Before the advent of television and the internet, people were content with boring, limited, mundane lives. But today our lives are bombarded with videos and images of the excitement in other peoples’ lives and when we look at our own, it usually looks awfully pale in comparison.
Every one of us has a friend who travels extensively and has spectacular photographs as a testimonial for time well spent. Or that friend who tries a new restaurant or pub every weekend and maybe even gets paid to review. Or that one who whips up delicacy after delicacy, even their children’s lunchboxes looking like they’re straight out of Masterchef. Or that one with the perfect figure/ body, who seems to run every marathon and can do a hundred push-ups. Basically, that one friend who is truly living.
And we wonder. Between my work and home routine, between helping with homework/ changing diapers and navigating traffic and deadlines, how do I find the space and time to fit LIFE in? It is an impossible pursuit, one akin to the moth flying into the flame, for the stress that such a desire causes will in itself ruin one’s health – possibly the one last thing still unaffected.
What is ‘Truly Alive’ Anyway?
As I see it, there are two kinds of people. There are those who collect things, and there are those who collect experiences. There is probably a third category that pines for both, but lets not go there.
Until recently, most people belonged to the former category. Now more and more belong to the second, believing it to be somehow superior to the former. Maybe it is, too – after all, buying a Ferrari does little to truly enhance who you are as a person, but spending a few days volunteering or traveling solo can shift something deep inside.
But there is something common between both these categories of people. They are both chasing, trying to run away from the empty, dreary realities of their lives. They are really no different from you, it is just that their runaway vehicle looks a lot more attractive. If anything, they’re probably a little less ‘alive’ than you are, because their need to fill up their lives with excitement is far greater than yours.
Why complicate ‘truly alive’?
Truly alive is not about how exciting your life is, it is simply how alive you are in every moment. Spiritually unconscious people ‘feel’ alive when awestruck, and errantly confuse that with being alive.
When you feel the flow of water on your skin as you do the dishes, you are being fully alive. You are not, if you are instead preoccupied with thoughts about yesterday or tomorrow. When you are playing with your child and watching his or her every expression instead of looking at your phone, you are being truly alive. When you appreciate the setting sun or that driver who courteously let someone pass as you drive home, instead of cribbing about traffic times, you are being alive. While waiting at the bus stop, if you allow yourself to be captivated by the ‘mundane’ scene life presents to you instead of getting bored, you know that you are truly, truly alive.
The sages and monks sealed themselves inside a little cave for a reason – because when you are really participating, even staring at a dimly lit wall is a blissful, magical experience.
Stop trying to run after experiences. Be truly alive, participate in every moment, no matter how boring or routine your mind might claim it to be. It is after all, the only way to live!