The word ‘woke’ is a sort of colloquial term which seems to be used for social awareness and usually siding with the latest political trend. The fact that politics has turned into a sort of cool kids club is a topic for another day. Today I want to talk about what being ‘woke’ or conscious means to me.
Consciousness by definition is a type of awareness of ourselves and the environment we are in. Symbolically it can be seen as someone finally opening their eyes and seeing what is really there or waking up from a long and unconscious sleep. Political consciousness can manifest in the form of becoming more aware of the atrocities, the privileges, the conspiracies or whatever you deem as the most intellectually and logically correct way of viewing the world.
At the same time, I think it can be very hard to have a nuanced and well-thought-out opinion of the world if you do not first and foremost become more conscious of yourself – including your light as well as your darkness.
A lot of political conflicts and stringent ideology seems to be born from a place of low self-consciousness. Out of this lack of self-awareness, extremes tend to become more and more apparent as we learn how to question the world and not ourselves. As we begin to place arrogance around opinions formed out of egos that have not even really taken a good look in the mirror.
Just as an example, the far left, and right have become more similar-although seemingly opposite. This is what happens when you don’t become aware of the darkness inside yourself-you project it onto someone else or some other group and point away from yourself as to unconsciously deny the existence of that darkness inside you.
“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.”-Friederich Nietzsche
It’s much easier to point the finger at society, at your parents or whoever represents a dark or painful aspect of your existence. It’s easier to do that instead of going inside and recognizing your darkness-learning to accept it, recognizing where you have been hurt in this lifetime or intergenerationally-and learning how to heal that.
Furthermore, through this unhealed intergenerational pain, it seems that many have entered into a collective ‘victim- perpetrator’ cycle. The intergenerational pain of minorities and previously-oppressed groups has not been healed. Many are carrying with them the pain of previous generations and so, of course, they, or in some cases we, are going to lash out and find an ideology that professes to wrong all the rights of the past but, unfortunately, the world is not that simple and you just become what hurt you in the first place-albeit with a different mask.
Now I am not claiming this is an easy task as I got a minute taste of what it entails and it was horrifying. Sometimes, in plant medicine ceremonies, individuals take on the ‘dark energy’ or pain from other individuals, groups or in this case, continents. I am not sure how or why but I do know when you are on the medicine it opens you up energetically. I remember in my first Ayahuasca ceremony, I could feel the pain of Africa coursing through my veins: the primal wound that screams and cries through the hearts of its people. I did not know how to handle this pain. All I could do was soak it through my bones and puke it out with heart-wrenching sobs. A friend of mine had a similar experience on San Pedro where he saw representations of Africa crying out in pain. To know that this may be the type of pain that many Africans carry around with them(I can’t claim to understand any ones subjective experience fully) today is heart-wrenching.
I feel that instead of public protests-we need privately-driven healing circles. Instead of screaming and crying in the streets we need to start partaking in activities that can help us look within.
All these trigger warnings, calculating of privileges, PC policing and so forth only serve to heighten the state of being in victimhood. It does not actually give anyone power-which seems to be the objective. In fact, it gives it away. It gives it away by implying that others words and actions are more powerful than your ability to heal-to become conscious and to not allow triggers to dictate your path.
“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”-Carl Jung
In books, movies and any sort of story, the heroes are not people who are only good and that is that. The villains are not simply these intrinsically evil beings and that is that- at least not in stories where the characters have some substance. In these stories, heroes are almost always the ones that are extremely self-aware. They choose the most conscious action despite what pain may have been afflicted upon them. The villains, on the other hand, are those who allow the pain they have not healed to direct their life. The heroes understand that we all have a dark side-and so they tend to practice mercy. The villains usually have no space for error. As the quote goes, “A villain is just a victim whose story has not been told.”
So maybe there are a few groups of people whose stories have not been told, whose histories have been skewed, who can classify themselves as victims of intergenerational class or privilege but, do you want to be a victim or do you want to empower yourself?
The path to empowerment does not come from purist ideologies that seek to balance out the scale of privilege in the world as if it can be that simple and straightforward. The path to empowerment does not create spaces where only certain groups are allowed or where one can run when they are faced with something that triggers their intergenerational trauma. No, this is simply allowing your shadow, your pain body or you unhealed trauma to direct your life.
Yes, we can not simply ignore social and political realities either. There are some very real issues and inequalities that need to be addressed. At the same time, the Orwellian methods and solutions being employed do not truly help societies progress as a whole. Fully conscious solutions can only arise from fully self-conscious people.
“When I was young, I wanted to change the world. I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation. When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn’t change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family. Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on my town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world”-Anonymous
Empowerment comes from looking within, from understanding that you yourself have the ability to be as dark as those you profess to despise, from healing that pain, from not allowing that previously unconscious trauma to dictate a life of zero-sum thinking that involves a reality of only bad and good people. Empowerment comes from realizing this and seeing the world as it is with no projections: a world of lost, confused and hurt people trying their very best.
Consciousness of self is true consciousness. This is where you can start viewing the world with a little more nuance and hopefully a little more true compassion-not the type that suits your ideology. This, at least to me, is the real ‘woke’.