How can I feel more alive?

More alive

Here is some advice from the 13th century on how to feel more alive in yourself.

“Do not look back, my friend
no-one knows how the world began
Do not fear the future, nothing lasts forever
If you dwell on the past or the future
You will miss the moment”
(Rumi, a 13th century Sufi poet.)

Feel more alive to the moment

I would say that feeling more fully alive is about ‘being in the moment’. Being clearly aware of what is going on now. This is usually called living more mindfully. Giving your mind to the people around you, what they say and do, as well as what is going on in yourself. It is claimed that this attitude slowly creates a sense of harmony, peace and contentment and reduces any feeling drained by the stress of time. In other words feeling more alive in yourself.

Feel more alive from the child within

The spontaneity of young children suggests they have no problem with time. Often adults suffering dementia are much happier when the emphasis is on the present – no pressure to struggle to remember things or make conversation based on recalled facts and information — just being in the moment. However all of us can give attention to what is taking place in the present through less attachment to what is observed. Being energized by the business of life instead of wishing things were different.

How not to feel more alive

Acting mindlessly is the opposite of the ancient Eastern world idea of mindfulness. Behaving mindlessly is thoughtlessly letting the mind wander without due care and attention to what is going on around. Sometimes, much of our anxiety or fear is a result of focusing our thoughts on the future — or the past — and forgetting to be present here in this moment. Right here, in this very moment, those things may not need or deserve our attention.

So what are the signs of mindlessness? It could be when you break or spill things because of carelessness, not paying attention, or thinking of something else. It could be arriving somewhere without having paid attention to what was experienced along the way. Or for that matter doing anything in ‘automatic mode’ like having a snack without being much aware of what you are eating.

Do you allow yourself to be bombarded by telephone, emails, radio, or television? If so, you are probably being swayed by this or by that, and the demands of the world. Often things occupy our thoughts that should be of less concern because one cannot do anything about them. Yet they can start to mindlessly emotionally control your life without you realising it – concern about things beyond your control, irritation about the attitudes of others, worry about the events over the horizon.

How to feel more alive to the here and now

Becoming more mindful is becoming more conscious of how you respond to the myriad of situations you find in ordinary life.

Those who teach mindfulness talk about focusing one’s attention on the ‘here and now’, by maintaining one’s objectivity, and not jumping to conclusions.

Specifically this means:

* Being  fully aware of what is happening rather than restricting one’s attention to just one part of it.
* Dealing with the immediacy of the current situation, rather than possible futures or the past.
* Adopting an attitude of curiosity towards what is going on and also towards one’s own unthinking response.
* Observing one’s emotions
* Noticing one’s thoughts (however fleeting)
* Reflecting on the assumptions one brings to the situation
* Paying attention to what’s behind your actions without getting lost in your feelings
* Not being distracted or biased by seeing things in terms of one’s own mood or needs but trying to see what is going on through the eyes of others.
* Being open-minded without leaping to judgment
* Being honest about your own mistakes and those of others without blaming.
* Suspending judgment by using working hypotheses rather than jumping to conclusions about other people and the situations encountered.
* Pausing and observing without immediately reacting to frustrating situations.
* Being patient with yourself and others.
* Accepting things as they are without denying or avoiding them and trying to force them to be different.

Feel more alive through meditation

To adopt a mindful disposition can be greatly helped by regularly practising a spiritual discipline. Start off practising mindfulness by yourself away from the ‘maddening crowd’. I would suggest that the obvious way forward is ‘mindfulness meditation’ when one can learn to discipline the mind. But I feel that other spiritual practices that people use also are important such as reading sacred writing in a reflective manner, or praying in an honest way to one’s personal God.

According to spiritual philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg, becoming more inwardly alive is having an illuminating perception that transcends time-bound concerns. This is a deeper awareness of what is inspiring, uplifting, creative, illuminating, fortunately co-incidental, and loving.

I identify this as the ‘Divine within’. It means learning to trust in what Swedenborg calls the ‘stream of providence’ instead of trusting in oneself. This is similar to Eckhart Tolle’s idea in his book, The Power of Now, that  ordinary consciousness is a ‘false self’ with its incessant mental noise which prevents awareness of an inner realm of stillness. The deeper self really is possible to find when the individual starts to focus on the present moment.

My conclusion is that by engaging with our deeper selves we become more spiritually alive.

Copyright 2012 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

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