How do we find the fullness of life? How do we learn to join the dance and sing the songs of life in all of its fullness? It seems to me that there are five essential steps that can be taken in order and each builds on the other.
The five steps are: 1) to accept ourselves; 2) to be ourselves; 3) to forget ourselves in loving; 4) to believe; and 5) to belong. The more deeply these five elements are realized, the more we are able to find the fullness of life.
1) To accept ourselves. People who are fully alive accept and love themselves as they are. Fully alive people are sensitively aware of all that is good in themselves, from the little things, like the way they smile or walk, through the natural talents they have been given, to the virtues they have worked to cultivate. The wellsprings for the fullness of life rise from within a person. This means that a good self-image and a sense of self-celebration are the bedrock beginning of the fountain that rises up into the fullness of life.
2) To be ourselves. Fully alive people are free by their self-acceptance to be authentic and real. Only people who have joyfully accepted themselves can take all the risks and responsibilities of being themselves. “I gotta be me” and “To thine own self be true” are their life principles and mantras. Authentic individuals can think their own thoughts and make their own choices. They have risen above the nagging need for the approval of others.
3) To forget ourselves in loving. Fully alive people learn to go out of themselves in genuine caring and concern for others. The size of a person’s world is the size of his or her heart. Fully alive men and women escape from the dark and diminished world of egocentricity, which always has a population of one. They are filled with an empathy that enables them to feel deeply and spontaneously with others. Do-gooders merely use other people as opportunities for practicing their acts of virtue, of which they keep careful count. Loving people learn to move the focus of their attention and concern from themselves out to others. They care deeply about others.
4) To believe. Fully alive people discover meaning in their lives. They have a specific vocation and mission in life. It is matter of commitment to a person or cause in which one can believe and to which one can be dedicated. This faith commitment shapes the lives of fully alive individuals, making all of their efforts seem significant and worthwhile. Devotion to this life task raises them above the pettiness and paltriness that necessarily devours meaningless lives.
5) To belong. The final component of the full life would not doubt be a “place called home,” a sense of community. A community is a union of persons who share in mutuality their most precious possessions – themselves. They know and are open to one another. They are “for” one another. They share in love their persons and their lives. Fully alive people have such a sense of belonging – to their families, to their church, to the human family. Butterflies are free, but we need the heart of another as a home for our hearts. Fully alive people have the deep peace and contentment that can be experienced only in such a home.
Fully alive people are aware of the thorns but concentrate on the roses. Each day has newness about it. It is never a carbon copy of yesterday. No person, including ourselves, is today who he or she was yesterday. They await new daily insights. These insights will renew them and their vision of reality.