What is Fully Alive?
“Once the soul awakens, the search begins and you can never go back. From then on, you are inflamed with a special longing that will never again let you linger in the lowlands of complacency and partial fulfillment.”
~ John O’Donohue
A couple of weeks ago on a Friday afternoon, I was sitting at the table prepping for the opening night of Fully Alive: Unveil Yourself through Conscious Dance, Yoga and Mindfulness workshop at Esalen Institute. In my journal, I was writing the question over and over again “What is Fully Alive?” and pondering and contemplating what does it really mean. When suddenly I was hit by an intense wave of sadness and I felt a hollowing and aching sensation around my heart. I was surprised by the emotion and sensation and even more surprised when out of the blue I said to myself, “I miss my parents’ voice.” I long to hear them say my name in Cantonese.
There was an intense tugging of my heart. I felt an energetic extension outward towards somewhere in the ether and at the same time felt the origin of that energy rooted in the bottom of my heart. That tug sometimes got more intense as the energy reached out further, searching and stretching to make some connections. And sometimes the tug seemed to be at peace as it stood still, pausing as if to catch its breath. And after moments of experiencing a few repetitions of reaching and pausing, I broke down and cried. “Longing is so alive,” I said. I forgot that I could feel such pain from longing for someone.
When I allow myself to be cracked wide open momentarily and feel the vulnerability of losing control and losing people I love, the experience is so vibrant, and liberating. There seems to be an infinite spaciousness to just feel and be. I wonder perhaps at my death knowing that I’m about to lose control of my life and lose the people I love, I would remember to let go, swim into the depth of that vulnerability, and feel the liberation and infinite spaciousness to what death has to offer. That evening when I asked the question “What is fully alive?” to the group, one of the participants said, “It is to feel death.” The thought of being fully alive while dying is a breath of fresh air.
As human beings, we are capable of feeling a vast range of emotions. So many times, we may want to avoid or fast forward unpleasant feelings like sadness, missing someone, angry, jealousy, or the thought of death. Yet to be fully alive is to show up and greet everything that comes our way… the good, the bad, and the ugly. And to use our aliveness to see clearly that these things we label as good, bad, and ugly are ultimately coming from the same source – our longing for love. To be fully alive invokes our courage to let go of the safety net, free fall, and dive fiercely into the ether to meet life with all of ourselves, nothing more and nothing less.
Here’s a collage of “bumper stickers” phrases that came out from the Fully Alive workshop at Esalen Institute.