December 9, 2013

The Difference Between Living & Being Alive.

As I sit on my knees, laying my body forward and bowing humbly to the earth, tears begin to effortlessly graze the sides of my cheekbones.

I feel a slight pulsating of my heart, a tingling cringe in my upper thighs, and a swirling sensation at the base of my core. I turn my head from side to side and I hear a slight creek and crack as the knots in my upper back spread to my shoulders.

I attempt to pull myself up quickly but I stay, finding refuge in the internal tornado of what appears to be a breakdown. Amongst the knots, the cracks, and the cringes, I feel my heart screaming loudly at me; so loud that I cannot help but listen with a sort of desperate curiosity.

In the same way a starving body craves food, my heart is screaming for my attention. It is beating at me like fists to a punching bag, and weeping for me like a baby to her mother.

Stop hiding from me!

Stop burying me beneath a pile of worthless psychobabble!

Stop ignoring me! Please, please, please… it begs, it calls, it howls.

My heart begs to be ignited; lit with a fueling fire, embraced by passion and power.

I have found myself here before, but never quite like this. I have recognized a tug-of-war between my heart and my head, but never felt a literal pull from my soul like I am now.

I have never felt so humble, yet so hungry all at once. I have never seen so much clarity while experiencing such intense levels of confusion. In a state of seemingly permanent inner chaos, my entire being is calling to me with a craving for something, somewhere, to bring me closer to a feeling of alive-ness.

Alive-ness: What it feels like to be fully alive, while living.

Alive-ness: Waking up to the calling and the pulling from the soul, to do just that–wake up.

Maybe this is what a “spiritual awakening” feels like.

Maybe, just maybe, I’m in pre-breakthrough, mid-breakdown.

I remember the night I booked my flight to Bali and the exact seated position I sat in while anxiously doing so.

Two of my closest friends sat beside me with invisible pom-poms, cheering me on, encouraging me to take the plunge, click “confirm,” and take a chance on adventure. In just three weeks I would travel from Cleveland to San Francisco, San Francisco to Taipei, and Taipei to Denpasar, Indonesia for a yoga retreat titled, “Journey of the Spirit,” which seemed perfect for me.

I would delve into “soul-awakening” topics such as cultivating self-compassion, practicing forgiveness, and accessing vulnerability. I would be with a group of people I didn’t know in a place I had always dreamed of, always viewing it as magical. The retreat itself intrigued me, and my heart, much like this very moment, was asking for a wake up call.

I wasn’t going to Bali to relax, do yoga, and play with monkeys as much as I was going to Bali on a quest to discover; I was on a search but not entirely sure what for.

Looking back on this moment, a little over one year ago, I subconsciously believed that this Balinese journey would be the answer to many of my questions and that the “life-changing experience” would spark an intensely rich form of healing that would allow me to live happy, healthy, and fully.

I expected to arrive back in the U.S. feeling more alive and inspired than I ever had before. Let’s just say that my hopeful wake-up call ended up being more of a painful, not-in-the-least-bit-relaxing, reality check.

For this I am grateful.

Today, as I felt my heart drop to the earth, my hands in a very tight prayer in front of me, I felt many of the sensations I had while I booked my initial flight to Bali. I felt a similar level of desperation and a familiar desire to jump off the diving board and do something “courageously” extreme.

I’m not the best swimmer, but the urge to dive into the deep end has always been there, finding a sense of pride in working through struggle as I doggy-paddle my way back to level ground. I struggled my way through a two-week experience in Bali, despite the beauty and undeniable magic around me. I searched and searched, waiting for that defining moment when a breakdown would transform into a breakthrough, and in the search, the dive, whatever you want to call it, I plummeted.

I took off with a desire to find something and feel anything but came home feeling just as lost as ever. Now, over one year later, I see that it’s called a journey for a reason.

There is no “defining moment” that suddenly sparks a sense of alive-ness (yes, I think I made this word up), and there is a profound difference between living and being alive.

Ironically, today, bowing humbly to the earth, letting the tears effortlessly graze the sides of my cheekbones, feeling the pulsating of my heart, the cringe in my upper thighs, and the swirling sensation at the base of my core, I felt more alive than I have in a long time. I felt my heart screaming again and instead of running from it, I listened in stillness.

The beauty of a breakdown is that it offers us the chance to break through. I always thought the breakthrough just happened, but the true breakthrough, or “awakening,” happens in the sitting with, the listening to, and the sharing of the heart.

Sometimes it doesn’t take diving into the deep-end to get there, but rather, simply, keeping the head above water without a struggle to gasp for air. The heart always knows what it needs.

I’m working on listening to it, and in doing so, I come alive.

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Assistant Editor: Brenna Fischer/Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo: elephant archives

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