“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest”
Chodron, American Tibetan Buddhist Nun
These are the words from Chodron’s book When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times. She writes about how her own psyche and soul intersect on her journey of learning to experience all of life fully and completely. She gratefully acknowledges her venerable teacher Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche who taught her that “chaos in life should be regarded as extremely good news.”
Joseph Campbell, American mythologist, writer and lecturer suggested that we are not searching for the meaning of life; we are searching for the experience of being fully alive.
And Ken Davis, who authored a book entitled Fully Alive writes “A comfortable life is not the path to being fully alive. It’s a ticket to boredom and despair.”
I have to say I find more than a measure of truth in what all of these insightful people are saying.
We are living in a time and culture in the western world and elsewhere where power, profit, performance, productivity, and perfectionism are collectively placed on an ideological pedestal. These ideals as a metric for feeling good is a set-up. To use them as a barometer for self-worth or capacity for feeling happy is a recipe for disappointment, despair and disillusionment.
Most of us can relate to feeling the pressure to conform on some level to the above. Understandably, we are longing for ways to feel relief and release from the pressure of not enough. Not enough money, not enough power, not enough time, not enough love, etc.
Over time this not enoughness makes us feel dead, or at the very least, numb inside. Maybe this is why growing percentages of Americans are on anti-depressant and/or anti-anxiety medications, not to mention the plethora of addictions ranging from alcohol to recreational drugs to gambling and shopping, just to name a few. We are yearning to feel truly alive.
The operative word here is feel. If we are meant to experience life in its fullest – and I believe that we are – then that includes all of life. Not just the joy, laughter, and elation of success but also the chaos, the unknown, the uncomfortable emotions, the loneliness. As Zorba the Greek once declared: Life is about embracing The Full Catastrophe!
So maybe when we are continually “being thrown out of our nest per Pema Chodron’s metaphor, we are given the opportunity to experience life completely and fully awake.
In being willing to do this, we continue to grow and expand ourselves, learn to open our minds and hearts, and ultimately discover the exhilaration that comes from accepting everything in life – thoroughly feeling the highs, lows, and everything between to experience the freedom of being fully alive.
To understand this truth we only need to look to the innocent children we adore. When still young and unencumbered by the conditioning of their culture and family of origin, they unabashedly sing, dance, are present to each moment with curiosity, wonder, and enchantment. They cry when they are in need or in pain, they sleep when tired, they eat when hungry. They excitedly anticipate new experiences. They do not yet have a pathological fear of the unknown. They know how to be present to and feel all aspects of their emerging new world.
May we choose to resurrect the instinct of the child that lives in all of us.