“What we’re really seeking is…the rapture of being alive in our bodies…” -Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth *
This quote comes from the man who said, “Follow your bliss.” He directs us to the essence of our human pursuit, to experience energetic vibrance and conscious awareness in our physical bodies. That feeling state of bliss is composed of physical sensation, emotion, and cognition.
This is an in-person experience, the full realization of aliveness in physical form, though it might be experienced in consort with another.
I recently encountered a provocative poem by Sharon Olds that captures the essence of this state of unprojected bliss, in other words, the state in which one takes full ownership of his or her own internal human experience.
Here is the poem, Sex Without Love by Sharon Olds:
How do they do it, the ones who make love
without love? Beautiful as dancers,
gliding over each other like ice-skaters
over the ice, fingers hooked
inside each other’s bodies, faces
red as steak, wine, wet as the
children at birth whose mothers are going to
give them away. How do they come to the
come to the come to the God come to the
still waters, and not love
the one who came there with them, light
rising slowly as steam off their joined
skin? These are the true religious,
the purists, the pros, the ones who will not
accept a false Messiah, love the
priest instead of the God. They do not
mistake the lover for their own pleasure,
they are like great runners: they know they are alone
with the road surface, the cold, the wind,
the fit of their shoes, their over-all cardio-
vascular health—just factors, like the partner
in the bed, and not the truth, which is the
single body alone in the universe
against its own best time.
Though unstated, this poem, for me, points to the highest love: love without illusion, full embracement and celebration of life within the confines of the self. Of course, our humanness requires that we partake of the sensuous other, that we find deep connection and sharing, reveling and revealing, in another. But at the deepest level we must respect the truth of the separateness of all others, and take up the full realization of our own individual being while in our human form.
This experience of exhilaration in aliveness leads ultimately to feelings of calmness and contentedness, in concert with the awe of aliveness as it pulses through our veins and warms our hearts. This full experience of aliveness is our wholeness that so frequently gets projected outwardly—in being with, having or loving another. This is the trickster nature of our world. It’s really a world of projection where our missingness is reflected all around us, outside of us. How can we help but be compulsively drawn to consume our projected wholeness in some form?!
And pursue we must! It’s imperative that we fully experience our wholeness! But once we’ve burned through the disappointments of unrequited illusive wholeness projections, we are freed to fully embrace our untethered energetic wholeness within ourselves. At first, we might experience this in short spurts, while taking a brief walk in nature or in an encounter with the moon where the euphoria of aliveness waxes through our beings—physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
At some point, we might discover the exhilaration of our aliveness in attenuated calm, in every moment, in every encounter—complete wholeness achieved. Ironically, that wholeness in self is, in fact, the most loving interconnected experience with all—no boundaries to love or self.
* This quote opened and closed a weekend workshop that I attended with Robert Miller on addiction and feeling states. This blog is, in part, inspired by his message that addiction is our seeking of the rapture of being alive in our bodies. I am in gratitude to him for his work.