Friday, May 11, 2012

When Was Your Last Near-Life Experience?

Have you ever had those moments when in the midst of an average day the world comes alive? It is like waking up and really seeing life for the first time. Colors pop, sounds draw you in, texture caresses you and the inciting smell of a newly awakened world seduces you. At that moment, you wonder how you missed it all. How the wonder and the beauty escaped you. And usually you vow that you will see the world differently from that point on, but it doesn't always happen that way. You've just had a near-life experience.

All of us know about near-death experiences when the casual shift of the universe sends a truck down the wrong street, a heart valve mistimes, or you have an unfortunate misdirection into the wrong place at the wrong time. These experiences shock our system because we are genetically programmed to believe in life and incorrectly seduced in believing in the longevity of our own life. No one seeks a near-death experience, but people come away from them determined  to live life better, fuller, and more passionately than before. Sadly we seem to learn more from our fear of death than our joy of life.

From the moment of our birth we are aware of the wonder of the world. Watch infants and little children. When we were very young everything was new to us. We opened our eyes and tried to take it all in. We wanted to taste, touch, smell and digest it all, even if we didn't like it. We were fully alive and experiencing every moment. But as we grow, we adapt to our surroundings. We become used to our world and take it for granted. Those things that use to give us wonder no longer do. In essence, we stop living.

Adaptation is necessary to regulate our day. If we had to relearn everything every morning nothing would get done. Even as I type I'm aware that I don't have to think about where my fingers are, they just find the right keys (most of the time). But we also become inured to the beauty around us, to the incredible amount of sensory stimuli that awaits us every time we sit down to a meal, or even drive a car. After a while, we run on auto-pilot.

That's why it's important to seek out near-life experiences. Near-life experiences are those moments of awe and transcendence that awaken us to the life and loves that surround us. It's like coming out of sleep. We see the world around us for all that it offers. The reason I call them near-life is that very few of us will get to the point of total consciousness when we would be aware of every second of every day. But we can seek to place as many of these in our day as possible.

Start with a something simple. This morning I tasted my first cup of coffee. Seriously. Usually I slam my first cup down and wait for the caffeine to hit. But this morning I really tasted it as I listened in wonder to the chirping of the baby birds in the gutter of my house (I'll fix that after the bird family moves out). All it took was for me to be aware of the moment; of my senses and my sense of wonder.

Moments like this, scattered throughout the day bring us to life. We can enjoy the banter of colleagues as we become aware of our common human bonds. We can transform our brief lunch moment when we linger long enough to taste the sandwich. We might even enhance our commute by realizing the beauty of the sky. Near-life experiences, linked together, help us come alive again.

What are some of your favorite near-life experiences?

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