What is it to feel alive?

“There’s a certain moment in each man when he becomes completely alive. Alive like at no other time, when he lights the sky with his very vivacity. Of course, some people lack that capacity and others don’t seem to have it outside the sex act. This fragment, this instant of electricity that strikes, is really you, your soul, your being. I sometimes feel it in me when I hear a magnificent actor reading Shakespeare. I become transformed, unique, complete….I know I’ve seen that moment in you many times.”
– from Trinity, a historical fiction novel about Ireland by Leon Uris, p. 343

Now here is a ripe fruit for us at this early point in our discussion of soul. A mentor figure is speaking to a young man. He paints a vivid image of experiencing soul. He also makes what I think is a jarring, provocative statement about some people not being able to have that experience (a topic I’m saving for later).

When I read this description of soul, I was instantly excited to share it with you because, for us, it puts some initial words to how it feels to experience soul: completely alive, lights the sky, vivacity, electricity, transformed, unique, complete. Read that list of words again, more slowly, and notice the feelings they stir in you. They describe a big emotional experience. A moment when something outside you sets fire to something inside you, making you feel wholly yourself and more than yourself. A moment of resonance, possibly beyond your ability to fully understand or express it. Such moments are unmistakable encounters with soul. Maybe it’s a moving reading of Shakespeare. Or an electric connection with another person. Or a vivid dream. Or a magnificent scene in nature. Or a surge of emotion. Or a flash of creative inspiration. There are endless possibilities for Big Soul moments for all of us, and we usually know them when we feel them. Something ripples through us and among us. We are changed.

But what about Little Soul moments? When you are trying to listen to soul and get in touch with your aliveness, believing that big moments are THE moments can be misleading and discouraging. It is like believing your sex life should be like the sex you see in movies. You can end up spending lots of energy desperately chasing big moments, some of them ultimately hollow. You can end up feeling listless, despairing, broken because you aren’t “LIVING!” I am not diminishing the impact or value of big moments. I am just setting them aside momentarily as only one way of experiencing soul, attention grabbing and exciting as they are.

What I am highlighting right now, because they are unique little jewels and often where we have to begin in learning how to listen to soul, are the more subtle moments. The stuff of everyday.

Taking a moment to really feel your delight in the soft coolness of the sheets and blankets and pillows when you get into bed.

Noticing you feel stressed and, instead of grinding on, pausing to renew yourself in a meaningful way.

Being fully in your body in any moment and feeling its murmurings.

Noticing a fleeting, tell-tale feeling or thought.

Pausing to allow yourself to wonder at the new growth from a presumably dead tree.

These moments are smaller sparks that are also “really you, your soul, your being.” Moments when you connect with your unique aliveness, though a bit more quietly. Moments that can also transform you, gradually, with their gentle constancy and unexpected magnitude of richness and life.

And yet we tend to rush by them and dismiss them in our hurried, hungry, airtight lives. We assume they aren’t significant. That they aren’t enough. That they can’t truly sustain us and feed us and help us. Not really. We feel desperately starved and gorge ourselves with bigger, fancier moments.

So I am going to allow these little moments, trust them, to stand here on their own. No big, fancy explanations.

Simmering. Worthy of our trust. An inviting doorway. Enough.

© Amanda Norcross and Learning to Listen to Soul, 2011.

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5 Responses to What is it to feel alive?

  1. Aaron N. says:

    As I was reading “What it is to feel alive”, I had a vivid memory. I am certain that Me, Myself, and I unified and played together uninterrupted for several hours. A couple of years ago, I was refining the shape of a sculpture for my parents. As the file slid across an expansive piece, the stone rang. It sounded like a steel bell that was resonating to my touch. I imagined it was singing back to me, guiding my hands and telling me that I had almost uncovered its true shape from the stone that had hidden it for thousands for years. I was filled with energy and several hours fell away before I “came back”. It may have chipped away at the stone covering me too.

    Thanks for the thoughtful post.

    • anorcross says:

      Aaron, I think it’s really neat that memory came to you as you were reading. Creative expression (in its many, many forms) is an amazingly powerful channel for engaging soul, and your experience shows how our little sparks of aliveness can be a guide for us if we take the time to notice them.

      Thanks so much for sharing your experience. I hope other readers will be inspired by you to share some of their own examples!

  2. I love the way you put words to soul–it’s so indescribable, beyond words. The fact that you find the words touches me. And I especially appreciate your inviting all of us into noticing the “Little Soul” moments. That’s so important…

    • anorcross says:

      Thank you, Candyce. It is, indeed, beyond words. I think that is one of the challenges in this blog – being curious about and honoring the experience of soul without using too many words, shedding too much light. I enjoyed reading in your comment below about your moment of companionship with your dog. “Quiet, alive kind of energy” captures the feeling of that moment very well.

  3. Just noticed your invitation to share other examples of soul moments. I’m having one of those moments as I write this, so I thought I’d be spontaneous and add it now. My Jack Russell terrier is stretched out with his warm, soft back pressed against my calf. His front paws are crossed in front of his chest, and his breathing is slow and steady. This quiet moment of simple companionship fills me with what I can only describe as a quiet, alive kind of energy. Ah, the small things…

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