Discussion Questions, Storytelling, Sharing

  • Share a story about a time when you felt, in Joseph Campbell's words, "the rapture of being alive."
  • Share another story about a time in your life when you practiced the shadow side of zeal. It might be your participation in a vindictive, narrow-minded, or wrong-headed crusade that was not life-affirming. It might be your involvement in a group or a project that consumed all your energy so that you had no time to care for yourself or your other relationships.
  • Who are the most vibrantly alive people you know? What are the keys to their vitality?

Imagery Exercise

Throughout the mystical poetry of the fifteenth century Indian poet Kabir there are numerous calls to "Jump into experience while you are alive." A set of these poems appears in The Soul Is Here for Its Own Joy edited by Robert Bly. This exercise, "Waking Up," is based on the images in some of them.

Breathe out three times. Sense and know that it is morning. Wake up!

Breathe out one time. See a clay jug before you. Know how it contains canyons and pine mountains and the maker of canyons and pine mountains. Sense how there are seven oceans inside and hundreds of millions of stars.

Breathe out one time. Know and see how the wheel of love turns in the sky and the spinning seat is made of the sapphires of work and study.

Breathe out one time. See a leaf floating on the water. Know that we live as the great One and the little one. Feel and know that the river inside you is flowing into the ocean.

Breathe out one time. Plunge into the truth. Find out who the Teacher is. Believe in the Great Sound.

Then, breathe out and open your eyes.

Journal Exercises

  • The Japanese have a phrase in which they commend a person for "the nobility of failure." According to Caroline Casey, what they are doing is honoring the effort. We can look at the great things at which someone has failed and see the energy that is behind it. Even to fail, one has to be truly alive! Reframe a recent failure as evidence of your zest for life.
  • Make a list of "Life Lessons." Be extravagant in your learning. Cover every period of your life so far and imagine lessons to come in the years ahead.