"We show up, burn brightly, live passionately, hold nothing back, and when the moment is over, when our work is done, we step back and let go."
--Rolf Gates, Meditations from the Mat
I just got back from the most incredible week of my life...totally unplugged with 11 other entrepreneurs in a Mayan villa called Taninah, situated in the middle of a jungle near Playa del Carmen in Mexico. We slept in palapas at night under the stars, then woke up to the sound of birds chirping and ducks splashing in the pond. We ate three meals a day together cooked by an incredible staff, and laughed, played and had great conversations all day every day like we were kids again.
It's funny that just before I left I wrote the post, What's Your Happy Place? I found it. I found it in physical form (the resort had ziplines, a mini golf course, a game room, a treehouse, hammocks, and a waterslide in a cave) and in my spirit -- I've never felt such a pure sense of joy, bliss and love for such a sustained amount of time.
This post won't be a recap of my vacation - there are no words that would do the experience justice. I feel transformed beyond measure, and this is my attempt at maintaining it moving forward, and helping you find that same sense of aliveness in your own life.
My book is centered loosely upon the Wheel of Life (template here), an exercise where you can rate every area of your life on a scale of 1-10 (work, money, friends, family, home, organization, health, personal growth, relationships, fun & relaxation). While that exercise can help you design your life in every area, it doesn't quite hit on the qualities that bring us alive within that life.
The areas (and accompanying Wheel of Aliveness template) below are based on my trip and are influenced heavily by Martha Beck's latest book, Finding Your Way in a Wild New World. I believe they can be applied to any person at any time, because they hit upon fundamental aspects of being fully human. If there are any areas that don't resonate with you, feel free to replace them with ones that do.
12 Ways to Wake up, Come Alive and Find Your Bliss
As you read the list below, consider how each one is showing up in your own life (or not). On a scale of 1-10, how present and full is that element? How do you feel when you maximize each one? What would be possible in your life if you were to increase the areas that are lacking? Feel free to also use the shiny new template for this exercise.
- Movement/play - many of us sit at computers all day and continue staring at screens into the night. How can you incorporate more athletics and movement, even outside of the gym? Yoga in the rain, tossing a football and baseball around, and zip-lining (among many other activities) completely brought me back to my body this week. The owner, Marino, even set-up an obstacle course for us on the last day, and I almost peed my pants watching everyone else go through it! It feels great to sweat and release energy through play. See also: Sean Ogle's The Importance of Play (about our trip)
- Dance & Music - you may not like dancing, but I believe that there is something incredibly powerful about connecting with music, feeling it in your bones, and letting yourself dance and be free. Sweating in a club, connecting with people around you, or just dancing by yourself when no one's watching. See also: Where the Hell is Matt? (One of my all-time favorite YouTube videos -- you can't watch it and NOT smile)
- Nature - It was an incredible experience getting to immerse ourselves totally in a Mayan jungle, especially after coming from THE concrete jungle of New York City. A reminder about how powerful it is to be outside, play outside and rest outside. Go for walks, lay in the grass, sit on a bench and people watch. See also: Martha Beck's Logging Off: The Power of Disconnection
- Water - I thought about combining this with nature, but it's different. Water has a powerful effect on our bodies -- whether it's a pool, hot tub, bath tub, slip and slide, or even staring at a natural body of water like the ocean or a river. See also: Bon Iver's incredible Holocene bonus video from his self-titled album, 20 Life Lessons I Learned on the Rogue River
- Community & Connection - there is something magical about sharing meals (3 a day), and finding people who inspire you to be the best, most authentic version of yourself. Consider the communities in your life: are they serving your most authentic self? Are they making your life better? During the trip we would come together for a few rounds of "Ohm" after every sporting event, even in the middle of a restaurant one day. Ohm is said to be the universal sound, and the beautiful harmony reminded all of us that we are connected and we are loved. See also: The Holstee Manifesto: This is Your Life.
- Laughter - laughter is one of the purest forms of joy. Find people who make you laugh, don't take life too seriously, and let yourself be silly. See also: Top 10 Funniest YouTube Videos
- Learning & Creativity - this entails reading books, engaging in conversation, asking questions, giving yourself space to explore your creative side. Engage your mind, and just as you let your body play and be outdoors, allow your inner creativity to shine through freedom and flexibility. By creating such an incredible place, Marino taught us all to dream big, bigger and bigger still. Never give up on bringing your wildest dreams to fruition. See also: Live for the Dip
- Challenge - get outside of your comfort zone, tackle big goals and big ideas, undertake projects that bring you alive. See also: Joseph Campbell on The Hero's Journey
- Commitment - what matters to you? Commit to living authentically, commit to living in accordance with your core values, and commit to projects and people that carry significant meaning. See also: Big Difference by Willie Jackson, about the powerful conversation we had with Marino about the plight of the Mayans (much like Avatar) and his commitment to serving them.
- Gratitude & Positivity - it was amazing to be around a group of people who let all negativity roll right off their backs at any given moment. No sooner did someone state a fear or self-doubt than it was washed away by caring, positive encouragement. This is about maintaining a player mentality (as opposed to a victim role) in your own life, about reframing negative thoughts into positive incarnations, and about constantly reminding yourself of everything in life that you are grateful for, therefore giving it a chance to expand even further. See also: Be Thankful and Zen and the Art of Happiness Book Notes
- Letting go - resting, relaxing, dropping any thoughts or worries that aren't serving you, let small infractions in life roll of your back. My friend Mike from the trip uses the motto, "Zero F*cks" -- as in, "I have zero f*cks to give" when something irritating happens, or even when going into a situation (like a night out with friends to focus on being carefree). He quickly got us to all adopt the phrase -- making sure to clarify that Zero F*cks only applies to stuff that doesn't matter, so that you can focus your attention on everything else that does. See also: Dancing with Demons and Finding the Light
- Light and love - sending love to yourself first and foremost, then to all others around you. One love. See also: Light, Love and Yoga Money and Expanding Happiness: on Bliss and Fear (with notes from my dad)
I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments: What brings you alive? What do you have room for more of in your life?