Monday, August 22, 2011

Embracing Life

"Death is not the biggest fear we have; our biggest fear is taking the risk to be alive -- the risk to be alive and express what we really are." - Miguel Angel Ruiz

We all want to live, or else we would no longer be alive.  But much of the time, people seem as if suspended somewhere between life and death, neither fully alive nor fully dead.  Why not decide today to risk being fully alive and expressing the fullness of life that we really are?  [Some AT suggestions for practicing this are at the bottom of this post.]

We speak of "embracing life."  But embracing life can be very difficult if a person does not first feel safely embraced by life.  To sincerely embrace something or someone involves opening up and making oneself vulnerable by expressing the truth of what is deep inside of us.  It can feel like a terrible risk if we think that something/someone we wish to embrace may not return our embrace; that could feel like the very essence of our being is being denied.

But life is not a person.  Life never denies us; it is only we who deny life.

I had a wonderful and significant dream just before waking this morning, which taught me some very important things.  It might sound strange to someone else, but please bear with me--I think it's worth sharing.


I was about to participate in an Alexander workshop (as a student), and just before it began, the teacher approached me.  He didn't recognize me, but he gave me a friendly hug.  It didn't matter at all who I was, and the hug was completely impersonal.  Yet, the touch-quality of the hug was so warm, reassuring, calm, and safe--the real touch of a great Alexander teacher's hands, but offered with the upper body.*
In my dream, even though the contact of the hug was full and frontal, this was a completely non-sexual, non-emotional, non-personal hug. This was the most accepting, whole-person, peaceful embrace of life that I could imagine.  It felt odd to accept this embrace in front of other people (what must they be thinking?!), but I chose to be the student and let the teacher lead, releasing into the safety of this innocent, natural human contact.  I distinctly remember the breath becoming free, full and synchronized.  Others were waiting to begin the workshop, but for me, the workshop had already begun, and the most important thing for me was being taught and learned.

Upon waking, I realized several things:
  • Our best teacher is life itself--the present moment--NOW, not a person outside of the Self.  People can help us realize this, but we really need to surrender to letting life be our teacher.
  • We need to take the risk to let life embrace us, so that we can then feel safe to embrace life.
  • Even when we seem to be alone, the life-teacher is always present, always right in front of us, always here, always embracing us, just waiting for us to return the embrace.
  • We will be happiest when we let ourselves be embraced by life--even in front of other people, even when it feels odd, even when we worry about what other people might think of us when we are in the midst of that embrace.
  • What is important, for each one of us, is to take the opportunity that stands before us NOW, to accept the embrace that is being offered to us individually.  We can let the rest of the world wait, trusting that it can take care of itself while we are experiencing the embrace of life for ourselves.  
  • Being individually embraced by life doesn't mean that we're any more special or important than anyone else.  Everyone in the world receives his/her own special embrace from life. 

Some AT directions to put this into practice:

  • The next time you feel like something is missing in your life, give yourself a moment to stop what you're doing.
  • Become aware of the space in front of you.  Without necessarily moving your body (you can remain passive), let yourself feel the space in front of you with the whole front of your body.  Feel how the air quietly and gently touches your hands, arms, torso, legs, neck, face.  If you're outside, turn towards the breeze and feel it caress the front of your body.
  • Let yourself feel this frontal space softly embracing you.  Let yourself be nourished and comforted by this space.  Be aware of drawing it in, towards and through your torso, letting it fill your chest and abdomen so that you can rest into your back.
  • Lying down on your stomach with a long pillow under your torso, forehead on the ground, with lower legs and ankles supported by another pillow if necessary, is also a nice way to feel supported from the front of you.
I find that there is a lot of focus on the back of the body in Alexander lessons.  We speak a lot about the spine lengthening, and about the back lengthening and widening to support us.  Let's make sure we are also aware of receiving support for and from the front, allowing life to embrace us from all sides, inside and out, as we return that embrace at every moment.  Let's take the risk to be ourselves.  We are made to embrace life with all our being.

*For those readers unfamiliar with Alexander Technique: the front middle of the torso and abdomen are rarely touched in a lesson, if at all, and the teacher uses only his/her hands to lightly contact a student's body in a completely non-invasive, detached way, such as on head, neck, back, and limbs. Greater emphasis is usually placed on the spine and support coming from the back rather than the front, as this area is much more vulnerable.


  1. Thanks, Jennifer! This was just what I needed today :)


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