Spirituality & Health Magazine

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Wed, April 13 2016

How to Feel Fully Alive Right Now (You Wouldn’t Expect This Answer)

Will Donnelly

“Today is your only shot at today. It won't come again.” — Anonymous

How do we make the most of today? Though it can sound like a commercial sound bite, it’s an important ongoing question to ask as we move through life. I’m about to offer you a suggestion on how to make the most of today, and rather than offer you a platitude like “just breathe and be grateful”, this answer will most certainly shock you.

Our personal belief system tends to be the foundation of our life and our well-being. Yet, it’s very easy to get lost down the rabbit hole when we try to make sense of this seriously sensual, stunningly beautiful, horrifically violent and primitive world we all share. There is no way the mind can pin down exactly what is going on here. We change. Life changes. Everything changes. Thus, there is no way anyone can, with any real certainty, say what life is all about while assuming it is the absolute answer for everyone. And for many of us, this uncertainty can and does create getting muddled in fear.

Most, if not all, of us want to believe in something certain. But life is filled with contradiction. For every one belief/opinion that appears solid, there is someone who has walked this earth absolutely certain of the opposite. And this creates an existential dilemma for us. Cutting right to the quick, this divergence in belief is how disagreements start. It is how wars start, and it is how genocide starts. Opposing beliefs can and often do create rancor, and yet without our personal belief system, what are we?

In our pursuit of finding something solid to believe in, many of us get stuck when we try to figure out life’s “meaning”, believing that finding it will give us purpose and allow us to live fully. Yet, life’s “meaning” seems to be a moving target. However, if we were to take a closer look at our motivations and our longings, it might surprise us what we find. Noted mythologist Joseph Campbell, after years of studying mythology, religion, and spirituality, came to the conclusion that humans are not looking so much to find meaning in life, as we are looking for feel fully alive.

Think about that for a moment.

When faced with serious personal illness, or when we lose someone we love to what appears to be a premature death, we are tossed into doubt and we have to wonder — what is Death? And this question (whether we like it or not) takes us directly the it’s “other half” — what is Life?

How many stories have you heard about someone with a critical illness who later is cured and finds true joy in life—they never want to miss another opportunity to feel fully alive and take advantage of all that life has to offer. The real question for us is: Why do we wait? Can we accept our own mortality right now, without the real world drama of having to be diagnosed with a fatal illness?

When we realize this is our only chance, it’s not that other chances won’t be given, it’s just that if we miss this one, we will have missed something essential. We will have lived blindly. We will have missed the very treasure of being alive, of being able to mindfully choose how to direct our lives. This omission comes at a great cost to us, and to our societies at large. So much vast human potential has been lost to the muddled, fear-induced mind.

Paradoxically, when we accept our own mortality, when we finally accept that we are going to die, when that lives in our hearts and we feel it and it cracks us open, finally, finally we are in a position to live fully. Rather than just being a morbid topic, death is actually quite clarifying to life itself. How could it not be? The only truly morbid thing is not being fully alive while we have the chance.

Facing death and mortality brings us directly into the experience of being fully alive. What a paradox. What a drama. What a gift.

Will Donnelly's picture


Will Donnelly is a nationally recognized, certified yoga teacher and writer, and is the author of “Practical Yoga’s Wisdom for Everyday People: Essays & Inspiration for Life" (2017), a compilation of his most popular online essays now available at amazon.com. Will has been a pioneer in the field of yoga, developing Practical Yoga, and co-creating a yoga–reality series for fitTV (Discovery Communications, 2004). As a writer and teacher, Will encourages all students to trust their impulses and find their true voice. Will currently lives in Hawaii, where he leads weekly yoga and writing classes at Kalani retreat center. He also leads several popular Practical Yoga adventure and healing retreats throughout the year. Information on retreats, his book, DVDs and other inspiration to be found at WillsPracticalYoga.com

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