Am I Alive Check In

Greetings and welcome to another episode of Fishing Without Bait, a program devoted to living life without definitive expectations.  A life without setting yourself up for disappointment or failure and a mindfulness-based type of lifestyle where we participate in life rather than be an observer.  Learning how to be a human doing versus a human being.  

Jim:    Tonight, as always, I’m joined by my good friend and co-host and producer of this program, Mr. Mike.  So, Mike, let’s do a check-in.

Mike:    Alright.

Jim:    Where are you, Mike?

Mike:    I’m right here.  Right now.

Jim:    How do you know that?

Mike:    Because I’m right here in front of the microphone just talking to you.

Jim:    Could we possibly do an “I’m alive” checklist?

Mike:    Is this where I pinch myself?

Jim:    No.  It’s not where you pinch yourself.

Mike:    Oh.  That’s sleep, right?

Jim:    It’s not where you pinch yourself.  You see all the time.  Is that correct?  When your eyes are open you take in sights and images and colors, do you not?  One of the things that I ask people to do to do an “I’m alive” check-in – I ask them to close their eyes for about 3 or 4 minutes.  Just to close their eyes and get used to the darkness, used to having their eyes closed.  Then what I ask them to do is open their eyes and imagine that they’re seeing for the very first time.  

Mike:    I want to – at this point, if you’re driving while listening to this podcast, do not try this right away.  Just wait until you get home, or maybe that long McDonald’s drive-thru, whatever the case may be.  Just don’t do it right now.

Jim:    That’s certainly a disclaimer.  And, usually these types of moments are done when you’re alone, when you’re having a private moment and a private check-in.  Do you ever have any moments, Mike, where you weren’t sure whether you were participating in life?

Mike:    Yes.

Jim:    Let’s try to imagine that you have closed your eyes.  Close your eyes please.  Close your eyes, and think about things.  Think about what’s going on.  Where we’re at, you’ve been here many times before have you not?

Mike:    Every day.  Literally.

Jim:    Could you possibly open your eyes and imagine this is the first time you’ve ever had sight.  Imagine this is the first time you’ve ever had sight.  Could you describe to a person what that particular joy is like?

Mike:    It’s bright.  It’s a lot of detail – especially immediately in front of me.  You take a lot more in.

Jim:    Tell me, do we see the detail in our life?

Mike:    No.  For instance, here we’re in the studio.  I come in, and sit down, and I look at the power button over here, the knob over here, the microphone over there, and I don’t see everything else going on around me.

Jim:    Imagine, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could go through life as if we’re seeing for the very first time?  To be in that moment and see for the very first time.  Another thing that we could possibly do is – have you ever worn ear plugs, Mike?

Mike:    Yes.  I have.

Jim:    Have you ever been in absolute silence?

Mike:    Mm-hmm.

Jim:    Try to imagine, or I think it’s a good activity to wear these earplugs.  It’s a bit of sensory deprivation.  So, the idea here is much like the idea with opening your eyes.  To hear for the very first time.  

Mike:    I think that happens a lot for people.  I’m so used to the city now, for instance.  I’m so used to there being noise – whether it be a fan or an AC unit.  Whether it be the train rolling down 3 blocks away.  Horns in the distance.  And, I know in recent years I’ve gone back home to the middle of nowhere, to the countryside, and the deafening silence is almost disturbing at a certain point.  You’re just not used to it.  

Jim:    Many people are uncomfortable with silence, are they not?

Mike:    I found myself today, if I can, we were sitting up for another thing, and I just found myself wanting to put music on.  It was too quiet.  It’s soft music, something kind, considering the environment and everything.  I just want something going on.  But, at that point – probably because I was in a work mode, maybe it helped me a little bit.  I’m not sure.  I’m still trying to figure it out.  But, I noticed that today.

Jim:    Quite often what we do, is when we’re like that, when we feel – have you ever heard anybody that has the television on during the day, or the radio on because they need background noise.

Mike:    All the time.  Growing up it seemed like I was that way.  

Jim:    Do you need background noise?

Mike:    The TV was on in every room.

Jim:    And, how many people leave a TV on at night when they try to sleep as they say they can’t fall asleep without it?

Mike:    A lot.

Jim:    And they need background noise.  What does background noise do, Mike?  What it does is it distracts you from the present moment.  It distracts you from being.  It distracts you from participating in your life.  It distracts you from the joy of imagining seeing for the very first time, or hearing for the very first time.  It gets you into that mode of being a human doing rather than being a human being.  

Mike:    It also curbs your thoughts and distracts you from your thoughts – that may be racing.  Maybe you just need that to process.

Jim:    There are times when distraction is a valuable tool.  Let’s imagine this – how long do you think you could hold your breath, Mike?

Mike:    Not well.  Probably for about 30 seconds.  That’s probably stretching it.

Jim:    Quite often what we do is we lose touch with how valuable our breath is and what a privilege it is to be able to breathe.  My thought is for everyone out there – my challenge to them is to not only close your eyes at times, plug your ears, but also hold your breath for as long as you possibly can.  And, then take a deep breath and try to imagine that that’s the first time that you’ve ever breathed.  Try to imagine that that’s your first breath.  That’s your first moment of existence when you take that breath.

Mike:    It sounds like you’re describing a sensory baptism.

Jim:    Absolutely.  What we’re talking about, Mike, we’re talking about a rebirth.  And, we can rebirth ourselves.  We can insert ourselves into the present moment anytime we choose.  However, Mike, what we do is we give our choices away to all the distractions and the various machinations of life – everything in the media, the people that are trying to grab our attention away from the present moment.  About life as it is happening right in front of us and right around us.  Tell me, Mike, have you ever listened to your heartbeat?  

Mike:    Usually on those quiet nights.

Jim:    Do you listen to your heartbeat?

Mike:    All I can hear is my heartbeat sometimes.

Jim:    The idea is – when you’re listening to your heartbeat does that give you a slight inkling that you may be alive?

Mike:    Indeed.  

Jim:    Do you ever listen to the rhythm of your body?

Mike:    Unfortunately, not enough.  

Jim:    How often are we still?  How often do we have that silence to listen to the rhythm of our body?

Mike:    In our busy lives, not a lot.

Jim:    Who makes the busy life?  Do other people?  Or do you?

Mike:    We let other people sometimes.

Jim:    Absolutely.  So, the idea is, is I challenge people also.  And, Mike, this check-in can be no longer than 2, 3, 4, or 5 minutes long.  So, what I’m asking is, is people, really and truly to sit in silence and hear their heartbeat.  And, they can hear it.  They can hear their heartbeat.  Do it.  And, count.  Count your heartbeats.  Count 500 heartbeats and stay in that moment.  Have you ever given yourself a body massage?

Mike:    Myself?

Jim:    Yes.

Mike:    No.  I keep telling myself I want to get a massage, but it’s always like, “Ugh.”  I feel like I’m not one to pamper myself, even though maybe I need something like that  But, how do I give myself a massage?  Maybe it’ll be saving me some money, and some time to go out somewhere to do it.

Jim:    This may not necessarily be a formal massage as you’re talking about.  If we start at our toes – how often have you really examined your feet and felt your hands on your toes?  Felt your hands on your feet?  Felt that tactile stimulation?

Mike:    I’m kind of afraid to.  I don’t want to know what’s going on down there.

Jim:    Well, they’re yours.  They’re part of your body.  

Mike:    I don’t want them to go away.

Jim:    So, then you bring your hands up all over your body.  Take that tactile stimulation all over your body, Mike.  It’ll put you in touch with yourself.  It will let you know that you’re alive.  It’s in that present moment.  What we’re talking about here is ways to bring yourself into that present moment, to know the sheer existence, the sheer joy of existence, the sheer joy of being in that moment, Mike.  This is all about that mindfulness journey.  What we’re doing today is trying to help people get a better understanding and have a grasp on the tools and the skills that they can have to participate in this moment.  It’s easy to say, “Where are you at? And, what time is it?”  However, it’s another thing to actually know that, to feel it.  These are some of the ways that we can certainly do that.  Another way is, Mike, have you ever closed your eyes while you eat?

Mike:    No.

Jim:    Okay.  That’s another challenge I put out for everyone out there.  When you have your eyes open, when you have all your senses operating at once your senses are diluted.  Would they be not?

Mike:    Mm-hmm.

Jim:    Have you ever seen people take a glass of wine, or some type of a savory type of drink or a stew?  Have you ever seen when they close their eyes and they take it in their mouth?  Why do you think they close their eyes?

Mike:    It concentrates it?  It keeps from being distracting.  I guess it is kind of a point of – we talk about when somebody does go blind or deaf, the other senses pick up.

Jim:    The other senses are heightened.

Mike:    And, I guess if you’re artificially doing that by closing your eyes, it’s also going to – it’s like we talked about previously, our brain is like this data center computer system.  And, what happens when you’re spreading your resources too thin in a computer, it doesn’t want to function as well.  So, if you’re closing off one of those data points.

Jim:    We’ve often talked about mindful eating, have we not?  And, can we mindfully eat if our eyes are open and we’re watching TV?

Mike:    No.

Jim:    Or, we’re gazing at people walking around?

Mike:    Because we’re processing all of that, we’re not processing what’s happening inside our mouth.

Jim:    Absolutely.  So, my challenge is to everyone out there, to yourself, and I’m going to include myself.  I paint myself with this also.  The next time that you eat, close your eyes and enjoy the food.  Feel the sensation.  Feel the texture of the food.  Feel the flavor.  Smell the aroma of that food.  That’s my challenge.  And, the next challenge, and the last one for our podcast for today, Mike, is I challenge you – I challenge everyone out there, and I challenge myself also – to sit in absolute silence for 15 minutes a day.  This is an exercise in being in that moment, being silent, and letting things come to you rather than you going to things, rather than you pursuing things.  We spend our whole day pursuing things, do we not?  

Mike:    Things, even including our thoughts and how we process that.

Jim:    Absolutely.  So the idea is let these thoughts come to us, and allow them to come, and allow them to go.  Allow them to enter.  Sometimes our minds are like flypaper.  And, these thoughts come in, and they stick.  And, that will lead us into our next segment of our show where we’re going to be talking about gratitude.  My hope is that you pick up on some of these skills and tools, and my challenge is to incorporate some of them in your daily life, to have an “Am I alive” participating in life check-in at least once per day.  That is my challenge to everyone.  

Please check out our website at where you can listen to the show, comment on our discussions and find out where you can subscribe to our podcast.  Fishing Without Bait is a production of Namaste Holistic Counseling, P.C.