On my first spiritual retreat, I heard a voice from beyond whisper “I don’t want to be dead anymore, I want to be alive.” It echoed throughout the day. “I want to be alive. . . I want to be alive.”
I spent my most of my childhood in a state of numbness, a frozen veil separating me from everything and everyone else. I longed to feel connected, awake, vital, pierced by life.
How does one come alive?
There are as many paths to aliveness as there are people on the path. And there's a way in which the question points to an unanswerable mystery beyond all comprehension.
For most, a move toward aliveness involves a radical acceptance of what is. Every moment is an invitation to turn toward what's arising in our experience, especially things we don't like -- our fear, our confusion, our anger, our heartbreak, our sadness, our uncomfortableness. Rather than denying, distancing, or distracting we squarely face and embrace what appears. This takes a lot of courage and skillful means!
It’s tempting to try and pin unwanted emotions onto something — the loss of a relationship, a disappointment at work, something someone said, some way we’ve failed, a confusion about the meaning of love and life. It’s so easy to conclude that the arising of unpleasantness means something is wrong, that we’ve made a mistake, that we’re fundamentally flawed and unworthy. Often we take up a transformative practice making an unconscious deal with Life along the lines of “I’ll face what is arising so long as I can fix it, heal it, transform it, solve it!”
What if the arising of sadness, fear, confusion, anger or any other unwelcome emotion is legitimate, necessary, and valid? Rather than being a sign that we're “falling apart,” perhaps its arising is an invitation into greater integration, wholeness, and well-being? A "coming together." Often our difficult emotions signal a way in which we’ve abandoned ourselves and they’re arising to be acknowledged, welcomed, and allowed back home into the fold.
As we resist the urge to dismiss, fix or seek relief from our emotions, holding them with compassion in the light of our awareness, they can reveal their essence, their gifts. As Rumi says “Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond." It is through this tender meeting that we break open our hearts, thawing the barriers we’ve erected, and enter into the aliveness we’ve been longing for. Here is where we may notice for the first time the vast, open awake awareness we are.
At some point, we realize we’re not the limited beings we’ve taken ourselves to be, defined by our emotional ups and downs. We’re not projects that need fixing or resolution. Our true aliveness is not some inner state that will be found in the future. It is always here and now, unbounded, wildly creative, arising and dissolving, beckoning us to remember who we are.
Picture from WIX