Empty. Numb. Disconnected. Bored. These are among the most common complaints that permeate people in modern culture, and which I hear every day among my clients and course members. And they all have one thing in common: they're symptoms of being disconnected internally from your innate sense of aliveness.
So how do you feel more alive? Our culture says to do more, buy more, achieve more, succeed more, make more money, buy a bigger house, get out more, find a hobby, find a different job, live your passion. While there may be some truth to a few of these directives, the bottom line is that a full external life will not create internal fullness.
We all know people — perhaps you're one of them — who fall into the cultural trap of more and keep climbing the social, work, and health ladders, hoping that when they reach the top they'll finally feel alive. But it's a grand illusion, because there is no top: there's just another ladder offering another illusion of happiness. They've fallen into the "I'll be happy when ..." trap and, once in the trap, it's hard to find their way out.
What the culture fails to teach is that the road to aliveness is the other way around: when you're filled up internally you will naturally create a full external life. Just like meditation teaches that authentic and inspired doing arises from a still place of being, so the picture we paint on the canvas of life will feel alive when it's an expression of the fullness within.
There are many ways to fill your inner well. The following seven are just a few:
1. Lovingly attend to your physical health.
We start from the bottom up to address our physical health: food, drink, exercise, sleep, and hormones. Each of these has many subcategories, of course, but as a basic starting point ask yourself how lovingly you're attending to each of these areas. Just like a child doesn't feel balanced if he hasn't had enough sleep or is eating too much sugar, so you will have a hard time accessing your vitality if your physical body isn't getting what it needs.
2. Don't be afraid of moving through old grief and pain.
Many people squash down the pain they felt early in life to the point where what's left is numbness. In order to unleash the river of aliveness that is directly connected to your ability to feel the full range of your feelings, you have to be willing to pull the cork off your heart and allow old, unshed grief to surface and move through. I can write about this easily in two sentences, but for many people this is the work of a lifetime and requires the skilled guidance of a loving therapist to hold the space and lead the way.
3. Seek out nourishing, intelligent sources of information.
Sadly, we're sold a bill of goods when it comes to forming beliefs around love, sexuality, attraction, health, partnership, friendship, spirituality and death. These cognitive distortions often lead to anxiety, which then leads to emotional shutdown and deadness. One of the pathways back to aliveness includes replacing these falsehoods with the truth, which often means stepping away from Google, mainstream movies, and pop psychology and reading solid, well-researched books instead.
4. Maintain, or reconnect to, a sense of spirituality.
When we don't have a connection to something bigger than ourselves — whether that's nature, a higher power, or our own highest self — we tend to feel empty, alone and scared inside. Cultures from the beginning of time have created myths and rituals to help people anchor into a sense of meaning and purpose, as without them it's frightfully easy to feel like a speck of dust floating adrift in a vast universe. Full aliveness includes finding a spiritual path that feels right for you.
5. Develop a healthy concept of your sexuality.
Healthy sexuality begins with you as an individual. Most people carry unhealthy blueprints about their sexuality that include shame and unworthiness, and then they attempt to use sexuality as a way to feel alive and validate their worth. Two empty people trying to fill up through sex actually creates more emptiness. The healing work is to learn to love your own body first, and from that place of aliveness to share sacred sexuality with a loving partner.
6. Rest and play.
There can be no doubt that we live in a work-obsessed society. Unlike many South American cultures that include a siesta in the middle of their workday and follow the dictum of work to live, in America we live to work. This mentality is not really living, and it doesn't create aliveness. We need rest and play. We need to have fun. We need to get away from screens and into fresh air and real life. We need to tumble in the grass and swing across a river on a rope. We need to stop in the middle of the day just to be, instead of filling up every available time slot with things to do. This is what makes us feel alive.
7. Get out into nature.
There are few faster medicines to connect us to a sense of aliveness than to spend time in nature. Nature is the great elixir, the untouched, wild realm that reminds us of our own essential goodness. If you could spend an hour a day in true nature, walking barefoot in grass or lying on a bed of leaves staring at the clouds, you would effortlessly start to feel more alive.
Sound like hard work? Yes, it's not easy finding balance and aliveness as a human being. But take it slow and be gentle with yourself. Even addressing one of these areas will help bring life to the numb places inside of you and set you on a path toward the aliveness that is your birthright.