Aliveness and the Survival Habit


Ask yourself this simple question: Do you want aliveness?

Chances are you answered yes to this inquiry. There is some facet of the human being that desires, yearns and searches for the sensate quality of aliveness. While there may be times where you cannot find this part of yourself, the vast majority of us can access this desire most of the time when asked.

But, What precisely is aliveness?

This is a rich inquiry yet defining it is less rewarding than actually feeling it, which is what interests me and I hope sparks something precious in you. The facet of you that desires aliveness is less concerned with looking at aliveness objectively and more invested in subjectively inhabiting the feeling of being alive.

Aliveness, at least from my present vantage point, has at least one central obstacle: survival. I know at first that sounds absurd, but let me explain.


If you are like most adults, you have two basic ways of engaging each moment. The first constellates around engrained survival strategies and the second organizes around the quality of your life. Survival strategies are perhaps the most habituated ways of functioning available while the inquiry into what births your greatest quality of life is something that requires liberated space to even ponder.

Let's be clear out of the gate here, your survival strategies are rarely organized in such a way that they actually support the ongoing enrichment of the quality of your life. Read that again… It's important. At each moment you have a choice, do I want to "survive" (which often implies feeling less) or do I want to qualitatively improve my life (which often requires feeling more)?

Survival habituations are root organizations in your way of being that protect you from threats. This is great, except something has gone off course when you habitually stop feeling because the sensate experience feels threatening. Perhaps the most basic habituation I am aware of that does this is the shift from feeling consciousness to thinking consciousness.

To be clear here, I am not talking about the full conscious participation with dynamic thought which is inextricably woven to feeling consciousness. I am talking about the habituated movement of consciousness out of feeling and into conditioned scripts that unplug you from your larger complexity.

This larger complexity is what fascinates me because it is only here that any of us can find our emergent elegance that can co-create our greater quality of life. Birthing this is qualitatively distinct from merely surviving.

This brings us to the topic of embodiment. Dis-embodiment is most often our preferred survival strategy. This is a good thing. I can tell you first hand as I faced death face to face some facet of my being pulled the eject handle and with it I was spared the panic, open terror, anxiety and raw pain of suffocating to death from an asthma attack. Yes I mean dead, passed out, not breathing, can't find a pulse, body turned grey dead. My consciousness followed this ride only so far until I found myself "somewhere else."

But if you happen to be like me, your survival strategies also unplug you from the immediacy of your life when experience gets uncomfortable. Chances are you've got some missing discernment in your core survival strategies which do not distinguish from being in actual danger and experience being uncomfortable and no longer fitting habituated preferences.

Survival strategies working for habituated preferences, needless to say this is not a recipe for human elegance that embraces your larger complexity. Find out just what is your actual window of tolerance to experience your full unmediated embodied experience. Where is the actual limit and where is the habituated limitation? These are very different!

I think you will find that your larger complexity is freed up from many of the habituated closures from feeling. If you are like me, you are likely to find that the larger complexity that you are able to participate with is rooted in feeling through the full open immediateness that is right here regardless of preferences.

In this rich texture and tapestry of the open embrace of pain and pleasure I think you will find a wellspring of aliveness that simply does not reveal itself to human beings bound to habituated survival strategies.

Enjoy!