The difference between being awake or asleep spiritually is much the same as it is to be so physically. To be conscious and taking in the world through eyes opened wide is to be awake, alert. Although staying awake is largely a decision, waking up at all is a force of nature, biology, or spiritually speaking, of God.
As spiritual creatures the event of waking up happens to us as much as it is anything we ‘do’ or arrive at via our own efforts or methods. Sure, we can pray, meditate, practice religious rituals, read spiritual books and have teachers, but those things act primarily as vehicles to prepare our hearts for the moment of waking; they are not the waking itself. Our hearts are like soil that must be prepared and made soft for the moment of contact with the Divine; a moment when a seed is sown that may grow inside us and transform us from the inside out. We do not sow the seed but simply receive it (or not) and then nurture that which we eventually realize was placed within us and is not of our own making.
This caring for the seed and the preparation of our hearts is what it is to be awake and this ground is cultivated through seeing. We start seeing beauty, light, and hope. One who is awake has learned that everywhere they glance they see God. In every person they meet they see hope, potential and a life that is worthy of honoring with their love and time. Awake does not mean correct doctrine or adherence to a particular creed. I’m not discounting these things but, just as with spiritual disciplines, we often see right practice or right thinking as the end goal. The end goal for all of us, as far as I can tell, is a radical transformation at the heart level causing us to love instead of hate, to be patient, joyful, gentle, kind and content in all situations and to all others (whether, people, plants, animals, or anything thing else).
Being awake doesn’t seem to be a continual state for humans. Although the initial waking (a realizing of our place and part and that of everyone and everything else) happens to us, staying awake is a participatory reality. We have to choose to keep our eyes open. Seeing others as valuable and beautiful is a choice. Honoring the Light instead of seeing darkness is a decision. Seeing through the eyes of our heart (as opposed to the eyes of our head) keeps us from judgement and division and enables us to see and live as God sees, continually ready to accept, love, be generous and forgive. Christian scripture calls this, “Being transformed into the image of God” (2Cor 3:18, Luke 6:35). Be awake, alert, and be ready to see beauty and potential everywhere you look because it is there to enjoy if we will only keep our eyes open.