How Alive are You?
We mostly tend to think of the term "alive" as an absolute state with no variation, alive as in "not dead." But it's a gradation. There are days when we feel expansive and connected, awake. And then there are the other kind of days. The ones in which you feel so much stress that barely anything is able to pass into your awareness. You might eat an entire meal, then look down at your plate and wonder where the food went (this has happened to me more times than I wish to count). Observing your life through this lens, as though you are always somewhere on this spectrum of aliveness, is a way to gauge the state of your inner experience, which is everything. Inner Experience is Everything I have a very specific memory of being fourteen years old at Easter. I had been going through a period of depression, and I remember looking around at the beautiful sunny day, the lilies all over the house, and the Easter basket my mom had put together for me, it was picture perfect. However I was sitting there in my black sweat pants and olive colored flannel shirt (it was the 90's), and I observed that my inner experience did not reflect at all the perfect outer scene my senses were delivering. It was my first realization that it doesn't matter what's happening out there, it's only what's happening within that counts. If you're miserable inside, who cares if you look amazing and have all the money in the world. Same goes for if you feel bliss inside, who cares if you don't look like you did 20 years ago and are making minimum wage? Prioritizing inward over outward No matter what happens to us in life, we experience it within the bounds of our consciousness. No matter how external the activity, like running a race or winning an Oscar, it is experienced as a combination of body sensations and inner awareness. Since everything is experienced this way, it would be logical to prioritize those activities that go inward directly and therefore most greatly enhance our inner experience (like, I don't know...meditation?) but we often are too conditioned to put our to do list above all else, to prioritize action. What is "aliveness?" That feeling of fully being alive, that is what we meditation teachers call, "Being." It is the layer of self that is One with everything, and to the extent your awareness is at this layer, you feel that vitality. That is why when you feel very awake and alive, you feel so connected, and conversely when you're feeling depressed and dull, you feel disconnected to others and your environment. "Aliveness" does not come from outcomes There is nothing better than feeling the flow of life in your body turned up to eleven, that unstoppable, invincible energy and love for everything around you. However, that experience does not come from the outcomes of action. People do all kinds of things to experience different body sensations (like have sex, jump out of airplanes, eat a Big Mac) or to distract from unpleasant body sensations (scroll unendingly through Instagram, smoke a cigarette, binge Netflix). But that true inner bliss can only come from going inward.
With three small kids, let's just say some days are a bit lacking in vitality.