What Makes Me Alive?

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs . . . ask yourself what makes you alive because what the world needs are people who have come alive.”

–Rainier Maria Rilke

What makes me come alive?

11 thoughts on “What Makes Me Alive?”

  1. Dear Roadmap Writers and Readers,

    I just wanted to give you a heads-up. I’m currently in Peru taking a group on a Write, Travel, Transform trip. I won’t be back until the first week in November, and while I’m away, I won’t be able to tend this digital space or read your posts.

    My assistant will be sure that new people are approved so they can start posting right away and be seen, but until November, you will be commenting on each other’s work without my moderation or supervision or comments–until I get back. I’ll be back here on this forum on November 7th.

    Enjoy this space and keep writing. In the meantime, if you want to follow my travels and take a virtual vacation on me, you can follow my Virtual Vacation Peru posts here:


    If you’re on my mailing list already, you will also receive the posts there–but they are usually delayed while they’re being processed and are usually posted in a digest. So if you want them hot off the press, get them on Facebook.

    If you do follow me, please comment! It’s fun to hear from folks back home when I’m away.

    1. Hi folks, to make it easier to follow the posts and responses on the “Roadmap”, be sure to check the “Notify me of follow-up comments by email BOX before clicking on the “post Comment”above it.

      You will see and be able to read all responses and comments in your email! Much easier to follow the conversation that way.

  2. Sometimes in my therapy groups I begin the session by asking members to answer two ‘questions’ 1) Three things that give you life energy, and 2) Three things that diminish or deplete your life energy. Though not precisely the same, the prompt “What makes you come alive” reminded me of the first question, and in reminding me, a litany of many more than three flooded my heart and mind. There’s much that makes me come alive, feel alive, “know” with every cell of my being that I am alive. And that knowing is always in the context of being mindfully present. My litany of what makes me come alive is a list, in the shape of a paragraph.

    The scent of Eucalyptus and Monterey pine, sun on my face and arms, sand between my toes, an unexpected phone call from my daughter; her voice through the miles, summiting a peak after a long mountain hike, listening to Tracy Chapman with my eyes closed, my hands in dirt; digging, planting, weeding, the sound of crashing waves with my eyes closed, connecting deeply with a client; the moment we both know connection is present, planning a trip with a girlfriend or with my daughter, pausing and breathing; knowing I am breathing, the sensation of my naked body against my sheets, writing for hours and losing track of time, closely observing the landscape below from an airplane window as the plane takes off or lands, swimming miles and miles with my masters swim team four times a week; knowing with all my being, that I am strong, hugging/touching/crying, speaking up for an injustice I can’t contain, travelling to places I’ve never been before; exploring new streets and new sights, deep, wonderful, validating conversations with my friends, singing loudly / passionately alone in the car on a long drive, looking up at any sky and pausing and breathing, knowing I am breathing.

    1. Dear Ellen,

      Thank you for your lovely and poetic images. Also liked your practical lists idea for therapy participants.

      A list I use from a friend I met in a support group is to briefly write s 7-5-3-1 each day.

      7 Gratitudes – Things I’m thankful for today.

      5 Problems – Challenges I’m facing today.

      3 Good Things About Me – Qualities, talents, character traits; nothing about physical appearance.

      1 Forgiveness – Something I’m willing to forgive myself for today. (If I feel unable to forgive myself for anything at all today, then I write something, that I’m willing to become willing, to be able to forgive myself for.)

      When I take just a few minutes to jot these down, it puts my mind and spirit in focus for the day. This has been very helpful to me over the past several years.

      Again, your writing is soothing and the images you paint very easy to see. Thank you for sharing what you have written.


  3. “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. . .ask yourself what makes you alive because what the world needs is people like you who have come alive.”
    ~~Rainier Maria Rilke

    Sorry, pet, but I’m not feeling so sunny-side-up these days. In fact, whilst reading the topic of our Prompt, my cynical voice complained firmly inside my head,

    “Hah! As if I care! ‘What the world needs?!???’ Yeah, right. That would have to come from some dewy-eyed slender blonde wisp of a child, and sorry, but I’m simply not her anymore.

    The dull sullen leaden heavy weight of my head turns, creaks slowly, slowly, upon my aching stiffened neck, turns wearily, towards the pale Autumn light which leaks beneath Venetian blinds. Sparse suburban trees stand guard over red brick blocks of apartments, their curbing perimeters lined with large black garbage bins round the cul-de-sac. High deeply green tree leaves shimmy in the breeze, beckoning from wiggly branches, swaying gently upon the unseen tidal surf of Wind.

    I gaze forlornly through the window.

    “Caw! Caw!” The crow warns us all sternly, flapping up across the pale grey sky, wide black long feathered wings beat strongly, dark knowing eye pierces, loud yellow sharp beak screams again.

    “Caw! Caw!
    Caw! Caw” Cardinals, robins, songbirds dot the pauses, soft notes. Layers sift more sunlit rays, brightening the room, backlighting the grey silken puffball cat, her creamy paws tucked beneath, a sleeping purring mound, a swirl with upturned pink nose white chin. The light so bright is harsh and has me squinting, wincing, my eyes tender puffy from weepy weeks.

    The couch is my picket line and I refuse to cross it each night. I refuse to sleep for hours, sitting, sipping water, smoking, see? I don’t need to sleep…only later to waken in distorted frozen jerks, my neck twisted, awkwardly stiff — i am alert again, still on guard, still on strike, and willing, yes, willing, willing — stubbornly willing myself to stay there, to hang on, to watch yet another show, smoke another cigarette, pour another glass of ice water, but…NO! I do NOT need to go to bed, not yet, not now.

    Do not give in. Do not give up.

    Rilke. “What the world needs?” But when he asks us this question, then in the next line, instructs us not to answer it, isn’t that like,

    “DON’T think about a beautiful naked woman, covered with amazing colorful butterfly tattoo artwork!!! Now, don’t think about that. Think of anything else, but not a beautiful woman, naked, head to toe, and covered, every square inch covered, with incredibly colorful, exquisitely beautiful butterfly tattoo artwork.

    “Don’t think about her!”

    The moment we are instructed to *not think of* something, it’s all we can think of.

    Then, in the very next sentence, having flatly told us we are most definitely not to consider at all what the world might need, Rilke answers the question himself. Do as I say, not as I do. Rilke tells us, “Don’t ask what the world needs.” Then in the next breath, he turns around and says, “Oh, and by the by, THIS is what the world needs, is for YOU to come bloody well ALIVE!”

    So, to sum it all up:

    A. Don’t ask what the world needs.

    B. I’ll tell you what the world needs.
    (Because you’re just a stewpid eejit, Dear Reader, whereas I’m a genius –a God, really — and I truly do know it all…)

    C. The world needs you, people like you, whom have come alive.
    (Never having met you, Dear Reader, I’ll just take it you’re the stay at work or home type, tending to your children and your garden…and surely you’re NOT the type who goes about thieving murdering raping; oh no, surely no bad sort will ever read what I’ve written here, now will they?…)

    Me? Me, come alive? Well, M. Rilke, I am alive, and doing okay, sitting on the couch, cat asleep upon my lap. Does being cat furniture count as “coming alive?” The last verse of this song speaks for me today. I share it here, giving full credit to the songwriter, Sara Bareilles.

    HOLD MY HEART ~~ By Sara Bareilles © 2010

    “Does anybody know how to hold my heart?
    How to hold my heart?
    ‘Cause I don’t want to let go let go let go too soon.
    I want to tell you so before the sun goes dark
    How to hold my heart?
    ‘Cause I don’t want to let go let go let go too soon.
    Is anybody listening?
    ‘Cause I’m crying.
    Is anybody listening?
    Does anybody know how to hold my heart?
    How to hold my heart?
    ‘Cause I don’t want to let go let go let go too soon.
    I want to tell you so before the sun goes dark.
    How to hold my heart?
    ‘Cause I don’t want to let go let go let go of you.”

  4. What Makes Me Feel Alive? Movement….

    Somersault: My husband’s love
    Jumping: My garden
    Clapping: Reading a great book
    Handstand: My massage practice
    OohsAhhs: immersed in natures waters, be it sea, lake or river
    Strolling: Continuous student of herbalism
    Swimming: Making medicines
    Twirling: Playing piano
    Laughing: Being a Grandmother
    Sitting in a comfortable rocking chair: Being a mother
    Diving: Being in the arms and love of my husband
    Skipping: Being with good and lovely friends
    PogoStick: Cooking holiday meals with family
    HulaHoop: Walking in the Redwoods
    Vacuuming: Picking weeds and tending the garden’
    Leaping: Succeeding over challenges
    Gratitude rituals: For everything that blooms, crawls, lives and dies, mountains, meadows, rivers, lakes and salty seas
    RollerSkating: soaring through life with a fun attitude
    Falling: love and loss, tears of grief
    Pedaling down a steep mountain: creating….music, writing, poetry

    1. Dear Paula,

      Thank you for such vivid reminders of what used to bring me joy. This gives me hope they will again return to me. Beautifully written.


      1. I truly hope you find your joy once again, Jane. It’s absolutely necessary for survival here, I believe, and so very sad when something happens to deprive one of such exuberance. Just say “fuck” to whatever ghost is haunting you, and be well!!

        1. Dear Paula,

          Thank you. It is now a month since we buried my Father. I appreciate your kind words.


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