This is a repost of a blog I wrote 7 years ago....on re-reading it I felt it was very pertinent to the current times we are living through.
How many times have you heard (or given) the advice ‘Get a life!’
Often these words are given to someone who is stuck doing things that others judge to be a waste of their time. In this way people who stay at home a lot may be encouraged to ‘get out and meet new people’ or if you are single you may be advised to get out there and meet your perfect partner. If you don’t drink then you might be encouraged to loosen up and have a drink or if you are overly timid you might be advised to try being more adventurous and live a little. The advice to ‘get out there and live your life’ comes in varying packages but the message of each one is clear - life won’t come to you; you have to get out there and make things happen.
It’s as if ‘life’ is out there somewhere waiting for us to grab it in order to start living. We are encouraged to try new things, meet new people, get a hobby, have a holiday, sign up for a class, socialise more and generally just enlarge our experience of life.
But is life just about the things that we get to do?
There is no doubt about it that leading an active life is something we all aspire to. We get a great deal of enjoyment from going out and mixing and talking with others – we are after all social creatures and life deserves to be lived and lived well. There is nothing wrong with seeking out activities to enjoy but what happens when for one reason or another we are no longer able to enjoy the things we have become accustomed to enjoying?
A chance remark got me thinking.
When my father was approaching his 80th birthday but recently his deteriorating health has meant that he is less able to be as active and as mobile as he would like to be. His reduced physical mobility and increasing dependence on support from others has meant that many of the things he used to do he can no longer do. This has been a cause of frustration for him leading him to comment that how he was living wasn’t really living at all. His statement, “This isn’t living is it?” hit me hard.
What did he mean by this? If he wasn’t living then what was he doing? What does living your life look like?
Undoubtedly we experience great fun, pleasure and enjoyment in what we get to do with our lives and yet there is SO much more to living than this.
I allude to this in my poem ‘Life is like the Sea’:
‘But if the waves fail to show
or they disappoint us in some way
it is good to remember
we have the rest of the ocean to enjoy’
In a similar vein the poet Mary Oliver too reminds us of this when she says, ‘Sing if you can sing and if not, still be musical inside yourself.’ (Mary Oliver, Swan: Poems and Prose poems)
What does it mean then to be musical inside or to enjoy the depth of the ocean rather than just the surface activity of the waves?
Surely this is about experiencing ourselves differently. It is about discovering the depth and wholeness of what it means to be human beyond merely the surface expression of our human experience. It is about accessing the life within as much as it is about enjoying the external things of life.
When we let go of our desire to experience life in one way we find that we are opened to a new and even more glorious experience of being alive. Somehow we sense that there is an unseen grace at work that opens up life even as it appears to be shutting it down.
In this way we come to realise that what is commonly understood as ‘getting a life’ is actually only the surface manifestation of life and not the totality of that life, rather like the way the tip of the iceberg is not the whole of the iceberg.
Looking at life in this way helps us to see that our surface life is under pinned and supported by something larger than we see at first glance. Trying to figure out what this something is has kept the human race occupied for millennia. It poses the question:‘What is life all about?’
I don’t know the answer to the question but I believe that is has something to do with the qualities that imbue our life rather than the specifics of what we get to do. It is about the feeling that runs through our life rather than the appearance of the life.
So what if what we actually enjoy on the surface of life is only a fraction of the enjoyment that Life in its totality has to offer us?
What if everything that manifests on the surface is felt and experienced to a greater degree in the depths if we are only willing to go there?
What if less is actually more?
What if a quieter and simpler experience of life is actually richer, more vibrant and more rewarding than we think it is?
Would this knowledge change our understanding of what it means to ‘get a life’ or to ‘live our life’?
I think it would.
I think it would help lead us to experience a deeper sense of peace, security and joy in our lives. I think it would help us to stop battling against life and settle instead into our daily living with greater ease and a gentler and more compassionate heart. Why do I say that? Because when I answer the question, “What makes us want to do something?” I conclude that the common motivation that fuels all our doing is LOVE.
Here are three examples from my life:
I go for walks along the beach because I love the feeling of fresh air on my face, the smell of salt air, the sound of the seagulls and the experience of connecting with nature.
I go to yoga classes because I love to feel that I am doing something positive to keep me healthy. I love the way I feel after class and I love the company, the chat and meeting and making new friends.
I write because I love the challenge of putting words together in a way that communicates my thoughts to others and I love the way time passes quickly when I am absorbed in what I am doing.
It seems that love dwells deep within us and that we do things in order to feel this love as a living expression of who we really are. We then think that it is the doing that makes us feel alive when in reality it is the presence of love within us that does so.
So whether we are out there ‘Getting a life’ or not (as the case may be) either way it is the connection to the source of love within us that determines whether we are living or not.
If we run with this then ‘Getting a life’ is not so much about what we get to do but more about having an experience of love - which equates to giving love, receiving love, feeling love, accepting love, cherishing love and celebrating love – wherever and however it comes to us......
....and as one door to love closes another one can (and will) open.
So what are your thoughts or experiences regarding ‘Getting a life’? I would love to hear from you. Please share your comments below.
The opinions I express here are my own. However I offer them with the word 'syat' next to them. 'Syat' is a word used by the Jain Tribe in India which means 'To the best of my knowledge SO FAR.' In the spirit of openness I invite comments from anyone whether you agree with my point of view or not. In this way we can all learn and grow together. Thank you.