From Our Readers, Individual Transformation

Fully Alive Through Connection

I used to think the feeling of being fully alive only came in exceptional moments: A near-death experience, a triumphant achievement, an orgasm, a time of great loss, an instance of inexplicable synchronicity, a moment in love, being in the ‘zone’ or on the edge of some great something towards which you know you must move… Or that one time, when the thunderstorm and the sunset intermingled in the high desert air and all things became electric and inspirited and the purple-gold light seemed to emanate from within things rather than resting upon them.

I chased those sorts of moments. I courted them. I even tried to corner them—navigating my life into places where I was most likely to be zapped by something that lifted me beyond the monotony of me. The most consistent answer to this search came by way of the wilderness. It was there, deep in some pocket of riverside ferns or high on a lonely ridge, where I most often found myself brought to simple joy or tears at the sheer beautiful happening that is life and the indelible feeling of belonging to it.

So I ran to the wilderness as often as I could.

Funny thing though—the more I attuned myself to (or was tuned by) the cadence and texture of wild places, the more I found these fully alive moments to be not so extraordinary after all. It wasn’t just the sunrise from the cold meadow that brought about that feeling—it arose with increasing regularity, in the details and the spaces between. Another funny thing: I had mistakenly assigned that feeling to the experience of wilderness when, in fact, time in the wild had simply catalyzed and awakened something within me. Though it was sometimes more difficult to access amidst the rush of the modern world, clearly this feeling did not belong only to ‘wild’ places or fantastic circumstances.

The common thread uniting moments of feeling fully alive appears not to be about extremes but about connection. Incredible beauty, a brush with death, great loss, great love—all of these bring us alive because they provide a momentary awakening to

the depth of our connections: to people, to places, to life. Look over moments where you have felt fully alive and see if they are not also moments where you have become acutely aware of your connectedness.

So instead of chasing wilderness, I started chasing connection. I apprenticed myself to the human capacity for connectedness and interrelationship. As it happens, human beings are hard-wired for connection. We are designed for it. We are living, breathing participants in an elegant, intricate dance of life, and we’ve evolved in concert with that dance since the beginning. Our eyes, ears, hearts, opposable thumbs, and enormous brains have been shaped over millions of years in co-evolving concert with all of life. No part of us can be made separate. Our very living is rooted in our connectedness. No wonder connection makes us feel alive!

For all of its great advances, the modern experience also has the insidious by-product of connection amnesia. Many people in the westernized world literally forget the vast relational circuitry that is our inheritance. This forgetting allows the musculature of connection to become atrophied, which leads to a deadening of the human experience. When we are able to bring our enormous capacity for connection and interrelationship back ‘online,’ so to speak, we may also find an experience of full aliveness coursing more commonly through our veins. It turns out this circuitry is an essential part of the human experience. It turns out that full aliveness is not a feeling reserved for exceptional moments, but is the day-to-day experience of all people who are living in awareness of their interrelationships with all of life. It is an attribute that emerges naturally when a person has consciously reawakened their innate ability to connect. In the end, full aliveness is not a feeling to be chased. It is our birthright, and if we are still enough, it will find us.