Intensity of Aliveness

“We all can find glimpses into being pulled along by momentum from past experiences that may have temporarily demanded greater urgency from us—a highly-valued project with much at stake, an emergency that required immediate and complete attention, an opportunity with only seconds to seize it. Unquestioned purpose instantaneously replaced lesser issues and concerns, creating freedom from fear and self-obsession, opening into a streamlined passageway of functional response at the organic speed of life. If you look back at such moments, however temporary they may have been, you can recall an unusual liberty where suddenly all the rules were different, with virtually infinite space and reason to engage.

“Bringing this intensity of aliveness into our lives in a sustainable way is only really possible if we train ourselves to stay close to the edge of life on a daily basis, setting alight the ideas by getting out of our heads into visceral engagement. I don’t believe that necessarily means staying close to the edge of death or fear of loss as much as it does staying close to our most cherished inspirations, or what we experientially know to be sacred. Urgently attending to those priorities is often where our greatest fun is found. More importantly, it’s where our most unique talents are unleashed, producing surprises that redefine our experience of reality.”

Extract from ‘Relaxing into Urgency’, In the Midst of Things

Image: 12th century fresco in Abbazia di San Pietro, Valle, Ferentillo, Italy


  1. A says:

    I like how you have put urgency in a different perspective here. It takes time and experimentation to truly understand what day to day urgency is or could look like and you have explained this really well in the chapter ” Relaxing into urgency” of your excellent book.

    I sometimes still get confused about my real priorities ( maybe it is a lack of wakefulness, clarity or sheer stupidity) because I fall too often for the easy quickly fixed ones (which are probably not real priorities).
    I like your emphasis on recalling what is most “experientially” sacred to us and what we feel most inspired by in life (maybe a good ritual to start the day) and then attend and nourish that even if in small ways. I think your point about fun is also a crucial one because real fun (=fuel) is also what keeps the “intensity of aliveness” flowing and evolving and we could all do with a bit more fun in our life…

  2. aka Guy says:

    “Bringing this intensity of aliveness into our lives in a sustainable way is only really possible if we train ourselves to stay close to the edge of life on a daily basis, setting alight the ideas by getting out of our heads into visceral engagement.”

    Why do we have to ” stay close to the edge of life” ? It is for cultivating (and amplifying) our state of awareness. Awareness is like a crystal ball of clarity we come in life with that most of the time becomes blurred.

    It comes alive when one is on the edge by accident or by will and that causes thoughts and beliefs to become useless. Awareness is what sustains us and on which one can confidently rely on.

  3. Mihai says:

    “unusual liberty where suddenly all the rules were different”

    The first thing this phrase and the painting bring back, is the mind stopping, for a brief, easeful moment. The attention occupies more space and there is an unusual trust that the words or actions that are produced will be dignified and thus increasingly enjoyable.

    The fresco brings color to a scene in my mind. It’s placed in medieval Perugia, during a time described by many as humanity’s barbaric period. Luca, a local painter, is making his way to work, through the town’s small dirty streets, head down, caught up in thoughts of life’s unpleasantness. He turns the corner and the new Abbey is in sight. Exterior works are completed and now it’s his turn to add his long practiced skills. He has been assigned a portion of the wall underneath the left window:

    “Che fortuna! … How lucky to have been offered this opportunity… so unexpected… but just at the right moment…” He lifts his head up and looks up at the sun coming out of a patch of clouds. His ragged, dirty clothes seem lighter and he can move little easier to cover the short distance quicker. He imagines, again, the design of his painting and more details come into place: “Ahh si! … the robes could give the impression that he is almost floating”.

  4. Thank you, gentlemen, for your creative perspectives in the stories you’ve brought to this conversation. I particularly like your personal sparks of enthusiasm for the subject, which is an intensity of aliveness itself. Your direct support, research, and vital participation are certainly appreciated!

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