Life’s A Switch–Flip It!

I’ve never had a near death experience in the literal sense. Seeing the car I was in skidding across a winding two-lane mountain road into the path of an oncoming van several years ago was pretty damn close, but there was no leaving my body and walking toward the light—only a blackout that lasted a few seconds, and a headache afterwards.

I have, however, had the experience more than once of suddenly ‘waking up’ and looking around and realizing that I had been on some kind of autopilot—sometimes for years. It was as if someone had, for all practical purposes, flipped a switch and turned my life off. Somehow the switch got thrown and I woke up . . . but I wondered how and why and what or who decides whether I’m “on’ or ‘off’.

I asked The Shower Team, why do we seem to be so often asleep at our wheels . . . jolted awake only when we run off the road or by some other near catastrophe . . . only to eventually go right back to sleep?

Sleepwalking is probably an apt term for the way that so many of you move through your experience. It’s a barely there approach where you are operating on a primarily unconscious level, acting by rote, responding in a kneejerk fashion to most of what comes your way . . . and with very little effort being applied toward the nature or direction of your thoughts.

Sometimes, something will jolt you awake for a brief time. Some dramatic or traumatic experience will shake you out of your stupor, seemingly ‘forcing’ you to take a closer look—or a broader view—of your experience. You may find yourself, during these rare, dramatic episodes of wakefulness, seeing yourself and your life with much greater clarity, and you may feel much greater levels of appreciation for that experience as you see it from this heightened or enhanced perspective.

Your “near death” experiences as you call them, are good examples of this phenomenon, but sometimes there can be a more pleasing stimulus, such as the birth of a child or anything else that prompts you to let go of your usual resistance in some pronounced way.

In these moments of sharpened clarity, everything looks better to you. The colors of our life appear brighter and more vivid. The sensations of your physical experience feel richer and keener. And you typically find yourself in an uncommon state of grace or gratitude that is palpable to you and noticeable to those observing you.

The problem with these shifts, of course, is that they typically do not last very long. You don’t’ know how to sustain them in the face of the inevitable contrast or variety of your daily experience. What you think of as “real life” (that is—the dreary or dull or depressing or dire details) intervenes and you eventually find yourself sucked back into the routine of trying to justify your existence through hard work and struggle and scattering your focus to the winds, paying little to no attention to your own guidance—the guidance that was so briefly but sweetly acute to you in your shining moments of wakefulness.

“So tell us something we don’t know” you might say. And we say, take shorter naps, and you won’t need such a noisy alarm clock to wake you up.

It all comes down to making decisions—and the way that you make them. So much of the time you excuse your scattered thinking and your random-feeling life experience by pleading that you are only reacting to what is—to the “realities” of your life. And there’s the problem.

You have an important choice to make and it has to do with how you perceive your own life. You can choose to see it as a string of random, uncontrollable events that you can only react to involuntarily . . . or you can choose to see your life as the result of the choices you make . . . and the deliberateness—or lack thereof—with which you make those choices.

When we say, take shorter naps and you won’t need as noisy an alarm, what we mean is, decide—CHOOSE—to approach your life in a more deliberate, conscious manner. Decide that you’re going to be more awake more often—and asleep less. Decide that you are going to pay more attention to what you’re thinking—and to make a greater effort to have more of a say in that matter.

Decide that you’re the one in control of what passes in front of you in terms of focus and perception. Decide that you get to decide what you’re looking at . . . what you’re observing . . . what you’re giving your attention to.

You cannot make conscious choices about where to place your focus moment by moment . . . or hour by hour . . . for even for a little while during each day . . . and stay asleep. Making those conscious decisions about what you will give your attention to always wakes you up . . . pulls you out of your slumber . . . and offers you an opportunity to see what is really there, always going on, always flowing, always shining, always smelling and tasting so sweet.

You don’t have to be yanked out of your unconscious living by a train wreck or a plane crash or a spontaneous recovery from some deadly disease . . . You don’t have to wait for the sky to fall to look up and to look around and to begin to truly see . . . see you for who You really are . . see the wonders of your life experience . . . see the magnificence that surround you . . . It is always there, all the time . . not just when you’re noticing it . . . but it doesn’t count for much and it doesn’t’ matter to you for very long as long as you are letting everything and everyone but you determine what you’re seeing.

Your life can be ‘on’ or ‘off’ at any moment and no one has control over that but you. It’s your choice. We would recommend not waiting for calamity to convince you to flip that switch. Make it as simple and easy on yourself as picking out a new alarm clock or adjusting the volume of whatever wakes you up.

Your finger is always on the button that controls whether you are awake to the splendor of your existence or not. The extent to which your life feels ‘on’ to you . . . the extent to which you feel that you are truly living versus just existing, is always in your hands. See that mechanism for waking up as the simple switch that it is—and you as the one who can flip it whenever you choose.


I like to watch those movies about people who literally die and come back . . . who report these vivid visionary experiences while they’re unconscious . . . and then who seem to have the most incredible shifts in their perspectives when they come back around. It always sounds so cool.

But how much cooler could it be to just live with the switch ‘on’ more of the time . . . to have more of those really alive life experiences without flat lining first. What we call death comes soon enough–sooner than most of us would say we want. But how soon could we have those real life experiences that make us so happy that the blood’s still pumping and the neurons are still firing?

Sooner and more often than we think, seems to be the message. It’s a pretty provocative idea, if you ask me. It leaves me wanting to keep my trigger-happy finger on the button . . . flipping my switch back on every chance I get . . . every time I remember it’s mine to flip . . . . It leaves me feeling like I’ve got the power . . . at least over my own life support . . . and that leaves me feeling wide awake, eager to keep breathing, and for the moment, complete.

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About Dan

Published novelist, poety, essayist, photographer and college educator. Visit me at www.firstadream.com.

Posted on November 8, 2007, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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