom of heaven” through the bliss the external world has to offer him, he will be required to be a slave to the Devil in the afterlife. God agrees to the Devil’s test because he has full faith in Faust (mankind). God says, “divert this soul from its primal source and carry it, if you can seize it, down with you upon your course - and stand ashamed when you must admit; a good man with his groping intuitions still knows the path that is true and fit”. Faust, feeling as though he as little to lose as he seems to only be going through the motions in life, agrees to the Devil’s wager.  When we move into the external realm its like the idea of “keeping up with the Jones’s” and is a slippery slope to disappointment, unrealistic expectations and ultimately living someone else’s life. So, by Faust giving up on that internal struggle and choosing a life devoted to the external, one could argue that he is already enslaved, or at least asleep to the potential that life has to offer.


Faust is a representation of the common person who is searching for more meaning in life and struggling to know how to access this mysterious territory. At some point or another in your life, maybe you have also yearned for a deeper meaning, in fact it’s a common reason why people are drawn to yoga in the first place.  This thirst for meaning is difficult to quench as Faust says, “nature lets non unveil her; if she refuse to make some revelation to your spirit you cannot force her with levers and with screws” – We often yearn for a quick and easy answer to life’s most difficult questions but the truth of the matter is, there is no quick fix but a progressive “waking up” to your potential.


I don’t know about you but I find I have to constantly check in with myself, whether it be reflecting on goals I have set for myself, committing to a yoga class or meditating. These are checkpoints I have made for myself along the journey to ensure I am going in the right direction. When I get caught up in the external push towards the mainstream and haven’t quite checked in yet, I experience a heavy feeling in my mind and body, almost feel like I am sinking and struggling to find air. It often takes this sinking experience of wandering off my own path and into someone else’s to shake me wide-awake and re-discover what I set out for my own journey.  


There is a kind of “dust” that accumulates on us, skewing our vision, decisions and actions when we have disconnected from a space of authenticity. Like Faust states, “I am like the worm that burrows through the dust and keeps itself alive in dust.” I love this quote as I often use the imagery of dust in my yoga classes. As we bring more awareness to our breath we become more conscious of where we may be holding on to stress, or what we may be holding on to that bogs us down, or recognizing we have been in a fog, almost like a waking sleep. Sometimes this layer of dust is built up from going head first into a sand storm, like deciding to take on way too much responsibility so that you have no time to yourself. Or perhaps the layer has accumulated simply because it is floating in the air around you like participating in gossip, or being surrounded by negativity. Either way it weights us down, ultimately dimming our inner light and disconnecting us from our true nature… However it is never too late to brush it off, find a duster and get cleaning.


The story of Faust goes on to depict a life of luxury, living a life full of the benefits due to the wager he made with the Devil. However in the final scene, at the moment of his death, he fully realizes that this life of extravagance did not grant him the true meaning of life. Instead he continued to remain “asleep” and going through the motions in life. In his last few moments on earth, angels swoop in and save his soul from the Devil and with his dying breath says, “at last enjoy, my highest moment… this!”  Faust discovers that he does not cling to his life; instead he lets go of the physical world, and finally in that letting go, grasps inner, eternal bliss…


We will all get caught up in the temptations of the external world, in fact its part of the journey of life, however it’s never too late to choose which path you will take.


Ask yourself…

  1. Are you engaged in this life or are you simply going through the motions?

  2. Is the world you wake up to a form of sleep?

  3. When do you feel most awake?




Find a time today, (hey, maybe right now!) to close down the eyes and simply watch the breath. Notice the inhales, the exhales and the spaces in between.  Stay with noticing the breath for a few moments.

Now imagine that your breath is like a duster, sweeping over and within you, uncovering what is beneath the dust that has accumulated over time. There is no need to get caught up in the commentary of what that dust is from, simply breathe. Sweep until all that is left is your truest self.  




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