On Feeling Alive 

Dear quarter lives, 

When we speak of feelings, we often refer to the obvious sadness or anger or fear, but there is an important feeling from which all other feelings are born — the feeling of aliveness. And when we speak of the feeling of aliveness, a beautiful distinction is born, one that does not assume our humanity by just being here, but more importantly, by feeling we are here. We are not simply human because we exist, but because we feel we exist. It is the feeling of our here-ness, of our alive-ness, that anchors us to this life and allows us to experience it. I love the idea that our existence is not just mere fact, but rather mere experience. So what does it mean then to exist through our feelings, through our experience, instead of some fact that we are here because we were born. There are many who are born, who are indeed alive because their hearts beat, but who do not feel alive. So what is it then that makes us feel alive if it is not our being alive, and how can we access this feeling of aliveness, that is the foundation of all experience, of all feelings? 

As it is with all other feelings, it is unique to us. Yes, we may call ourselves human, group ourselves into communities, into families, into relationships through which we define ourselves, but when it comes to feelings, one can never really know if any feeling they experience is the same as the next person’s experience of that feeling. And even as best as we use language or visual imagery or music, or whatever it is we use to communicate feelings to one another, the experience of a feeling is always our own. And so, it’s no different with aliveness. So what makes you feel alive is different than what makes me feel alive. And despite that difference, we can all agree that we need to feel alive. Feeling alive, I believe, is all that we need as humans to function, to endure hardship, to experience joy and then be able to let it go. It is the experience of aliveness that I believe has been confused with happiness. Often times, people not just of our time, but of many times past, have been obsessed with the road to happiness. And I must humbly say that this might’ve been an error in either translation or judgement, because it is not happiness that we need but aliveness that we hunger for. Anyone who has been numb to their feelings can tell you that they just crave to feel anything at all, even if it is anger or fear or the more uncomfortable anxiety, but they just want to feel. Feeling, being able to feel, is what really makes us feel like we exist, it is what makes us feel human, it is what makes us feel like we are participating in life, like we are truly embodying our bodies, these beautiful structures that come to life and have meaning because we feel them and when we stop feeling through them, we are severed and separated from the experiential aspect of life, and that is in my own very humble opinion, the only aspect that confirms that we are indeed living. 

So finding our aliveness is vital. It is just as essential as food and water. It is indeed ironic that our aliveness is often brought into question when we are confronted with illness or the death of a loved one. It is when we come into contact with death that it becomes clear that we have not been living. And people try to find their aliveness in many different ways, some have more sex, others get married, some have kids, some quit their jobs, some get divorced, some decide to sell everything they own and travel the world, and others just stay put in their regular environment trying to find life within themselves. There is no formula to feeling alive, there is no one way to feel alive but there certainly is the desire among us all for life and usually when that desire for life fades, that’s when people begin to question why they are even here, what their life means, if they should continue to be alive. It is when we lose our desire to feel alive that we are truly in danger of death. It is the feeling of aliveness that keeps us alive. Again, it is not about the doing of aliveness or things that you think alive people do, but about getting into the feeling of aliveness, it is about becoming it, embodying it. Are you really feeling life? Are you really taking it in? From the smallest everyday things like your cup of coffee or the frustration you feel in traffic to the breeze caressing your skin to the larger joys of graduating or falling in love or to the heart-wrenching grief you feel when a loved one dies. All of this is feeling. And if we stop ourselves from feeling all that we can feel, this is how we disconnect from feeling alive. We often think aliveness is something we have to travel to, to find in sports or exciting things, but aliveness is much simpler, it is with us and within us, it is in the very core of us, always trying to express itself through us, but unfortunately for us, there is much that we confront in life sometimes that causes us to shut the door on our feelings, on the very thing that allows us to experience life. It is unfortunate but it is understandable. I, myself, have been there. In some ways, I still am trying to find my way back to aliveness. It is no easy task to journey back to that which one has forgotten. How do we remind ourselves of that which we do not remember? And re-membering is not an act that solely brings us back together with our pasts. I believe remembering is an act that too brings us forward to our futures and reunites not only our present to the future but our past to the future. And so one’s ability to remember is vital to this process of re-unification with self and with time. Remembering is what brings the flow back into our lives. And feelings need us to be in flow for them to flow through us. So how can one harness then their ability to remember in order to harness their ability to feel?

I think one of the most powerful ways to remember that which has passed or that which is still to come in the future is to imagine it. Our memories of our past are largely imagined, and so are our visions of the future. And so if our ability to imagine informs our ability to remember, then it seems that our ability to imagine is deeply connected with our ability to experience our lives. So if our ability to imagine is behind our ability to experience then could our imagination be in fact all we need to experience our lives and thus feel them? Our ability to imagine gives birth to our ability to hope, to believe, to re-ignite our passions and create the life we would like to experience. Our ability to imagine a different life is what allows us to break down and disassemble the life we want to move away from experiencing. Not only does imagining help us move through life, but the freedom to imagine is itself at the cornerstone of feeling alive. And it has nothing at all to do with your perception of yourself as a creative person or not. It simply is your birthright as is feeling alive. We all need to imagine just like we all need to breathe. Our ability to envision, to see what is not yet physically here, allows us to feel like we are participating in life. And what is feeling alive if not feeling like you are participating in the creation of life. I would like to emphasise that imagination is not a mind activity, it is a whole body activity. It is the bringing on of a feeling but through other means like thinking or envisioning narratives or listening to music, and what these narratives do is help us call in our feelings. And it is these feelings that we have called in through the act of imagining that themselves help anchor that which we have imagined into our lives. So if you can imagine something, that is if you can feel something, you begin to recognise not only that it exists but that it is possible, and you can begin to gage your comfort with that feeling and thus how open you are to that feeling. And not all imagination is pleasant; sometimes we have to imagine that which we fear most so that we can begin to overcome that which we find uncomfortable. Some ancient practices that help us process and get comfortable with the idea of dying involve imagining dying. Buddhism, for one, has many meditations that involve you imagining your own death or the death of your loved ones. So imagining isn’t just to make your dreams happen but imagining helps open us up to feeling the more uncomfortable experiences of living. Being able to imagine what we are moving towards, whether it is pleasant or not, helps protect our access to feeling. It keeps us from shutting out feeling and helps anchor us more deeply to feeling. Furthermore, being able to imagine protects us from falling into the trap of the confused perception that feeling hurts us. It is not feeling that hurts us; it is our rejection of feeling that does. Therefore, our imagination helps us ease into those feelings that we might reject. It helps us feel them but in the intensity we can handle. It helps us work up to experiencing the scary things in life in controlled doses so that we can ourselves gage and stretch and work up to that which we can handle without breaking, just like you would with weights at the gym. So I believe that imagination, in whatever form it takes, helps us to feel our feelings more fully, and thus our lives more deeply. It is through imagining and engaging in this creative act of envisioning that I believe we access our feeling of aliveness. It is through our imagination that we come to realise our power, our co-creative role in this life. For what is aliveness but to feel that the being who is inhaling is you. It is you that is expanding your lungs. It is you that is opening yourself up to life. It is you that is receiving it. It is you too who must let it go when the time comes. So feel it and don’t miss out on this wonderous experience. Feel the inhale, so you can too, feel the exhale.

As always with love and for peace, 


Solutions to decision-making

Dear quarter lives,

As a young child, we were taught at school to follow the rules and do as told. Free-thinkers and rebellious children who feel called to act differently to the rest of the group are deemed troublesome. They are told to behave and do as told and not what they feel. They are told to stop thinking for themselves. Flash forward 10-15 years later, when these very kids enter university and the work force, and all of a sudden they are expected to make big life decisions themselves. Now, they do not have someone telling them what the “right” thing to do is. Now, they must think, feel, and decide for themselves. Sadly, now, after all these years of being trained out of thinking for themselves, they cannot. Now, we have young adults who were taught to disconnect from their natural instincts and inclinations, they were trained to distrust all the signals telling them to do what felt right to them. Now, as grown ups, they cannot decide for themselves. They are so disconnected from that internal source that used to tell them as a child what to do but it is too the very thing they were told was trouble. Now, we have young people who fear their own internal voice because they were told it was bad. No wonder so many of us are afraid to just be ourselves, because our whole lives, ourselves were deemed unacceptable if we deviated from the “norm”.

The reality of the matter is that most of us will fall outside of that box of norms because what are norms really but a random set of silently agreed upon rules and codes of conduct that are specific to a particular group of people, and what is normal somewhere might be completely unacceptable somewhere else just because that’s how the story of those people evolved, and not because there is a singular “best” or “true” version of the human being we must all aspire to become. There are endless possibilities to how a human being can be, but we have limited ourselves to only allowing a select few to express themselves. For authentic humans to exist again, we need to make room for them, not only in our minds but in our societies. We need to encourage differences, instead of condemning them. For our true voices to reveal themselves to us, they need to feel safe to come out. Until they do, they will remain hidden and so long as our voices remain hidden, we will remain hidden. So it is absolutely necessary for us to find our voices if we are to ever find our authentic selves again.

Cultivating that connection with our internal voices is definitely no easy task, but without it, I don’t see how we can ever come to peace with ourselves again. Now whenever you feel daunted by any decision you have to make, reassure yourself that it is not your fault, reassure yourself that it is perfectly normal after all those years of militarised standardised education we were subjected to as young children with very malleable minds to grow up to be adults that struggle deeply with decision-making. Remind yourself that your voice is not lost, even if you can’t hear it clearly right now, you will again someday. That is why we meditate, to cultivate enough stillness, enough silence, to be able to hear that voice we lost so long ago.

Without our own voice guiding us, we shall remain lost, we shall remain afraid, and we will always feel torn apart because we actually were. So to myself, to all the young souls searching for their voice, may you meet again with that sweet beloved you lost. Do not give up on your Self; do not let the silence scare you away. Believe me – you are already living your worst nightmare because there is no greater loss, no greater trauma than to be severed from our Selves. So find your stillness to find your voice and come to peace again.



December 6, 2020 — Sakkara, Egypt

Peace is a lifestyle choice

Dear quarter lives, 

Peace needs practice and practice makes perfect. Peace does not miraculously happen. It is a process that requires much of our attention and intention. It takes time and an enormous amount of trust in ourselves. Peace asks us to trust that it is there with us all along the way. But we never get a glimpse of it until we finally do. And because we don’t feel it until we finally feel safe enough to feel it, we think it is the prize at the end of a spiritual journey. But peace like fear is a lifestyle; one that warrants daily practice and rituals. It is not a prize handed over at the end of a marathon. So like you have your daily exercise routines to get more fit, have a daily peace routine to be more peaceful. Peace, like any other habit you would like to form, will not stay until you repeat it enough times. There are many ways to exercise peace. Meditation is an obvious one, and a magnificent one. But find your own. I would just say, let your breath be your guide, by that I mean whatever helps you stay connected to your breath, do that. Go for a walk. Play an instrument. Spend some time in your garden. Feel the grass. Lie on it. Or perhaps just sit in your balcony or by your window and watch the sky or a bird that you see fly by. Peace is basically a state of awareness that arises from the ability to rest in the moment. Peace comes when you can truly accept every given moment that arises in your life and let it happen without resistance and without trying too hard to make it happen. When you meditate, you are practicing how to rest with your breath, you are learning how to let go of trying so hard to concentrate on your breath while still maintaining a state of active attention and awareness. It is the effort and control that create tension in both our bodies and our minds, so learning how to relax is crucial to attain any sort of peace. And the best way to relax is to breathe well and breathe consciously, by consciously I mean by feeling your breath as it passes in and out of you. You will breathe anyway just as your heart keeps beating, regardless of whether you are living consciously or not. And living consciously is what brings peace, because we are no longer in a reactive state to life, we are relaxed enough to witness life happen and actively participate in it. And with such awareness comes clarity, and if we were ever confused as to what our intentions might be in any given moment, we will soon see so clearly our intentions. When we are conscious of our intentions, then comes our ability to choose them. And when we choose them, we choose how to live. The real choice we have in this life is choosing our intention. We cannot choose our intentions if we are not present to them.

If you are overwhelmed by the idea of peace or doubt its possibility, don’t be discouraged. What you’re feeling is completely natural because much of our beliefs come from experience, and if we’ve never experienced peace it’s very hard to believe it’s possible. So I would suggest you start off very simply by just making a wish or prayer expressing your desire to connect with peace and I guarantee you, your prayers will be answered, maybe not in the way you expect but be open and you will be shown the way. If the road to peace is what you would like to walk, be certain that a guide or teacher best suited for you will show up in your life and offer their teachings. And in those moments, on those crossroads, we must choose wisely, because second chances do come along but they might take another lifetime or so.

I am a source of peace and happiness.

I would like to offer this affirmation to you as a reminder of your inherent peace and joy. To stay on track with your peace practice, like with any other practice, discipline is key. If we do not make time for it, the habit of peaceful being will never form. And lastly dearest quarter lives, be wary of your expectations, your teacher might not be what you might’ve expected them to be. Our teachers are everywhere, and can be absolutely anything, even this ground you stand on. So be generous with your awareness, and begin to feel the spaces around you and within you. Sometimes what is outside right in front of us can be what best guides us inside. 

With so much love and peace,