To live is the rarest thing of all. Most people exist.
~ Oscar Wilde
Are you living life? Or is it living you? Steve Maraboli said, “When you are just existing, life happens to you… and you manage; when you are truly living, you happen to life… and you lead.” While it might seem as if we are being told to put life on hold, taking time to align your life now will likely allow you to get much further ahead in the long run.
Existing vs. living. This is probably one of the biggest questions of day-to-day life, particularly in the current state of the world. Many are now realizing how much they can live without and others are mourning what they have lost. Some are throwing fits that they can’t go out to do their normal things, while others are creating brand new ones. Still, more are concerned about the future as many are making the best of now.
The pandemic forced me to slow down. It created the space to reflect on last year as well as get some much-needed rest. As a result, I realized that although there was much life going on around me, I wasn’t really living the way that I prefer. I was stuck in a cycle of producing, getting things done, and not stopping much to restore. Then, about a month ago, I injured my knee, and my world pretty much stopped. I couldn’t complete the many home projects I had in mind. Actually, I couldn’t do much more than work, doing teletherapy and virtual consultations. I napped more, read more, sat more, and reflected more. Whenever I tried to do something other than ice my knee, the joint reminded me that even the slightest activity could injure it even more. So I remained a good patient and iced and elevated every chance I got.
I generally don’t stay idle for too long. But because my body seemed to disagree with activity, I busied my brain instead. Conscious evolution is all about consciously reflecting on where you are in life, assessing what needs to change to both evolve and improve life satisfaction, and then make a plan for action once the time is right. Ironically, my physical inactivity is exactly what I needed in order to remember to fully live.
Our soul thrives most when it has the time and space to do it. But as conscious evolution implies, we must become aware of the need to grow to optimize our process. And as I’ve said many times before, we generally don’t grow unless we are uncomfortable enough to do so, and whether it be physical or emotional discomfort, we often need an undesirable experience to prompt our growth in a new or different way.
Horace, the Roman poet, first used the term “Carpe Diem” to express the idea that we should enjoy life while we can. Published way back in 23 BCE, his command to the world was “carpe diem quam minimum credula postero,” which can be translated literally as “pluck the day, trusting as little as possible in the next one.” In other words, Horace saw the value in extracting every bit of life from each moment, “seizing” all opportunities to live it to the fullest.
But how does one do that when the world we live in currently tells us to simply exist?
Give these questions some thought:
- What would “living” look like for you—now and after the pandemic is over?
- In what ways are you simply existing rather than fully living?
- Will existing be enough for you when you look back on this time?
- What would you regret doing—or not doing— as you wait for COVID-19 to end?
- What have you been putting off until you had the time to do it? What holds you back now?
About 25 years ago, I found myself reading a book by Stephen Levine called “A Year To Live”. I was in graduate school and took it to the gym with me to read as I worked out on a Stairmaster. Although the title doesn’t sound overly inspirational, the content changed my life. The author, an expert in death and dying, shared stories from clients about how the news about their terminal diagnoses actually made them live more fully. Although my mother said I made the best of situations even as a kid, this book cemented the need to appreciate life and all experiences as much as possible. To this day, I still have a magnet on my fridge that encourages me to maintain this rule of life—or rule of living.
Just because we are in the midst of a global pandemic, it doesn’t mean that we stop living. In fact, if anything, now IS the time to decide how we are going to live. Regardless of the impact that COVID is having in your life, the human condition reminds us every day that we are alive. Every discomfort, frustration, irritation, or other “inconvenient” disruption is a blessing and nudge for us to more fully live.
What have I learned about my state of “existing”? I’m uncomfortably aware that I feel distant from Spirit. I’ve also realized that part of my long-held exercise routine has been absent since well before my The last few months have made it painfully clear that I am not engaging in the level of spiritual activities that I once held constant. Since my mother died five years ago I haven’t hiked as much as I used to nor tried as many new recipes as I once had. I’ve neglected some of my creative and crafty pursuits and haven’t read nearly as many books as I know I need to feed my soul.
The last few months of semi-isolation have reset me—made me realize that now is the perfect time to start living when we can seemingly only exist. Nothing else could have stopped me in my tracks to help me reflect, re-evaluate and realign.
What will you do to help you live?