Sort of a strange question, I know, but bear with me.
Strangely, I’ve woken up in the middle of the night with this on my mind. Well, not strange I’ve woken up as it’s fairly typical for me, but strange because what a random thought to have drop in at this hour! With way too much gusto for someone who should be sleeping, I’ve grabbed my computer and done a quick search on the internet to confirm my train of thought.
When I looked up the science I was reminded of my many (uninspiring) biology lessons. The characteristics of a living thing (as opposed to something non-living) are very clear. They even did a test with 2 ducks on a pond. One was a decoy and the other a real live duck. Of course, the decoy did not respond to its environment. It also didn’t grow or change.
Now I think it’s interesting that they used the word respond, not ‘react’.
I’ve learnt there’s a big FEELING difference between the two when it comes to being human. My reactions are unconscious, an impulsive reverse movement to an event or situation that’s not deliberate, conscious or very effective – if I want to achieve a progressive outcome. Afterwards, I’m left feeling powerless, disappointed with myself, ashamed, frustrated and resentful.
My response is deliberate – it’s a conscious movement towards growth and fosters harmonious solutions and feelings of relief. When I have the capacity to respond (as opposed to reacting) I feel in control, empowered and hopeful.
I wish when I was learning about living things, I wasn’t taught just facts. They haven’t really helped me LIVE my life. Knowing the implications of what I was learning would have been far more beneficial for me. Imagine. It could have gone something like this ….
“Now class, let’s look at the characteristics of living things…brief intro to the topic … (Lisa! stop talking and pay attention! …) Did you know you’re a living thing? That means you respond to your environment. Sometimes that environment challenges you and you’ll have a feeling. Hey! That’s normal – because you’re ENGAGED with the world around you. You’re IN it. You might want to fight or flee what’s happening and sometimes it will be appropriate to do so if your life is threatened. But you can’t do that all the time. You’d be exhausted!
Your feeling, that response we just talked about? It’s part of a process of growth and development. Because wha’do ya know?… GROWTH is a key characteristic of being alive. (baahaa, who would have thought! Change has to happen if you are alive, sorry folks.)
Your response, whatever it may be, is the critical and necessary impetus for the next (greater) version of you.
It’s all part of a living process. Isn’t that a relief? There’s nothing wrong with you. You’re not broken. Now you guys can go on to really live, because you won’t be trying to control or suppress your responses because I’ve just taught you they’re simply part of a process, so you won’t get hung up on them (or stuck, or lost, or overwhelmed). Class dismissed. Lisa come have a word with me!”
That’s what could have happened. I could have also paid more attention, but to be honest I always found the boy I was sitting next to much more interesting than the teacher!
So back to my original, random, early morning (if you live in Australia) question. Are you a live being? That would mean you respond to your environment and this response is part of your growth and adaption to what’s happening in your life.
Oh my gosh. Do you know what that means???
Given our culture excludes and constrains the way we feel, I was taught to suppress, ignore, deny, medicate my natural responses and if my natural responses are a key characteristic of being alive…. Then I was not being a live being. I was being something, but not a live (with a deliberate space between the a and live for extra effect 😛).
Until I learnt how to embrace and feel ok with all I felt, I was living a robotic life. Not fully engaged in the moments I was experiencing. Living a habitual existence, which wasn’t unpleasant. But it also wasn’t fulfilling. Sure, I would react and try to fix, but I rarely responded with deliberate, conscious action that developed my ability to thrive. I was held back from responding truthfully and authentically by my job, my marriage, my thinking, my beliefs, so I always felt like there was always something missing. There was something more I could be, I just wasn’t sure what that was. (A live maybe?)
Now it’s 4.30 am and my early morning challenge to you is … are you a live being? Are you comfortable with yourself in the process of living? Are you a human having a feeling engagement and being ok with that? That’s a big call … and a lot of pressure when our society hasn’t taught us how to be at ease with the way we feel. Sorry. But do not despair! Given it’s our natural way – ie it must be, because we are a living thing – then all we have to do is relearn what’s inherently part of the way our organism was designed to work. It’s a case of remembering what’s natural, even though it’s not normal. A case of not having to create balance, but actually experiencing harmony.
Eventually we may even be able look at making a few adjustments to the science syllabus.
Sending love (and going back to sleep!),
Lisa Jayne is a speaker, author and consultant bridging the gap between emotion and culture, making life’s ups and downs as easy as possible. With a background in education and business, she delivers inspiring talks with practical tools to help individuals relearn what’s more natural. Lisa consults in organisations to build supportive frameworks that bridge mental and emotional health with everyday productivity and creativity for optimal workplace performance. Lisa also enjoys talking to unruly groups of school students on the implications of being a live being. You can contact her for more information at email@example.com