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How to be fully alive

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Seeing life in high def is a skill that will make your day.

A s a fiercely independent child, I didn’t take orders well. I needed to directly experience everything for myself. Not because I delighted in being stubborn, but because I craved sharp and vivid sensory experiences.

As an adult, I haven’t changed much. When I listen to music I close my eyes to really hear it. When I hug my daughters, I want to feel the hug. When I’m chopping garlic for fresh tomato sauce, I want to smell the garlic. When I directly experience moments with all of my senses, I feel fully alive.

My craving for sensory-charged experiences shines through in my professional life, too. I’ve taught everything from step aerobics to hip-hop dance, performed on Rollerblades around the world and started a handful of businesses, including selling hair bows in Greenwich Village, ice-cream cones
in New Hampshire and figure-skating apparel in Nova Scotia. For the past 30 years I’ve been starting businesses and moving bodies and calming minds with yoga and meditation, all of which help people feel more alive—on purpose.

How does being fully alive feel?

Being fully alive feels like seeing the world in high definition. It makes everything taste, feel, look, smell and sound more intense. Experiences go from black and white to technicolour. When you get out of your own way, let go of trying and allow yourself to simply be, life feels crisp and clear. A spark of energy, a shiver or a pulsing aliveness will turn you on and wake you up to the vividness of the world around you.

High-definition moments are available to most of us every day. You don’t have to wait until the next time you are at the beach, on a mountaintop or even in the middle of a crisis to feel your senses heightened. Next time you’re eating, ask yourself what you taste and smell. When you’re walking, pause and notice the trees. Tune in to the moment with all of your senses and you will encounter the variety of shades, sounds, smells, tastes and feelings of a high-definition moment.

Notice. Notice. Notice.

Noticing high-definition, full-sensory moments throughout your day is what I call “living on the verge,” a way of experiencing life completely.

To strengthen your ability to see life in high-definition in the ordinary moments, start to notice when you feel clear, alert, sharp, strong, vibrant and fearless. Be present for them. If you’re thinking about the past or future, you will miss the chance. Incorporate this simple practice into your day:

Stop. Take five. Experience. Then:

1. Set your timer for two minutes. Close your eyes.

2. Pay attention to your breathing by counting five full breaths. Listening to the sound of your breath will relax you and begin to settle your busy mind.

3. After five breaths, open your eyes and sit quietly.

4. Now, with your mind calm and body still, slowly look around and actively notice your surroundings. What do you see, smell, hear, taste or touch? Do you feel dull or awake? Are you tired or energized? If your mind is busy thinking, that’s okay too. Whatever you notice is perfect.

What were your high-definition moments today?
Try this simple exercise to recount moments during your day when the world became vivid or you felt a surge of energy:

Before you go to sleep tonight, recall three times you felt touched by life. Perhaps it was seeing the sun hit the top of the trees in the late afternoon or hearing the giggles of the neighbour’s kids in the backyard. Maybe you lis- tened to a friend in need or belted out a song during your commute home. List these moments in a journal or simply in your mind. Do this exercise regularly and you’ll soon recognize high-definition moments all the time.

More Inspiration: Check out this cool article on how to “go with your gut” everyday.

Author: Cara Bradley is the author of On the Verge. She is a teacher of yoga, meditation and fitness who has been in the trenches of personal transformation as a “mental strength coach” at her Verge Yoga Center, retreats, corporate training sessions and with university sports teams. Visit her online here.

Based on the book On the Verge. Copyright © 2016 by Cara Bradley. Reprinted with permission from New World Library.


  • Alex Hurst is a writer for HUM@Nmedia covering Optimyz and Silver magazines in print and digital editions and is based in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

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