Thursday, October 17, 2013

Feeling Alive

The afternoon was bright in mid-July.  Warm sunshine dripped through the holes between the clouds.  It was like the sky was a cracked blue and white bowl trickling with golden honey.  As I walked with my yoga bag toward the pavilion at Camp Champion, I looked up and caught myself noticing the vastness above me.  “Spectacular,” I thought, “I’m so glad I looked up.”  I wondered about all the miracles I miss every day.    

It was my third week teaching yoga at the camp.  Like every week, we start class by introducing ourselves and adding how we feel.  Half the class was new to yoga, the others I’ve seen at least once before.  As we went around most of the 9-13 year-olds expressed their usual feelings - happy, tired, curious, excited….etc.  Then it was Lindsey’s turn - the bright-eyed girl who took class every week.  She was the one who was always engaged, raising her hand, demonstrating postures, trying anything.  Confidently she answered, “I’m Lindsey. I’m nine years old and I feel Alive.”

Happiness ran though me with an electric shock that left me stunned.  Impressed by her ability to put depth into words, I quickly realized she named my previous experience.  Glancing up at the cloud-speckled sky, I was completely aware of the present moment, the present experience, and yes!  I felt ALIVE.   Awake and conscious, glimpsing life in its fullness by noticing, sensing and feeling – experiencing a heightened awareness that transcends thinking.  “Yes!” I gasped.  “You feel alive Lindsey?! That’s an amazing sensation.  It’s like feeling and noticing everything beautiful all at once.” 

A child’s innocence gives rise to profound wisdom.  The intuitive insight and creative expression hasn’t had the chance to hide behind society’s expectations or the veils of self-judgment.  This leaves
room for raw and uninhibited truth.  Placing restrictions on our children’s self-expression is one of the worst things we can do as parents.  Telling our children, “That’s silly, Johnny. That could never happen,” or “Impossible, Katie, that’s not for you,” or “You’re not good at math, it would be too hard to be a scientist,” only shrinks their world and gives them permission to stay small. Instead we need to encourage the fullness of their potential by empowering them with the knowledge that their voice is important.  Not only is it important but necessary - for their growth and our own and for the future of our world. 

Run with them and all their outrageous ideas, cultivate outside-the-box thinking and offer them the safety to SHINE. 

Every day I’m humbled with lessons my two daughters and students offer.  When I take the opportunity to notice, the world opens to serve my growth.  Lindsey reminded me of what gets lost when we’re trapped in the narrow confines of our thinking minds.  Retreating beneath our thoughts, the essence of existence gets smothered, missing the experience of truly living.

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”  - Howard Thurman

I asked myself what makes me come alive.  After sitting with this question for a while the answer revealed itself. When I lose myself in thought, I only exist from the neck up – solely in my head, missing the wholeness of life.  Stepping out of the narrow confines of my thinking mind, my essence bares itself and the world shines with radiance.  When I’m in this space, my passions magnify and I experience their joy to the fullest: Motherhood, family, friends, teaching, writing, yoga….and so much more. 

In this space, the simple act of looking up becomes a blessing. 

Ask yourself: What makes you come alive?

Once you've discovered the answer for yourself initiate an interesting conversation with your child and ask what makes him feel alive. You may be surprised at the answer. Many kids will respond without even thinking, some will raise an eyebrow in confusion. If that’s the case ask: “what do you think it feels like to feel alive?” You can give your own explanation to help guide the discussion:  “When I feel alive I feel very calm and peaceful and everything looks beautiful.  That’s how we feel naturally.  When we’re not overloaded with too many thoughts and feelings all jumbled together we can see clearly and feel happy and relaxed.  I feel alive when I’m alone in nature, or when I’m snuggling with you or…..”  

Discovering how your child interprets the notion of 'feeling alive' can offer deep perspective. Keep the door to discovery open by encouraging innovative thinking. How often do we ask such open ended questions?  Questions that leave room for interpretation allow for great opportunity.  

I’d love to know how your child(ren) respond to this question (and I’m sure all the readers would enjoy it as well). It would be fun to read all the brilliant ways our little teachers respond. J 
Note: Please include the age of the child when leaving the comment.  


  1. Valerie, You just gave me a lesson in how I should stop dealing with my 7 year old. She has an amazing mind, and as I sit here and think, I do inadvertently make her think "small" but I know, I know, I have to stop. She is my little "Steve Jobs" Nothing is impossible to her. I hope I can remember this lesson, always in everything I do with her. I am going to ask about "feeling alive" I can't wait to see what she says.

    1. Hi Angela!

      A big thanks for your encouraging response and feedback! Knowing the post inspired you brings me tremendous joy. We all can use reminders and that's what I hope to offer. Feel free to offer your input whenever you have something to add. I encourage others to do the same. I can use reminders as well. Your comments drive the conversation and create added incentive to keep the blog alive ;)

      I asked my six year old what makes her feel alive and she said: "why are you asking me that question right now?" I told her I've been thinking about what makes me feel alive and I was just wondering what made her feel alive. Apparently that was enough because she responded without hesitation. "Taking a bath," she said. Taking it further I asked, "Julia, what do you think it means to feel alive?" Quickly and simply she replied, "Happy."

      Amazing. Children intuitively know. Our natural state of aliveness is to be content, at peace - simply happy. We forget.

  2. Well I will be sure to ask my lovely nieces what makes them feel alive.
    I love your statement about looking up.
    I decided to look more years ago when I was in Grand Central racing for a train. I stopped to catch my breath, looked up and for the first time ever saw that glorious ceiling and all the stars. How many people never saw it that race around each day going to and fro...?
    I realized that not only do we potentially miss much by not looking up, but sideways and down as well...
    What makes me feel alive is everything. There is nothing I am not interested in. The older I get the less I feel so inclined to do.
    (less thinking would be amazing too!) BUT, question asked....I answer:
    vegetables and fruits displayed and all colorful
    the company of a person I love or admire or both and being breathing in the moment with them and LISTENING to what they have to feel/say
    anything to do in any kind of nature
    the company of animals and their innate trust and love they exude
    getting out of the shower and looking at my bedroom from my bathroom and taking in all the colors, and oh how I adore my little house
    GRATITUDE-realizing that it is all we need for each day
    feeling strong and able
    the children in my life and how they make me feel like my best self. NOTHING ELSE matters than the time with them in those moments
    Beautiful Art and the souls and their stories who create that Art
    Funnel Cake
    & Italian Festivals
    xoxoxoxoxoxox Lisa

    1. Lisa - Thank you! It's amazing what can happen when we start contemplating what makes us feel alive. When we're present, we find joy in practically everything. I remember the first time I looked up at Grand Central Station - blew me away. If I wasn't in such a mad rush I would have looked up for hours :) It's so true - all we have to do is open our perspective and the world reveals itself - in all its glorious beauty. We just need to take off the blinders.

      Much gratitude for offering your priceless insight :)