Spiritual Narcolepsy and What Was I Thinking?

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I thought I coined the term “spiritual narcolepsy” which I did, but I was not the first. I found a 2013 blog which used the same term. He was a more traditional Christian writer. So, this tells me, that not only are spiritual but not religious folks experiencing this, but also religious people.

What is spiritual narcolepsy? I have periods when I feel so aligned and divinely in sync with the universe. Maybe it lasts for a day, 2 weeks or 2 months, but inevitably I seem to lapse into feeling out of sync and wonder if I have lost the path. It is as if I have fallen asleep without a desire to do so. When this happens, I tend to beat myself up for not staying awake, for some inadequacy that separates me from what is good and loving. Perhaps I didn’t meditate enough, pray enough, be loving enough, think about others enough, and serve enough.

I don’t equate it with a “dark night of the soul” exactly because spiritual narcolepsy happens much often and is less existential. I wrote a blog on the dark night of the soul that you can read here. It is important to note that most highly mystical people who were known for their spiritual lives experienced a dark night of the soul at least once.

I noticed this phenomenon of spiritual narcolepsy long ago. I thought it was just me. And now after experiencing this time and again and finding that others do also, I have come to believe that it is, for many, a natural spiritual progression. When I mentioned it to Gordon Keyler, a Unity minister and educator, he said that this subject is a very common discussion subject among seminarians (although not referred to as spiritual narcolepsy).

You have probably heard it said that we suspend remembrance of the radiant eternal souls that we are in our human experience. It is akin to suspension of disbelief while watching a movie, so much so, that we feel afraid, angry, laugh, or cry even though the movie is fiction. Our bodies react as if it was really happening. It may stay with us for a long time.

When I was about 5 years old, I went to a movie with one of my older sisters. It was an Abbott and Costello movie, a comedy. These fellows would get themselves in sticky circumstances and the result of their actions was hysterical. In this particular movie, they were in some kind of haunted house. As they walked down a dimly lit wood paneled hall in this mansion, they passed wall scones that held candles. They were unaware that these sconces seemed to be held by hands that were not inanimate but alive. As they went a little further down the hall another sconce was there…and I screamed out loud in the theatre, “Watch out!!!” Everyone there turned to look at me and there were probably a few snickers but I don’t remember that because I was so embarrassed.

You get where I am going with this. Life can be much like this until there is a true epic spiritual awakening, or as in my case, spiritually waking up and then falling back to sleep unintentionally. I keep thinking of that line in a Rumi poem, “The door is round and open, don’t go back to sleep”. I can try to stay awake, but at this stage, I think that sometimes, I sleep, and get a rest from the seeking and adapting to new levels. The learning may have been challenging and the next level is a mystery, so perhaps a pause is in order for to adapt and grow as a soul, a natural progression.

As I look back at some parts of my life, I wonder, “What was I thinking?” In truth, I was learning in many ways from my so-called “poor choices”. Jesus said, “Be in the world but not of it.” Maybe he meant live your life, observe from the high watch, but don’t fall into the drama of it and forget who you are. Remember, you are the light of the world. Watch another movie, but don’t buy into it as the Truth. A better question I ask myself instead of, “What was I thinking?” is, “What was I learning?”

Don’t Go Back To Sleep

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don’t go back to sleep.
~Rumi