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Archive for April, 2015

My trip to Denmark is coming soon. And as the departure date draws nearer, it brings with it a growing uncertainty about my life. The only thing that feels certain is the sudden realization that I’m not ready to die. That thought hit me yesterday like a punch in the face.

I picture myself on my death bed, knowing the inevitable is at hand, and I hear my mother’s words the day before she died, “Please, God, I’m not ready to go yet.” Unlike her, I have no god to beg for more time; I have no god to surrender to and put my faith in. The story of me that this linguistic brain has been telling itself for all these years ends when the body expires.

And “I’m” not ready for that. Why? I don’t feel alive.

Imagine being on a merry-go-round but you’re distracted and unaware of the ride. Suddenly the attendant signals that the ride is over. You exclaim, “Wait, you can’t stop the ride yet! I wasn’t paying attention!”

So what does it take to feel alive? Clearly I don’t know. But I have some guesses…


Presence

A more fully realized awareness of the here and now. Vibrant sensations of my experience of life that drown out the conceptual chatter in the mind. Or as the Buddhists teach, maybe the chatter is just another sensation? [Buddhism recognizes 6 senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste, the feeling body / touch, and the thinking mind.]

Enthusiasm

A passion for life and its component pieces. Respect for (and awe at) how life shows up — however life shows up, even if it’s in a way I didn’t intend or expect or desire. The word enthusiasm comes from the Greek word entheos which means “having a god within.” A Higher Power for the non-believer, perhaps? A way to feel connected to life itself?

Connection

Seeing through the illusion of separation. True empathy. The story of me isolates “me” conceptually from the rest of life. But it’s an arbitrary division. To quote Alan Watts from The Wisdom of Insecurity:

Where do I begin and end in space? I have relations to the sun and air which are just as vital parts of my existence as my heart. The movement which I am a pattern or convolution began incalculable ages before the (conventionally isolated) event called ‘birth’, and will continue long after the event called ‘death’. Only words and conventions can isolate us from the entirely undefinable something which is everything.


So, how do I make presence, enthusiasm, and connection livable? How do I feel more alive? Again, some guesses:

  • Sitting still more, chasing goals less
  • Going outside more, hiding inside less
  • Creating more space, having less stuff
  • Appreciating more (“What I love about this is…”), criticizing less (“What I hate about this is…”)
  • Surrendering more, “controlling” less
  • Noticing and enjoying synchronicity more, playing the victim less
  • Experiencing other humans more, conceptualizing them less

I acknowledge that this inquiry risks turning life into a future objective. Therefore, most importantly, I must recognize that life is now.

To feel alive is not an objective, not a destination. Maybe to feel alive is no more complicated than to feel life. As I type these words, I feel the keys against my fingertips, the laptop against my legs, my feet against the floor, the flow of air into and out of my lungs, and so much more.

As I type these words, by a simple choice to feel, I come alive.

 

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