The difference between living and being alive

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The difference between living and being alive

As I sit on my knees, laying my body forward and bowing humbly to the earth, tears begin to effortlessly graze the sides of my cheekbones.

I feel a slight pulsating of my heart, a tingling cringe in my upper thighs, and a swirling sensation at the base of my core. I turn my head from side to side and I hear a slight creek and crack as the knots in my upper back spread to my shoulders.

I attempt to pull myself up quickly but I stay, finding refuge in the internal tornado of what appears to be a breakdown. Amongst the knots, the cracks, and the cringes, I feel my heart screaming loudly at me; so loud that I cannot help but listen with a sort of desperate curiosity.

In the same way a starving body craves food, my heart is screaming for my attention. It is beating at me like fists to a punching bag, and weeping for me like a baby to her mother.

Stop hiding from me!

Stop burying me beneath a pile of worthless psychobabble!
Stop running!

Stop ignoring me! Please, please, please… it begs, it calls, it howls.

My heart begs to be ignited; lit with a fueling fire, embraced by passion and power.

I have found myself here before, but never quite like this. I have recognized a tug-of-war between my heart and my head, but never felt a literal pull from my soul like I am now.

I have never felt so humble, yet so hungry all at once. I have never seen so much clarity while experiencing such intense levels of confusion. In a state of seemingly permanent inner chaos, my entire being is calling to me with a craving for something, somewhere, to bring me closer to a feeling of alive-ness.

Alive-ness: What it feels like to be fully alive, while living.

Alive-ness: Waking up to the calling and the pulling from the soul, to do just that–wake up.

Maybe this is what a “spiritual awakening” feels like.

Maybe, just maybe, I’m in pre-breakthrough, mid-breakdown.

I remember the night I booked my flight to India and the exact seated position I sat in while the plane strained upwards. It took 9 months to travel from Goa to Nepal and I lost so many things along the way.

I delved into “soul-awakening” topics such as cultivating self-compassion, practicing forgiveness, and accessing vulnerability. I engaged with groups of people I didn’t know in places I had always dreamed of. I looked for answers in ashrams, in gurus, saw glimpses in the eyes of young children on the way to Varanasi. I went to India on a quest, to discover something uncertain, convinced it would spark an intensely rich form of healing that would allow me to live a courageously full life.

India was hard, I ended up in a Nepalese opium den where I grew a beard and wrote a bad book. When friends eventually found me, I could see the well meaning concern in their eyes as they ushered me towards a hot shower and a pair of scissors.

For this I am grateful.

Today, twenty two years later as I felt my heart drop to the earth, my hands in a very tight prayer in front of me, I felt many of the sensations I had while I hiked free in the Himalaya . I felt a similar level of desperation and a familiar desire to jump off the diving board and do something “courageously” extreme.

I’m not the best swimmer, but the urge to dive into the deep end has always been there, finding a sense of pride in working through struggle as I find my way back to level ground. I have searched and searched, waiting for that defining moment when a breakdown would transform into a breakthrough, and in the search, the dive, whatever you want to call it, I have plummeted, often.

I took off with a desire to find something and feel anything but came home feeling just as lost as ever. Now, all this time later, I see that it’s called a journey for a reason.

For me, there has been no singular “defining moment” that suddenly sparked a sustainable sense of being fully alive (like one sees in classic Bollywood movies), although I can certainly recognize the profound difference between living and being alive.

Ironically, today, bowing humbly to the earth, letting the tears effortlessly graze the sides of my cheekbones, feeling the pulsating of my heart, the cringe in my upper thighs, and the swirling sensation at the base of my core, I felt more alive than I have in a long time. I felt my heart screaming again and instead of running from it, I listened in stillness.

The beauty of letting go of the ceaseless chattering of mind is that it offers us the chance to break through. I always thought the breakthrough just happened, but the true breakthrough, or “awakening,” happens in the sitting with, the listening to a deeper core space, beyond mind.

Sometimes it doesn’t take diving into the deep-end to get there, but rather, simply, keeping the head above water without a struggle, gently sipping air.
The heart always knows what it needs.

I’m working on listening to it, and in doing so, I come alive.

About the author

Jamie Elkon

The author can be found rummaging through life looking for nourishment in the early hours of the morning. He is slowly going sane by using his actual life and relationships to wake up.He lives in Cape Town with his teenaged daughter, two bassett hounds named Thelma and Louise and Digit... the cat. He hugs trees, has experienced numerous dark nights of the soul, collects incorrect Chinese packaging and tracks curious things to their lair.

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