Life is not a spectator sport

By Cara Bradley, Author of “On The Verge”

In the final race of my college track career, I beat my personal best by six seconds. Until then I had been an average runner hampered by pre-race jitters and self-doubt. But on that day, after I went for a warm-up jog by myself during which I repeated out loud the intention, “Personal best, personal best,” I was buoyed by a sense of calm confidence.

On that auspicious day, I managed to settle down, show up, and – with surprising grace – sail across the finish line in record time. In two minutes and change, I went from ordinary runner to elite athlete. In a flash, I experienced a surge of strength that didn’t come from merely trying harder but, instead, seemed to emerge from a place where I felt clear, confident, and fully alive.

Deep down I felt certain that breaking my personal record was related to my pre-race jog. Repeating “personal best” had settled me. I’d shifted into a relaxed yet alert state where time slowed down and I had no doubt and no fear. In this state, beyond thinking, I soared. Immediately, I wanted to understand what exactly I’d done to feel that clear and confident. I had to find a system or discipline to help me feel that awake and fully alive – all the time. I knew one thing for certain: I wanted more.

Now, decades after my final college race, I still vividly remember the details. I clearly remember calmly standing on the starting line waiting for the gun to go off, the smell of spring in the air, and how my spikes felt on the track. I remember everything about that moment when I felt empowered, energized, and fully alive – the high-definition, full-sensory experience that redirected my life.

For the past thirty years I have dedicated my life to helping others show up and get engaged in this game called life and to not be satisfied sitting on the sidelines watching the years fly by. Through my own self-study and teaching thousands of people, I’ve discovered that feeling awake, engaged, and fully alive is available to anyone at anytime.


How Are You Experiencing Your Life?

You experience life in different ways. Some experiences are secondhand, some are muted, and some are direct. Secondhand experiences are someone else’s interpretation of an event or experience: Your mother tells you about the sunset she watched or your friend says the burgers at Sally’s Diner are the best she’s ever eaten. A muted experience occurs when you’re mentally distracted or emotionally drained. Your senses may feel fuzzy or foggy. For example, you eat an apple but totally miss its crisp tartness because you’re thinking about tomorrow’s doctor’s appointment.

There are moments in life when your experience is direct. What you see is sharper and clearer, what you touch is more real, tastes are more vibrant, smells are stronger, and sounds are more distinct. These are your direct sensory experiences in high definition. A direct experience is your firsthand knowledge of a sensation, state, or feeling; it’s exactly what you’re feeling through your five senses in any given moment. Direct experiences happen when you get up from the sidelines and step onto the field.


What Does High Definition Feel Like?

Show up in this exact moment without expectation, judgment, or drama and you will directly experience life in high definition. When you get out of your own way, let go of trying, and allow yourself to simply be, life feels crisp and clear. Be here now and your senses will light up. Shazam! You will feel a spark of energy, a shiver, or a pulsing aliveness that will turn you on and wake you up to the vividness of the world around you. Experiences go from black and white or analog to Technicolor.

Such high-definition moments are free of charge and available to most of us every day. You don’t have to wait until the next time you are at the beach, on a mountaintop, or even in the middle of a crisis to feel your senses heightened. Believe it or not, high-definition moments are continuously available, even during mundane activities. Next time you’re eating, ask yourself what you taste and smell. When you’re walking, pause and notice the trees. When you’re driving, brushing your teeth, or in your spin class, pause and recognize what you notice. Tune in to the moment with all of your senses and you will encounter the variety of shades, sounds, smells, tastes, and feel of a high-definition moment.

The good news is that when you settle down and get out of your own way, your attention drops down below your head and your busy mind and into your body. You’ll arrive in a space where you become vividly aware of your senses and exactly what you’re seeing, tasting, touching, hearing, and smelling. Connecting with your body through physical sensation is essential to experiencing life fully. Your body always experiences life directly and vividly. It cannot do otherwise. You can’t smell or see something secondhand. Your body is always present; the feeling of grass under your feet cannot be muted or dulled.

During a high-definition moment you may feel any or all of the following: vibrant, energized, empowered, ready, aligned, at ease, happy, peaceful, relaxed, available, steady, and confident. It’s a sense of being whole. It’s a feeling of being in harmony and alignment in both your inner and outer worlds. Ultimately sensing life in high definition goes beyond words. You can experience it anytime – on a run, lying on the beach and listening to the ocean, floating in a pool, working on a jigsaw puzzle, or hiking in the woods.


Notice. Notice. Notice.

Recognizing high-definition, full-sensory moments throughout your day is what I call “living on the verge,” or showing up to experience life completely. It’s a way of being fully alive. To strengthen your ability to see life in high definition in ordinary moments, start to recognize when you feel clear, bright, alert, sharp, strong, vibrant, fearless, excited, empowered, or courageous. To recognize these moments, you’ll need to be present for them. If you’re thinking about the past or future or daydreaming about your next vacation, you will miss the chance. Right here, in this moment, you have the opportunity to participate in reading these words, to feel the couch beneath you, or the sun on your face.

To experience more of your life in high definition, incorporate this simple practice into your day: Stop. Take Five. Experience.

  1. Set your timer for two minutes. Close your eyes.
  2. Pay attention to your breathing by counting five full breaths. It helps to think, “Inhale, exhale one. Inhale, exhale two,” and so on. Listening to the sound of your breath will almost immediately relax you and begin to settle your busy mind.
  3. After five breaths, open your eyes and sit quietly.
  4. Now, with your mind calm and body still, slowly look around and actively notice your surroundings. What do you see, smell, hear, taste, or touch? Do you feel dull or awake? Are you tired or energized? If your mind is very busy thinking, that’s okay too. Whatever you notice is perfect. Pausing in this way is the first step to connecting with your body and waking up to your naturally high-definition life.


What Were Your High-Definition

Moments Today?

You have had your own high-definition moments, I’m sure of it. Can you think of a few? Perhaps it was the intense emotional high you experienced when you got married or the profound disappointment you felt when you didn’t get the job your heart was set on. Sometimes high-definition moments are easy to identify, and sometimes they’re not as clearly defined.

Try this simple exercise to recount moments during your day when the world became vivid or you felt a surge of energy:


Recall Your High-Definition Moments

Before you go to sleep tonight, recall three times you felt touched by life. Perhaps it was seeing the sun hit the top of the trees in the late afternoon or hearing the giggles of the neighbor’s kids in the backyard. Maybe you listened to a friend in need or belted out a song during your commute home. List these moments in a journal or simply in your mind. Do this exercise regularly and you’ll soon recognize high-definition moments all the time.

High-definition experiences are available to you right here in this moment. It’s a matter of first recognizing them and then pausing to fully experience them. In other words, stop and smell the roses, taste the apple, watch the sunset. High-definition moments will recharge you in powerfully moving ways and light you up from the inside out. Don’t try to do anything special. In fact, don’t do anything at all. Simply stop, pause, and experience the brilliance of being fully alive.

Your life is too precious to treat it like a spectator sport, so don’t be content to sit courtside watching the game happen in front of you. Why not directly experience your life fully? Why not show up and step onto the field and experience the game called life in high definition?


Cara Bradley is the author of “On the Verge: Wake Up, Show Up, and Shine”, and founder of Verge Yoga Center. Visit online at www.carabradley.net. The above article is based on the book “On the Verge”, Copyright © 2016 by Cara Bradley. Reprinted with permission from New World Library. www.newworldlibrary.com

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