When Do You Feel Most Alive?

Throughout the month of December, every once in a while, I’m going to post a transcript of a previous podcast (for those of you more inclined to read than listen).  The question that heads each post is for you to answer in your heart.  You might find these mental and emotional excursions a safe and quiet haven in the hustle and bustle of the holidays.  I hope so anyway.

Today’s post comes from the podcast entitled When Do You Feel Most Alive?

What are your dreams?  What are you most passionate about?  When do you feel the most alive?  Do you want to be doing what you’re doing right now for the rest of your life?

In response to the question of when you feel the most alive, you may refer to some sort of physical high while running or hiking or swimming.  You may refer to an incredible emotional experience like your son or daughter being born, or a personal goal being met.  You may refer to some sort of euphoria caused by nature: stargazing, picnicking, wave watching, a walk in the forest.  Maybe it’s something internal, like the wellbeing that’s created by volunteering or giving or listening to music or meditating or singing or cooking.

Stories are the best way to illustrate a point, so today I’ll be using Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist.  The story is about a young shepherd who goes to seek his treasure.  Along the way, he gets waylaid multiple times—to his extreme frustration.  At each turning point, he has to choose—to go forward or to go back.  In the end, one of the greatest truths of all time bursts forth, off the page and into your lap, and you, through him, realize the great fundamental truth of anyone’s life.  [This is the part I cannot give away, since it would ruin the book for you.]

I’ll say this much.  The shepherd boy is, in essence, trying to find what he was meant to do in this life—something called his Personal Legend in the book.  In the course of finding our Personal Legend (what we were set on earth to do), we will find that the world around us conspires to help us.  We might find doors opening, people to lead us, events happening…to aid our way.  This tells us that we are on the right track.  At the moment of greatest discovery, we can expect to go through great difficulty, because it is then we will be tested, and we’ll have to remember everything we ever learned, in the course of our journey.

In other words, it’s about the journey, not the “goal.”  It’s about living life, not just “getting there.”

I’ll add something else.  I believe there are many ways to our dreams, although some paths are harder than others.  An example: I believe that, although I love my husband very much, I could have been happy with another man.  I just happened to find Dan first.  [The same goes for Dan.  He could have been just as happy with another woman.]  I would have had a vastly different life with this other man, and my relationship would have led me down a dissimilar path.  But it wouldn’t have been wrong or right.  It simply would have been unique to us.

The same is true for your path.  You’ll find that your greatest sorrows and burdens were vehicles to make you stronger, teach you something.  You wouldn’t be the same person today without them.  [Usually, you can only say this on the “other” side of pain.]

Our protagonist, the shepherd boy, meets a camel driver on his journey.  The camel driver offers up some words of wisdom: “…People need not fear the unknown if they are capable of achieving what they need and want.  We are afraid of losing what we have, whether it’s our life or our possessions and property.  But this fear evaporates when we understand that our life stories and the history of the world were written by the same hand.”

Later, the boy meets an alchemist who tells him to listen to his heart.

The boy says, “You mean I should listen, even if it’s treasonous?”

“‘Treason is a blow that comes unexpectedly.  If you know your heart well, it will never be able to do that to you.  Because you’ll know its dreams and wishes, and will know how to deal with them.’

“‘You will never be able to escape from your heart.  So it’s better to listen to what it has to say.  That way, you’ll never have to fear an unanticipated blow.’

“The boy continued to listen to his heart as they crossed the desert.  He came to understand its dodges and tricks, and to accept it as it was.  He lost his fear, and forgot about his need to go back to the oasis, because, one afternoon, his heart told him that it was happy.  ‘Even though I complain sometimes,’ it said, ‘it’s because I’m the heart of a person, and people’s hearts are that way.  People are afraid to pursue their most important dreams, because they feel that they don’t deserve them, or that they’ll be unable to achieve them.  We, their hearts, become fearful just thinking of loved ones who go away forever, or of moments that could have been good but weren’t, or of treasures that might have been found but were forever hidden in the sands.  Because, when these things happen, we suffer terribly.’

“‘My heart is afraid that it will have to suffer,’ the boy told the alchemist one night as they looked up at the moonless sky.

“‘Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself.  And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second encounter with God and with eternity.’

“‘Every second of the search is an encounter with God,’ the boy told his heart.  ‘When I have been truly searching for my treasure, every day has been luminous, because I’ve known that every hour was a part of the dream that I would find it.  When I have been truly searching for my treasure, I’ve discovered things along the way that I never would have seen had I not had the courage to try things that seemed impossible for a shepherd to achieve.’”

Are you listening to your heart?  Is your heart afraid?  Can you reassure it?

Sit a moment.  Ask your heart what it wants.  Allow it to speak, then listen.  As you’re doing your chores and errands today, cajole it into answering the questions, “What is it that you desire?  What is your passion?”

Some day, hopefully soon, you’ll hear an almost inaudible whisper coming from the center of your breast, “I want to….”

Listen with all your might.

[Post image: Dew 2 by JosephHart on stock.xchng]

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