Living – not Just Existing

I promised several weeks ago, to give you some practical ways to get yourself out of “mere existence” mode and  into living. I feel a little strange offering how-tos on something that is largely a product of Divine-human interaction. That’s why last week’s post became a spiritual development primer; I just couldn’t make something profound into a list of trite statements.

I still can’t. My Living has been catalyzed by several nasty and painful experiences that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.  I can’t tell you to seek out adversity; that’s not how it works.  God allows life’s vicissitudes to enter our lives and we grow – or not – as we live our way through them. I look at it as the essential wrestling out of my chrysalis; it must be done if I’m to be strong enough to live in this world into which I’ve been hatched.  There’s no how-to-ing about it.

And here the analogy breaks down, because while I’m here, I’m still part of what philosophers and theologians call the “not yet” – aren’t we all? We will still be “becoming” for the rest of our lives.  The only “how-tos” I can give you are in the context of my “becoming” so I offer them in the hopes they my ease your way into Living.

Tips for Living:

  1. Step out of yourself long enough to notice what is going on around you. Long walks out in Nature have helped.   Sometimes just stopping everything and being still can also help.
  2. Look at the colors all around you; what kind of life does each color speak to you? Give yourself permission to embrace the colors you see.
  3.  Learn to Be.  I pretty much had to withdraw from every activity, every external responsibility, every goal, vision, and expectation before I could start learning to Be.  And I’m still learning.  Allocating “Be-ing time” and practicing Tai Chi have helped.
  4. Find where your intrinsic value lies.  It’s a long disentangling exercise to divest myself of the idea that my identity is bound up in what I can do or how others view me.  I’ve had several experiences that have set me on my can, making me unable to do much of anything.  Those are the times I’ve found I am equally valuable to God.  Here are some other ideas that have helped, many of them quoted in my book “Shalom Path“:
        * the thief on the cross, without anything to commend him, had value to God
         * “They also serve who only stand and wait.” (John Milton)
        * “She has done what she could” (Mark 14:8)
        * “You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are

             – no more, no less.” (Matthew 5)
          * I am Loved
  5. Learn self-acceptance by interacting with dogs and children.
  6. Learn to play, also by hanging out with dogs and children.
  7. Extend yourself.  If you find yourself shrinking back from an experience because you think you’ll embarrass yourself, go ahead and try it, just for the fun of doing it and for the fun of spending time with others. I discovered this thanks to a newspaper article I came across years ago in which the author urged people to do something badly for a change. (If anybody knows about this article, I’d be glad to acknowledge it.)
  8. Surround yourself with life-infusing symbols.  In my frequent moves, I’ve had to leave many things behind, but there are some things I have chosen to hold on to. Among them are a few books that never fail to re-orient my heart to the Shalom-Path, the path of true living. You will recognize these items (be they books, paintings, physical locations, etc.) by the lift they give your soul.

Your Turn

I’d love to hear some of the ways you’ve been helped along the path of Living. Feel free to share below.

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Phyllis Hopper is a creative free spirit who loves exploring new places and getting to know new peoples and cultures. She makes her home base in Kansas.