Thursday, 24 September 2009

When do you feel most alive?

I love the gift of coincidence in any part of my life. I think it is something I have got better at noticing and accepting as I have got older - and it seems to obey the natural laws that the more I notice it, the more it seems to happen.

This week's gift was started by Michael Neill and his geniuscatalyst newsletter ( that invariably marks the start of my week on a Monday morning.

In it, he was describing the application of an Ockham's Razor type of approach to coaching questions.  One such question that emerged, stripped down to just its vest and absolute simplicity, was "What would make you feel most alive?"

The concept of "aliveness" is a powerful part of The Human Element teachings of Will Schutz, so this question found a cozy nest in my head while I read the newsletter briefly, then got on with the rest of my day.

Later in the week, I was having an introductory coaching conversation with a client. Things were moving along in an ok direction, but I was feeling that something was missing from the mix. Everything was kind of vanilla, beige and careful and I wanted to see what it could be like with some of the zest and zing of passion.

Apathy and excuses are a form of defence after all and our defences keep us locked in assumptions about ourselves, so I was getting curious about what was underneath. Then, the question popped into my awareness - so I asked it...

"When do you feel most alive?"

There was silence and then ... transformation. Eyes sparkled, complexion changed colour and facial expression lit up. A totally different, vibrant, exciting, excited, energised, colourful, authentic person described the circumstances and the feeling.

The question provided a direction and pathway from wherever he /she was currently and habitually, to where they most want and deserve to be. (And boy, do I want to be there in the cheering crowd when they get there.)

I was reminded, once again, how completely energy-sucking it is to work in a way that doesn't value our individual genius and how feeling alive immediately connects us with our own talented brilliance. It makes things easy, creates energy and feels light, playful and spontaneous.

Surviving is just not the same thing as thriving and existing is not the same as being alive - but we can spend a lifetime kidding ourselves that they are.

Waking up to the difference is the first step to - literally - staying alive.

So, my question is - when do you feel most alive?

1 comment:

  1. When do I feel most alive?

    My first response to Hilary’s question was to go back in time to locate experiences during which I felt totally present in Being-for-myself.

    I feel most alive when I’m...

    ● listening to a Beethoven symphony and becoming the sound of it
    ● really really really listening to what somebody else is saying
    ● presenting an idea to a group when I’m completely on the inside of what I’m saying
    ● watching a sunset (or a sunrise)
    ● going at 100mph on a clear straight road on my motorbike
    ● writing a poem
    ● taking part in a musical improvisation (conducting it even)
    ● reading before dawn
    ● star-gazing
    ● mowing the lawn

    I could go on... In fact just the experience of concocting this list makes me feel very alive all of a sudden! To anchor myself back into these things makes me feel alive (as opposed to dead) since my feeble brain can’t tell the difference between real and recall (‘C’ for Colin interposes itself in the word ‘real’ to get ‘recall’...)

    I look up out of the window at the silver birch gone golden with autumn and suddenly feel even more alive, if that were possible.

    Then I go into another question: what do all these experiences have in common? And the answer hits me like a blast of warm air in an Underground tunnel (at Leicester Square, as it might be—that too makes me feel very alive!).

    In each case I find myself in a state of what Gurdjieff/Ouspensky called ‘Self-remembering’—as though I were to have said to myself suddenly, “This is me here now being me here now...!”

    And then I realise that when I first considered Hilary’s question, diving straight in for specific events, the ones when I imagine I feel most alive, I had forgotten this—my habitual mantra— “This is me here now being me here now...!”—which I use to make myself feel very in touch with the universe, no matter what I’m doing or when I’m doing it.

    The knack is, perhaps, to be in two places at once: to be in ‘real’ and ‘recall’ and then in the gap between; to be in what Hilary calls ‘energy-sucking experiences’ and getting your eyes to ‘sparkle’ and then having them both come together in a moment of ‘Self-remembering’...

    On the other hand, just thinking of any one of my specific examples (whistling a bit of Beethoven, for example) enlivens me no matter what the external circumstances are.

    What does Will Schutz say?