Choosing To Be Alive


Alive: Having life: Not dead or inanimate.

Many years ago I attended a yoga conference where the theme was living fully alive. Some part of me was intrigued. And some part of me just did not get it. As in, obviously I am alive. Otherwise I would not be here. Therefore, what’s all the fuss about? Why focus an entire conference of multi-day workshops and keynotes around this obvious and undeniable reality?

I’ll tell you why. Because it is one thing for the body to have a pulse, and quite another to live an experience of being fully alive. Fully expressed. It’s so strange, really. Everything that comes into existence on the planet, whether a dandelion, baby animals, insects or trees, all come in bursting with life. Fully programmed to live, without exception, as completely as they can, the full potential of whatever they are. Knowing nothing other than this, until they no longer exist.

We humans are the only ones, in all of existence, who can be alive on paper, while not being meaningfully alive in a truly vital and authentic way. We see this in how we don’t speak up when everything in us is screaming to. We see this in the way we stay when it is really time to go. We see this in the way we take on the feelings, dysfunctions and responsibilities of others. We see this in all of the big and small ways that we diminish ourselves each and every day by the thoughts we harbor about ourselves.And we see this in all of the ways that we lie to ourselves and to others about who we really are; accepting and imposing false and imprisoning expectations around who we get to be.

Lately, it occurs to me that being born, truly the first choice around me being alive, did not require a conscious, active agreement on my part. But that now, it does. A pact that I, in fact, need to make with awareness moment by moment around how it is that I will show up in my life. A compact between me and Life itself that must transcend the past, with its deadening load of conditioning, pain, constrictions and limitations on my aliveness. A contract that I make with myself that must bypass and ignore what other people think, feel and believe about how I should live; about how alive I get to be. An absolute and stalwart understanding from within me that must rise above the zombie apocalypse I witness each and every day as more and more of us choose screen life, busyness, stress, numbing out, checking out, over-scheduling, fear and more over true aliveness.

Think about it for a moment. Look at all of the ways there are to medicate ourselves against the experience of being alive through food, alcohol, drugs, devices and more that deaden us to the experience of being fully alive.

I so want this for myself. I so want this for all of us. And yet, I also see what we are up against. Where are our role models? Where are the societal structures that offer the support we need to live in bodies energized, minds illumined and spirits soaring? Unfortunately, what we are up against all too often are the false highs provided by external substances and things like shopping or watching something titillating on a screen. But where are the genuine, natural and healthful outlets for an organic experience of aliveness? One that arises purely out of you being here. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Check it out for yourself. If you really chose to be alive, what would that look like for you? Would you settle for food that dulled you out? Would you acquiesce to keeping company with those that brought you down? Would acquiring things serve as the highest use of your precious time? And while we all know how to overstimulate ourselves, do you even know the down deep feeling of being animated and full of life, just because?

If you have no clue about what I am talking about, or even where or how to begin, start with what feels like a restriction, a bind, a shackle, an imposition. And then, as Bob Marley did, give yourself the instruction; “Open your eyes and look within, are you satisfied with the life your living? And if not, could you be courageous enough and alive enough to choose for that which animates and enlivens? Could you throw off that which deadens? As easily as a tree letting go of a diseased limb.


What Really Needs Cleansing


A couple of weeks ago I did a spring cleanse where all of the usual things that I might eat were laid aside for 5 days of eating a mono-diet consisting of rice and greens. Morning, noon, and night. Personally, I love both. But I have to tell you that at some point, it gets old. Really old. Where all you want to do is to rip into something truly satisfying like a cheesy pizza, a fudgy brownie, a turkey burger with avocado and mayonnaise or a glass of ginger ale. At least this is where my mind went to as I contemplated another round of rice and greens.

Interestingly enough, I couldn’t even tell you what was a legitimate call from my body, craving something it truly needed, and what was the fabrication of my mind born out of boredom, old habits, and food choices used to dull emotional experiences too difficult to be with. And this is why I cleanse. I cleanse because I recognize how often I lie to myself about what I really and actually need in the food department. How much it is that my body requires, and which choices would serve it best.

You might think, as many of us do, that this is about right or wrong, good and bad foods, rules, caloric restriction, shame and guilt. It’s not. It’s about honoring ourselves. It’s about being honest and true to ourselves. It’s about showing up for ourselves in caring and supportive ways.

It puts me in mind of something a friend recently said. That being, “When you stop lying to yourself, you start to see what you are all about.” How many of us hate liars, but lie to ourselves every day about what and how we are eating? How many of us make promises to ourselves about what we will change in this department, but never seem to get there? Beyond guilt or shame, can you take in the message you give yourself every time you do this? The disappointment. The let down. The betrayal. Not intentionally or consciously done, but done just the same every time we lie to our one and only self.

What would it take to change this? What would it take to give yourself a chance to really see what you are all about? I’m a big fan of every once in a while shaking things up around how you eat, not as a punishment or a deprivation, but as a way of seeing what happens when you take something out of your diet that you do all the time. For instance, how about sugar, coffee, take-out, alcohol, or anything else that you use for less than nourishing reasons?

And then, watch what happens. Count on being distressed. It could be a little. It could be a lot. You might even think of the amount of distress you are experiencing as being the equivalent of how much this food choice is helping you to lie to yourself. If you notice this, try not to do so with criticism, but more with a sense of what might be possible if you let yourself discover what is underneath this choice or habit.

What I am proposing here is not easy. We all develop maladaptive habits for very good reasons. Often because, quite frankly, this is just what we have always done. Perhaps we do not even know we have the capacity to do anything else. Challenging something long-standing like this by going without for a time becomes the very place where the magic happens. For when we choose something different, and are able to do it, even for a moment, we create a new pathway. We set the template down for a possibility that did not previously exist. A new way of being presents itself. An opportunity to see what we are really all about arises. Along the way, we might even surprise ourselves in the process.

And if you really want to add some power to this, set an intention for the experience. For instance, “I willingly set (fill in the blank) aside today in the service of being more honest with myself about who I am.” Make it big. Lofty even. Putting a focused effort behind anything we do, creates a kind of strength to hold us through the difficult times, while serving as both the space and the catalyst for seeing what we are all about in bigger and more unexpected ways.

Whose Time Is It?


If you asked most people, they might tell you that besides finances, time is what they lack. They might even go on to tell you that making time for what matters most to them is hard, and sometimes even, impossible work. Embedded in this belief is that time is something that you don’t deserve more of, comes to you by magic, by the good grace of another, or when all of the circumstances of your life finally line up to offer you a slot of what you most need more of.

But the truth is, creating time for what you most value will never just fall into your lap. It is something you intend, commit to, and perhaps most of all, protect. And it is an ongoing, day to day process where over and over again you intend, recommit, and continue to protect what is most precious to you.

Not long ago I ran a workshop on self-care where my co-facilitator marketed the offering on Facebook. In total, she got 45 hits saying people were interested. Do you know how many of those people carved out a day to take care of themselves? Zero.

It requires absolutely nothing of us to say that we want something. To say that we wish we had the time to do such and such. On the other hand, it takes everything in us to make the decision to carve out the time to do what needs to be done. To get to the something we absolutely need or find valuable.

This is not easy to do given how many things so many of us have committed to. We live in times where the very real challenge of choice, with its seemingly infinite array of options and obligations, leaves far too many of us frazzled, burdened, and out of time for what we really want and need. It gets even more complicated when we add in that we could likely justify much of what takes up our time as something that we see as “good” or “necessary.”

But is it actually true?* Is it actually true that we need to be filling our days as we do? Is it actually true that all of the things we do to fill our time are either good for us, or even necessary? To answer these questions with any kind of clarity requires that we get beneath why it is that we so often give away our precious time. And we all do it for any number of reasons. Fear. Guilt. Obligation. Insecurity. Stuck in a role. Wanting to be valued, seen and included. The list goes on.

What’s yours?

Try this. The next time you are about to commit to yet another occupation of your precious time, ask yourself two essential questions. One, “Why am I really, really choosing this right now? Two, Is this how I want to be spending my time? And then, listen deeply. Asking in this way will likely bring to the surface some hard and difficult feelings to be with. Like annoyance, or a sense of being put upon, or a worry about what would happen if you stop. Not to worry. Feelings will pass. As does time.

*Borrowed from Byron Katie and her Inquiry Work.

Powerful Questions

We live in a world of ready answers. Quick fixes. Immediate solutions. Left brain knowledge of a particular sort. Despite all of this, too many of us do not seem to be doing so well. What if this was because we are looking at it all the wrong way? What if it is not the answers to be sought after, but the questions?

Given how many of us currently live in a conditioned, answer-oriented way, this would be a brave choice to ponder. A bold stroke to choose to pause, to not immediately know. A radical act to live by more questions than answers. And yet, what if cultivating the practice of crafting meaningful questions was at its core life-changing? Powerful. Informative. Healing. What if learning to ask more questions would be the very thing that would help us to not only find solutions, but to frame the larger and most essential issues of our lives in more all-encompassing and effective ways?

I once heard someone say that to wonder about something gives rise to the voice of the soul. Can you imagine? Can you imagine sourcing something truly all-knowing when attempting to solve the dilemmas of your life? If so, what could you specifically wonder about in your own life? What could you wonder about for the life of the world? What could you stop trying to pound out an answer to, and instead, hold a well-placed question to?

Try this. Locate some issue you are struggling with. Something that seems to defy an “answer.” Something you have been working very hard at that just seems to yield no satisfactory solution. Despite your best efforts. Despite even lots of outside help.

For instance, instead of hammering away at that entrenched physical issue, trying to run down the answer, could you ask, ” What is it that my body most needs right now to heal?” Or how about for that “fork in the road issue,” asking “What is it I most need to know at this time to choose wisely?” And for a relationship issue, how about, “What is mine to do/not do here?”

Ask a question, and then, let it go. Drop it. Take the intensity of solving for the answer out of it. Instead, whenever the issue in mind presents, wonder to yourself about it through your question, and then let the whole thing float away as easily as a helium balloon gleefully released from a child’s hand. No need to figure anything out.

Learning to let go like this does take effort. But it is a different kind of effort than most of us are used to. Instead of a pushing and a tense striving, this approach is more of an effortless one; once you get the hang of it. A kind of letting the answer find you instead of working to make it happen. This might not initially feel good to that overachieving part of the mind that will say you aren’t doing enough. It might even feel as though you have given up, or entrusted your life to the wrong things. And that if you aren’t the one in charge, who will be for god’s sake?

And that is exactly the point. If your long-term efforts at finding the answers have not gotten you to where you most long to be, is that not information enough? Is that not feedback enough that perhaps another way might prove more fruitful? That this is not a matter, as the rational mind might say, of just needing to find the “correct” information. Perhaps it is time to entertain the knowing that maybe your efforting has been on the wrong end of the equation. Perhaps your efforts would be better served in learning to surrender, have patience, and practice trust. Which by the way are all very, very significant and meaningful qualities to develop while one waits for an answer.