“It is not a measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”
~ Jiddu Krishnamurti
from Latin, vitalitas, from vitalis “pertaining to life.”
As spiritual writers know, it can be challenging to hang language on the ineffable. Vitality is one of those concepts that can only be experienced viscerally, and usually first through its opposites.
To experience light, we first have to wade through darkness.
To experience the throb of vitality, we first have to toil in lethargy, illness, indolence and depression.
What vitality is, really, is evidence that we’re breaking free of the past. From old patterns and fears. Then love can pour into love and we can fall in love with the whole human experience; the despair and the grace.
There is no effort required necessarily. Gravity will gather what is us back to our center, and allow what is not us to fall away. It’s just a matter of noticing where we’re resisting. Complete the resistance. Then we can rest and be full (and empty).
This may just be the delusions of a lovestruck poet, but to me, love and vitality are entwined together.
Because, if we think about it, what stands between us and vitality is probably a love wound of some kind. I’m going to ask you to broaden your definition of love for a moment so that even a car accident or a broken tooth could be the residue of an old or even an ancient love wound. And many of those are recapitulations of birth trauma, the most primal wound born of love.
It’s all a matter of allowing a pattern to complete so we can close the loop.
If we need to heal the father wound, maybe we’ll sit drunk for 10 years, numbing the agony of never feeling loved by a father, who was numbing the agony of never feeling loved by his, who was numbing the pain of losing his family in a revolution or a holocaust etc.
Or, step beside time and walk directly into the memory. Decades, centuries of suffering unravel in 10 intense minutes. Generations atoned for.
Remember falling love the first time? Tumbling headlong down a dark tunnel. The fall was exhilarating and terrifying at once. Maybe we fell forever. Maybe we’re still falling.
The rest of us crashed somewhere and woke up, broken, stirring among the wreckage of illusions and shattered dreams. Or we’re still waking up.
Our hearts were pursued, cradled, tenderized, cracked, destroyed. Finally it ossified where the cracks were. Maybe our hearts, once pliant like the green sapling, are now more stone than heart.
We can’t mourn what is right in front of us. We can’t lose what was never ours.
So this whole process, exquisitely painful, heart-wrenchingly beautiful, serves another purpose; to churn up of layers of illusion into a froth we can’t ignore. That’s where we are now, right? In the froth we can’t ignore?
Falling in love with the human experience doesn’t occur in quite the same way. At least not for most of us. For most of us, it becomes a deliberate journey; gingerly stepping barefoot from river stone to river stone; methodically exploring what it means to be alive and, conversely, what it means to die.
This journey happens outside of time. Live too fast, and we’ll walk right by it.
Slow down, and we’ll begin to discover, remember, or create the rituals that help us touch our deepest truth directly. For some of us, they’re the rituals we’ve been practicing all along; we just need to embrace them. Others may need to heed the call of the wild to discover their own sacred ritual. Maybe it’s to walk right up the north face of the Himalayas, or visit a drum circle in Haiti, or sit in Zazen for five years in Kyoto or our closets.
The gateway to vitality is a courageous paradigm shift. Instead of curling up where we are, curling away from life, we begin to demand rapture now, not only in this lifetime, but in this moment.
As soon as we make this shift, we’ll notice the cannons coming into focus. Entire empires, cultures, religions have been arrayed against vitality and embodiment for centuries. Just get by, they admonish. Survive. Be a cog in the wheel. A sheep. Someday, we’ll feel better. Maybe. If we don’t stir up too much trouble.
Maybe give a nod to Saint Augustine for his piety and powers of persuasion. And then flash a defiant smile down the barrel of a cannon.
I’d rather see us incite a passionate riot in the heart that is so contagious, so undeniable that even in the middle of winter, wildflowers bloom in our wake and the witness feels our heat. A veritable fire that passes from mouth to mouth with a kiss. A primal dance that thunders through our bones and vibrates into the bones of our children and ancestors.
Can we experience the explosion of a flower leaning in the wind, silken petals gleaming in the sun? Lean in with our body and whisper “I am in love with you.” Get so close the petals tickle our breast.
We’re not a witness to this beloved act of creation … that’s the illusion. We are the flower, and the flowers are us. That’s the path of vitality.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice Editor: Guenevere Neufeld / Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: Flickr / Marina del Castell