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Seeking Aliveness

Carl Jung

Seeking Aliveness
Thursday, November 25, 2021
Thanksgiving Day in the U.S.

Ann Ulanov is a noted Jungian scholar, theologian, and therapist. Here she writes about “aliveness” as the key to transformation:

Aliveness comes down to one thing—consenting to rise, to be dented, impressed, pressed in upon, to rejoin, to open, to ponder, to be where we are in this moment and see what happens, allowing the breath of not knowing to be taken, wanting to see what is there and what is not there. Aliveness springs from our making something of what we experience and receiving what experience makes of us. This is the wonder of the child the New Testament always recommends us to return to, what the philosopher Paul Ricœur calls our “second naiveté”. . . . In such a space we allow ourselves to depend on something greater than ourselves, to take what it gives us and respond to it. . . . [RR: This is the beginning of an actual relationship with God and the movement beyond mere religion.]

Wanting to protect ourselves from psychic pain, we limit our imaginations, our ability to play around with ideas, our bodily sensations. We take someone else’s words instead of fumble for our own. We neglect giving attention to our dreams. We fear to go down into the depths of one relationship and instead substitute ever new ones. We avoid saying the hard truth to one we love. . . . We may sacrifice whole parts of ourselves in order to protect against pain, but then the whole of us loses some of its essential vitality. . . .

This struggle to live all we can in the face of death, illness, loss of relationship, unbearable grief, acts of injustice, is a struggle we share in all our different circumstances of life. . . . In the New Testament words, the pearl of great price [Matthew 13:45–46] is what we sell all we have for the sake of; riches, fame, security do not ensure simple happiness in being, only this precious aliveness. What, then, is that pearl of great price? It is feeling alive and real, vibrantly the aliveness that belongs to each of us. [1]

CAC teacher and author Brian McLaren reflects on the spiritual journey as a quest for aliveness. He writes:

What we all want is pretty simple, really. We want to be alive. To feel alive. Not just to exist but to thrive, to live out loud, walk tall, breathe free. We want to be less lonely, less exhausted, less conflicted or afraid . . . more awake, more grateful, more energized and purposeful. We capture this kind of mindful, overbrimming life in terms like well-being, shalom, blessedness, wholeness, harmony, life to the full, and aliveness. . . .

The quest for aliveness is the best thing about religion, I think. It’s what we’re hoping for when we pray. It’s why we gather, celebrate, eat, abstain, attend, practice, sing, and contemplate. When people say “I’m spiritual,” what they mean, I think, is simple: “I’m seeking aliveness.” [2]

References:
[1] Ann Belford Ulanov, The Unshuttered Heart: Opening to Aliveness/Deadness in the Self (Abingdon Press: 2007), 15–16, 17.

[2] Brian D. McLaren, We Make the Road by Walking: A Year-Long Quest for Spiritual Formation, Reorientation, and Activation (Jericho Books: 2014), xv.

Story from Our Community:
I’ve been following Fr. Richard for at least 10 years and so much of what he says parallels others in the fields of human psychology and spirituality. Fr. Richard’s work has kept me grounded through many challenging times. I am grateful for the work that he’s done and can’t say enough about the impact it has had on my life. —James H.

Learn more about the Daily Meditations Editorial Team.

Image credit: Rose B. Simpson, Holding it Together (detail), 2016, sculpture.
We featured the artist of these sculptures, Rose B. Simpson, at our recent CONSPIRE conference—so many of us were impacted by her creations that we decided to share her work with our Daily Meditations community for the month of November.
Image Inspiration: How many ways can I express myself? People ask me “who is your work modeled after?” And they’re all self-portraits because the only story I can really tell is my own. And so they’re all about different journeys I’ve had in my life. —Rose B. Simpson, CONSPIRE Interview, 2021
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