If you’ve read the title of this article and thought “What can a 30-something man-child show me about living?” or “What makes this guy believe he has any authority to write on how to live a full life?” then I highly suggest you read the article through to the end. It will answer both those questions and more.
If you’re open to this article’s message, it will show you how to live life to the fullest. Or at the very least it will point you in the direction to do so.
Sound like a tall order for a single article?
I assure you it isn’t.
Living Life To The Fullest Is Simple
It’s so simple it eludes most human beings alive today, especially Westerners. We’ve become caught in a tangle of complexity and lost sight of the fact that living a full life comes naturally to human beings.
It’s what we were put on this Earth to do.
We’ve become convinced that a full life means being drowned in complexity. That to live fully we need 10,000 things and overflowing schedules. Believing this, perversely, shuts us out of fullness and strands us in shallowness.
Living life to the fullest is simple. Anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to sell you something. Not that there’s anything wrong with selling things, but after centuries of increasing complexity it’s time for our civilization to embrace simplicity. Less is more.
That being said, living a full life does come with a condition. The condition is that we have to take both the good and the bad. We cannot be exquisitely sensitive to the beauty and joy of life without being equally sensitive to its ugliness and tragedy.
It’s a package deal.
If we want to be open to the exquisite thrill of living, we have to also be open to knee-jerking, gut-wrenching sorrow. There’s no way around it. By dulling ourselves to one, we do so for the other. By pushing away death we also push away life.
If that’s something you are willing to accept then keep reading.
Before We Begin…
I have written on similar subjects in the past. If you’re new to my work I invite you to read the following articles so you maximize what you learn:
- The Power Of The Moment – Be Here, Now
- What Is The Best Way To Be Happy?
- The Treasure Of Time – Why Peace Creates More Peace
Now on to living a full life.
What Does It Mean To “Live A Full Life”?
Building on the introduction to the article; living a full life means experiencing the full range of qualities of life with high definition and without attachment.
I’ll break down this statement. I’m going to focus on two parts of the statement; the words “qualities” and “without attachment”.
Let’s focus on qualities now. The word “qualities” is the plural form of “quality.”
What Is A Quality?
Without getting too bogged down in philosophical quandaries, which I frankly don’t understand, a quality is a judgment. It’s how good or bad we judge something to be.
Quality is subjective. It’s a private experience of an individual.
This means that an event or object which has a positive quality for one individual may not necessarily be positive for another individual. For example, being immersed in a bath of ice water for a few minutes might be invigorating for some people, while for others it would be torture.
What determines the quality of an experience?
What determines the quality of any experience are a person’s beliefs.
Every Action Stems From A Belief
Every human being has beliefs. Without beliefs we would not be able to function. If we didn’t believe the sun will rise tomorrow, how could we plan for the future? If we didn’t believe the food and water we consume nourished us, why would we invest the energy to acquire and consume them?
Every one of our actions emerges from a belief. Having beliefs is inescapable, it’s a part of being human. So, making judgments and experiencing qualities is also inescapable.
If you’re human, you experience the positive and the negative. And its entirely your judgment which makes things positive or negative.
“There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.”
That’s according to William Shakespeare.
We judge. We gotta live with that. Choosing involves judging. If we didn’t judge, we wouldn’t be able to choose.
We judge to choose romantic partners.
We judge to choose our friends.
We judge to choose where we live.
We judge what we eat and drink. At least some of us do.
Judging is not a bad thing. It’s also not a good thing. Judging is.
What Is Without Attachment?
Now lets focus on the words “without attachment”.
This is where people get all tangled up. We are all natural judges. We readily fling judgments out about everything and everyone like a tortilla machine operating at full capacity. “He’s too pushy”, “She’s too bossy”, “It’s too hot”, “They’re too happy”. You might even be judging this article as a waste of your time. And that’s fine. You can stop now if you’ve read this before.
But what follows is the gold.
See, we can’t control whether we judge or not. It’s ingrained into our human brain. But we can control whether we attach ourselves to our judgments or not.
By choosing to detach ourselves from judgments we open ourselves to the full range of qualities of life. The more detached we are from judgment, the broader the qualities and the fuller our life.
How Detachment Leads To A Fuller Life
A judgment is a comparison with a past experience.
The less experience a person has, the less they have to compare to. Children are the best example of this; their lack of experience allows them to behave without constraints. They have no experience to compare their behavior to, so they have free rein on how to behave. It’s up to family and society to shape children into functional and cooperative human beings.
There is good and bad in this child-shaping. The good is that, ideally, children become healthy members of a society and can live harmoniously in a community.
The bad is that children lose part of their unique identity in order to fit in. Their behavior is constrained into a narrow band of what is acceptable.
As children mature, the range of qualities of life they create and experience becomes constricted. We collapse from possibility to certainty. This is an essential part of growing up, but it does beg the question.
What do we lose as we mature?
As children we were fully open. Then that limitless possibility collapsed onto solid certainty. What’s the use of being all possibility? To mature is to collapse from the possibility of childhood into the actuality of adulthood.
So the question then becomes, how do we open back up? How do we retain some of the broad, open vistas of childhood while utilizing the experience gained from growing up?
The answer is…
We Detach Ourselves From Judgments
By detaching from our judgments, on how something or someone should or shouldn’t be, we allow a fuller expression of life to unfold. We experience a broader swathe of the qualities of life. We become more childlike in our wonder while having the centered focus of an adult.
We balance our inner child with our outer adult. We don’t become a grownup child, which is grotesque. Nor do we become a full adult, which is boring and stale. Full blown adults take themselves too seriously and turn life into a dull routine.
To live in a society is to balance our unique identity with our social identity. On the one hand, we all long to express our uniqueness (whether we know it or not). On the other, we also want to be accepted; being too weird gets us isolated, and isolation is never good for humans.
What to do?
We balance our uniqueness with our sameness. Too much to one side or the other and we suffer.
So how do we detach from our judgments? How do we find balance?
I’m glad you asked!
How To Detach From Judgments
There is a proven process to practice detachment from judgments. It’s an ancient process and has a proven track record all over the world. It’s as effective as it is universal. Anyone who can follow simple instructions can do it.
It’s called meditation.
I have been practicing Vipassana meditation for almost 4 years now. It’s a simple and specific technique which is designed to detach our consciousness from judgment. There is no woolliness, ambiguity, hand-waviness, confusion, ritual nor dogma.
It’s a scientific process of detached observation. The more you practice detached observation, the more judgments you release. It’s a simple as that.
I’m not affiliated with the Vipassana organization. I do not profit from promoting it. In fact, their meditation courses are funded entirely through donations and operated by volunteers. I am just a person who has benefited enormously from practicing the technique and I am sharing my experience with you, now.
Letting go of judgments has opened me up to life. It has gently reopened me to a fuller gamut of experiences. The positive and the negative. The beauty and the ugliness. The pleasure and the pain.
Living a full life has nothing to do with our achievements and possessions. It has everything to do with how present we are to the miracle of life as it unfolds for us.
Immerse Yourself In Your Senses
Vipassana meditation involves observing sensations as they come and go without attachment. Naturally, as one’s skill in the technique deepens, so does sensitivity. Through the mechanisms of neurogenesis and neuroplasticity, as we meditate our neurological hardware dedicated to sensing reality is built up.
Thanks to regular meditation, I am now exquisitely aware of the sensations I experience as I move through life. I feel the wind as it brushes through my hair. I get lost in the songs of birds as they greet the new day. I revel in the taste of freshly brewed coffee as it washes over my tongue. The smell of the forest as it passes through my nostrils invigorates me to the core. And the feel of my girlfriend’s skin as I hold her close stirs my soul.
The marvelous beauty of the ordinary is heightened. Living becomes the point of life.
But remember, we cannot become exquisitely sensitive to the positive in life without a corresponding increase in sensitivity to the negative.
I am also powerfully aware of the smells of overflowing sewers as I pass by them in Mexico City. And the cacophony of city traffic as it assaults my senses. As well as the foul taste of an herbal remedy as I take it for the first time.
In short, the volume of experience gets turned up. It’s like the senses get calibrated for a deeper resolution of reality. Beauty is found. And so is ugliness. The qualities were always there, unperceived. But perception is everything.
And perceiving a wider range of qualities means living a fuller life.
Can you see how it all works?
How To Start Living Fully
Regular meditation is the most powerful way to do this that I’ve encountered. But it’s not necessary to cultivate our awareness. It helps, but it’s not necessary.
All that’s required is to make the choice to be here, now. The breath is perfect for this. Periodically, throughout the day, take the time to bring attention to the present by focusing on your breath.
Be Present. Take a few conscious breaths throughout the day. Just a few breaths with our full attention is enough to begin cultivating our awareness and filling the glass of our life.
Living a full life is a choice. But it’s not a choice that is made once. It is made every moment of every day. It’s yoga.
Practicing yoga heightens one’s awareness of the now. In order to maintain a form, we have to be watchful of how our body changes moment to moment.
As we intend to hold a form, the body shifts. Acting on our intention then guides the body back into the form.
This adjustment happens moment to moment. It’s a never ending dance of awareness and adjustment.
And every time we adjust in awareness we become more attuned to the present. Every choice becomes etched into our bodies and minds.
That’s the magic of being human. Moment by moment we create ourselves as we choose.
Do You Live A Full Life?
Ask yourself the following question.
Do you live a full life?
You know the answer.
Living a full life is like being in love. You don’t know how or why you’re in love. You just know it through and through. You are love.
So I ask you the question again.
Do you live a full life?
What’s your answer?
To our wealth and success.