A New Year: Resolving to simply be
When’s the last time you simply existed?
Not in a meditative state, necessarily, but at a level of consciousness where you acknowledged that the act of being alive was not only sufficient but a goal in and of itself. It seems a bit misleading, calling existence a goal, when you don’t really have to try at it to make it so. But that’s just it, when you strive to recognize the power of existing, the beauty of it, the all-encompassing nature of living in the most basic sense, then, well, you’re already in a different state of being entirely.
I was in the shower on a particularly nondescript day not too long ago, when this sensation hit me. Letting the water run over me. Not thinking about anything else but that hot stream of liquid. It was as if time suspended itself from moving forward — or backward. There was no self judgment, no internal checklist-checking, no feelings whatsoever really. Neutrality. Contentment. Appreciation. Reinvigoration.
Now, I’ll be the first to tell you that I get a lot of my best ideas while showering, so the fact that this notion first crystallized pre-facial cleanse was not altogether surprising to me. (Where’s your “great ideas” spot? I guarantee you it’s not in front of your computer or phone.) What was surprising, however, was the strength of this realization. It stopped me in my tracks (the water, thanks to gravity and modern plumbing, however, kept right on flowing).
As a cerebral individual, I often try to document my inner monologues: categorize them, give them purpose, make sure they can live on as more than just a fleeting moment of inspiration. As a writer, that often means post-it notes, voice memos, or other notepad chicken scratch to call out potential ideas for articles. This was one of those moments, but it also felt like something more.
I recently got my first-ever tattoo, inking the word dasein onto my right forearm. The German word meaning existence (and yes, for any German native speakers, I took the creative liberty to make the “d” lowercase instead of the grammatically correct Dasein) more literally translates into “being there” or “presence”. Having studied German philosophy in college, the phrase coined by Heidegger struck me hard in my college years: this notion of what separates humans from animals, a consciousness that both recognizes solitude and is strengthened by relationship — seeing oneself in others — did so much more for me than evoke the present-day mantra to “be present”. It has always seemed like a term that doesn’t have a direct translation into English: hidden within its syllables is the understanding that existence is complex, that consciousness is deep and expansive, that our act of existing is something to contemplate and to discuss, instead of taking for granted.
What if every morning your cup of coffee was inspiring? What if the act of making lunch was enough to provide gratitude and peace to your day? Would it open up new space for appreciation of others? Would it allow you to empathize more openly with the plight of those less fortunate? Perhaps it would give you more grace: for the amount of things you can realistically accomplish on your to-do list, for the person you already are as well as the person you want to be. Whatever the outcome, a focus on existence could alter one moment at a time, which may just snowball into other moments throughout the day, year, decade and even a lifetime.
The idea of simply existing is an act of rebellion, against the constant pressure to improve, to be more productive, and to incessantly, linearly grow. Perhaps the reason why this idea left such a strong impression on me is because I’ve never known what it feels like not to relentlessly strive toward something. I’ve never before felt at peace with what the universe has dealt me, at the very moment it was offered, without feeling the need to control, to push, and to advance: well ahead of the present moment, environment, and circumstance.
Perhaps in a seemingly contradictory sense at first, focusing on existing may just be the most impactful way I can grow as an individual in the coming year.
Maybe, just maybe, channeling your mental and emotional energy into just being will free you to be the happiest, best version of you yet.