A fellow coach friend of mine described a retreat he led this summer. It was in Alaska in early August. The participants flew in from the mid-west. United out of Chicago, connecting through Seattle into Anchorage. One man asked “are we here?” My friend said no we have to take a flight into another small town. The next plane was commercial but a prop plane. “Are we here?” the man asked as the plane touched down. No, one more flight. The group then boarded another plane, this one a single engine that fit 8 passengers and gear. “Now we’re here”, said the leader. That was until the next morning when the group boarded a seaplane to do some fishing on a huge lake in the middle of some of the most remote and undeveloped country in the North America.
The retreat participant was exhausted from the resistance to the travel and the anxiety of flying in small planes and being so far away from civilization. He had complained to others about the rugged accommodations and asked, “couldn’t we have found a location closer to home?” Then everything changed. A 20 pound lake trout hit his line. The first fish this man ever caught in his life was the size veteran fisherman dream of. As the day on the lake unfolded so did the man. He began to open, to laugh at the plane rides and his cold, wet feet and to let go. As he looked at his life back in Chicago he realized how every day he set out to seek comfort. The shortest commute, the easiest tasks, the most lucrative deals, the best food, the shortest time at the office, and he lived from one Saturday game of golf to the next. The result: he was comfortable but dead.
Sometimes we don’t know what feeling fully alive is until we are living that way. Often it comes at the end of a long hike or bike ride or when we experience deep emotion – either pain or joy. We think what we want is to feel safe and certain yet aliveness comes when we step toward our fear, our discomfort.
I often wonder why I run in endurance events and backpack and why I ask my retreat participants to go without comfort and certainty (and boy do they get mad at me at first!). It’s to feel fully alive.
Do something today to feel fully alive – maybe it’s fully engaging in an uncomfortable conversation, disclosing something vulnerable or challenging to another, skipping a meal or a drink, tackling a task at work that you have been avoiding or working out a bit harder. Aliveness is waiting for us all the time.