Some spiritual seekers are wan and dull and gray. They haven’t committed to being fully alive in their bodies, and their interest in spirituality becomes a way to avoid being so. There is no reason spiritual people can’t be the most vitally alive people on the planet. Increasing a sense of aliveness has to do with allowing more energy into the body and releasing blocks that keep energy trapped.
Forbes magazine recently featured Richard Branson, the adventurer, entrepreneur, and founder of Virgin Airlines. Now in his late 60s, he has started a new travel company for outer space, continues his sailboat racing, and spends 70% of his time on philanthropy. When asked for advice on how to increase energy, he responded, “Work out more.” Working out gives him at least four hours of additional productive time a day, he said.
It seems counterintuitive that we would gain energy by expending energy, but in the case of vigorous exercise, that’s the case. Athletic training improves metabolic efficiency, blood circulation, and general fitness so that more energy is available.
In addition to exercise, there are somatic disciplines that make available energy that is trapped in the body by promoting relaxation and reducing chronic tension. Weight training is an example as are various bodywork therapies: Rolfing, Polarity, the Alexander technique, breathing practices, and massage of all types.
Psychotherapy can release energy that is being used to suppress our feelings, keep a lid on our inner life, and deny our reality. When therapy is successful, it lifts repressions, unblocks defenses against strong feeling and resolves internal conflicts, infusing a whole new energetic response to life.
Taking care of our bodies includes proper nutrition. Many of the foods we eat today do not promote vitality. If we are not eating right, we will not feel alive. The key is to eat as many fresh vegetables and fruit as possible.
Each person has his or her own unique sources of vitality, and it’s helpful to identify them. What kind of music do we find enlivening? What kind of books, TV shows; which friends? We can look back at certain periods of our lives when we felt particularly alive to discover what habits and disciplines could be incorporated today. As much as possible, we can strive to practice the disciplines of vitality in order to be alive as we can for as long as we are alive.
© 2014 Catherine Auman This article is an excerpt from Catherine’s book Shortcuts to Mindfulness: 100 Ways to Personal and Spiritual Growth