The majority of people are like drones, nowadays. It seems as if they are living their lives in a trance – numb sleepwalkers that do the same things day in and day out – while being stuck in various routines that have accumulated during the years. Routines that give them the sensation of stability in an unstable and ever-changing world. There is no variety other than the regularly changing television program, new computer and console games or the newest scandals of celebrities and politicians. People have no time anymore to call their friends and to spend time with them, but waste hours of their valuable time online, on Facebook – checking status messages, addictively playing games, chatting with random strangers or watching videos on YouTube. You can hear people mumble, “I’m in a rush” or “Haven’t got any time” while they rush from their workplaces to their entertainment stations, called home. People have mastered the skill of multi-tasking and can perform various tasks simultaneously, but they lack the ability to focus on only one thing at a time and wonder why they don’t get anything done or why they aren’t happy with the outcome of their multi-tasked work.
Yet, the state of being a numb sleepwalker can be very promising – after all, all you have to do is lean back and start drifting through life, which can be an exciting journey full of adventurous hours in front of the television or your video console. This is one possible way of life, but there will always be the remaining emptiness within yourself that you will not be able to fill – not with entertainment, not by accumulating riches, gathering tangibles or continuously changing partners. That’s the burden of being a sleepwalker – you won’t reach true fulfillment and consciousness; to put it simply: you aren’t able to fill the emptiness within yourself.
Part I: The Active Mind
Start living your life NOW!
The sleepwalkers I was talking about in the above certainly do fulfill their specific needs for nutrition, security, love, happiness and entertainment, but are they really living their lives – actively and consciously – or are they still dreaming and behaving on auto-pilot? Let’s look at it this way… I’m sure you have heard about the people who had a near-death experience and reported about the phenomenon that they saw their whole lives flashing before their inner eyes, just like a movie. The film that was flashing before their eyes contained all the emotional and exciting moments they had experienced throughout their lives. The only question is: do you really want to see yourself sitting in front of a TV or a computer when “watching the movie of your life”? Watching yourself observing something else, when the “director” zooms into the best moments of your entire life? I certainly don’t! I’d rather prefer to see myself really living my life – not observing the fictional life on the TV screen or playing a fictional role in whatever game.
The courage to live your life to the fullest
All it takes to live your life to the fullest is courage – nothing more and nothing less. This sounds rather minimalist and easy to cope with – but a lack of courage is a key factor that prevents most people from living their lives to the fullest. These people aren’t necessarily cowards or scared-chicken – not at all – as they are simply being stuck with their quite comfortable everyday routines. To express it metaphorically: there are some dreams that you do not want to end. Courage is a crucial factor – as you cannot live your life to the fullest if you don’t dare to do it or shy the risks that could come with it.
Listening to your heart
The following can be observed ever since in the history of mankind, so it isn’t just a recent trend: young people choose – influenced by the advice from their parents (or friends) – to walk the predetermined path that was selected for their lives – a path that might have been chosen by their parents or dictated by the society they live in – often before they were born. Some others pursue the smell of banknotes and follow where the desire to accumulate as much money and tangibles as possible will lead them. There are many other examples where people make important decisions for their lives solely based on external factors – some earn a living with jobs they absolutely dislike and hate, jobs that might even interfere with their beliefs, others become lawyers just because their whole family consisted of lawyers for decades. The mistake we make is that we put way too much emphasis on the importance of external factors – such as money, family tradition, and honor, etc. – rather than listening to our hearts and following where it leads us.
You don’t necessarily have to break with your family tradition when you follow your heart, absolutely not! But there is a huge difference in between the choice to become a firefighter “because my dad, my grandfather, and my great grandfather were fireman as well” or to choose to become a firefighter as it is your true desire and you dreamt of it ever since you were a little child that wanted to help others that are in danger.
Listen to your heart when you make important decisions and try to neglect the promising external factors (money, etc.) just for a moment. Have the courage to follow where your heart leads you! Become aware of the things that your heart desires and ask yourself the question if you really think that your heart might desire something as superficial and material as money, fancy cars and jewelry. When looking behind the scenes you might discover that it isn’t tangibles that your heart truly desires, but – more valuable things such as – true friendship, happiness, love, but also fulfillment, consciousness, awareness and inner peace with yourself.
Part II: The Importance of Responsibility
Reconciling and accepting the past
Nearly all of our thoughts, questions, and worries revolve around events and situations in the past or the upcoming future. The closer you look at it, the more will you realize that only a slight percentage of our thoughts revolve around the present. If you so want, “thinking in the present” is an oxymoron in itself, as the line between past, present and future are continuously shifting, which makes it nearly impossible to continuously think about this very moment. Therefore, nearly all human beings are either very focused on the future and the changes that will come along with it or clearly living in the past full of regret about the drastic changes in the nowadays world, (overlapping does exist as well, of course).
Make the most of your life and live it to the fullest
Nevertheless, worrying about the future or struggling with the past – no matter what happened – can be a huge obstacle when it comes to the ambition to live your life in this very moment to the fullest, which might even prevent you from doing so. Accept the past as that what it is, bygone and not changeable. Spending a single second with regret about your past will take you the chance to enjoy this moment, in this second and so on. If you so want, worrying about the past could be seen as a vicious circle; it does not only take you the chance in this very moment to change whatever you dislike, but it also supplies you with another pretty good reason to struggle in the prospective future, aka “Why didn’t I do anything about it when I could?”, etc.
As you can see – worrying about the past and the future can be a vicious circle that occupies your mind with thoughts and situations that aren’t related to this present situation, which finally prevents you from living life to the fullest. The key to success lies in the acceptance of what happened and the reconciliation with the past, the opportunities you’ve missed and with whatever you regret. The realization that the only way to change anything in life is to take action now, in this very moment, will further help you to reconcile with your past. Living your life to the fullest, in this very moment, cannot be accomplished when mentally living in the past and continuously visualizing all the golden opportunities you’ve missed throughout your life.
Don’t pass the buck
The second part of this article was named “the importance of responsibility”, as I believe that it takes a lot of courage but also the willingness to take responsibility to accept what happened in the past and to reconcile with it. After all, it is by far easier to blame other people for your own mistakes and to make specific external influences accountable for the development of your life, rather than acknowledging that it might have been your own fault and seeking the reasons within yourself.
Doing so will take a lot of pressure from your shoulders, it might even be a very good feeling to know that you’re not guilty for negative developments in your life as you can always blame others for it, but it will also let you become a helpless victim. Being a victim does not only make you vulnerable, but it also takes you the last chance to change anything about your current situation – as you clearly do not see yourself as the sole reason for a negative trend, but the victim of it. Accusations will redirect your focus (from doing something about it or making the best of it) towards the problem that might lie many years in the past and can neither be changed nor undone. Taking responsibility for your past and reconciling with it will allow you to gain back the power over your life, which helps you to accept the past, forgive others and to wipe the slate clean, but most important of all: you will start focusing on the present and live in this moment. Make yourself clear that the one who lives in the past and the one who regrets misses the chance – in this moment – to make the best of it, to change it or to start all over again.
Accept the past, let the bygone be bygone and make the best out of your situation. In the end, it depends on you, if you decide to continue to whine about the past, or to make the best of it now so that you can look back one day with a smile on your face and recognize that everything has come to a good end.
Part III: The Reflective Mind
Dare to be conscious!
Living your life to the fullest consists out of three elements that complete each other – the active part (= taking action), the responsibility part (= taking responsibility for the past) and finally, the reflective part – the Ying and the Yang of living your life to the fullest, if you so want and the sphere that surrounds it. Living your life to the fullest does not only consist of taking action or accepting the past but also to live your life in a conscious state of mind, where you invest some time for yourself, to reflect and to think about your life in general. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a restriction, you do not need to stop watching TV or to reduce your internet usage drastically, but it includes your willingness to spend some time with yourself (without distractions), every day.
Pure honesty towards yourself and your life
Whenever you have taken yourself some time to reflect on your life, it is essential that you are completely honest towards yourself. Ask yourself the question, if you are living – in this moment – the life you have always dreamt of, the life you envisioned as a little child, the dream that has evolved throughout your whole life and became more and more detailed with every day you were alive. Ask yourself if you are happy with your personality, your job and the way you live in general. Are you the creator of your life, do you take control over your life, are responsible for your actions or have you switched to your role as a victim and the one who only reacts towards other people’s actions? Are you living your life with excitement and amazement, curious to discover the deepest depths of life, or do you rely on television to stimulate and entertain you for a given period? Is your life a routine or a daily changing adventure?
All day long, we’re in a rush after all the things we believe are important for us. But, let’s face it… nothing is really important other than this very moment if we make use of it and enjoy it or not.
We spend too much time living in the “what if” and need to learn to live in the “what is.” ~ Rev. Leroy Allison
Live your Life to the Fullest was brought to you by our Conscious Living Blog.
"We are food for worms, lads," announces John Keating, the unorthodox English teacher played by Robin Williams in the 1989 film Dead Poets Society. "Believe it or not," he tells his students, "each and every one of us in this room is one day going to stop breathing, turn cold, and die."
The rallying cry of their classroom is carpe diem, popularized as "seize the day," although more literally translated as "pluck the day," referring to the gathering of moments like flowers, suggesting the ephemeral quality of life, as in Robert Herrick's "To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time," which begs readers to live life to its full potential, singing of the fleeting nature of life itself:
Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
Tomorrow will be dying.
The Latin phrase carpe diem originated in the "Odes," a long series of poems composed by the Roman poet Horace in 65 B.C.E., in which he writes:
Scale back your long hopes
to a short period. While we
speak, time is envious and
is running away from us.
Seize the day, trusting
little in the future.
Various permutations of the phrase appear in other ancient works of verse, including the expression "Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die," which is derived from the Biblical book of Isaiah. At the close of "De rosis nascentibus," a poem attributed to both Ausonius and Virgil, the phrase "collige, virgo, rosas" appears, meaning "gather, girl, the roses." The expression urges the young woman to enjoy life and the freedom of youth before it passes.
Since Horace, poets have regularly adapted the sentiment of carpe diem as a means to several ends, most notably for procuring the affections of a beloved by pointing out the fleeting nature of life, as in Andrew Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress":
Now let us sport us while we may,
And now, like amorous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour
Than languish in his slow-chapt power.
Other approaches to carpe diem encourage the reader to transcend the mundane, recognize the power of each moment, however brief, and value possibility for as long as possibility exists. In "A Song On the End of the World," the poet Czeslaw Milosz asserts that the world has not yet ended, though "No one believes it is happening now," while Rainer Maria Rilke's poem "Archaic Torso of Apollo" famously ends with the directive "You must change your life." Emily Dickinson's poem "I tie my Hat—I crease my Shawl (443)" boasts that the reward of life is to "hold our Senses," and the French poet Charles Baudelaire offers the advice to "Be Drunk," though not necessarily on alcohol: "Wine, poetry or virtue, as you wish. But be drunk."
Not all carpe diem poems instruct, however. The poem "The Layers" by Stanley Kunitz offers advice through the poet's first hand experience:
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In a similar manner, many contemporary poems offer reminders about life's overlooked pleasures, such as those found in the warm summer evening of Tony Hoagland's poem "Jet":
We gaze into the night
as if remembering the bright unbroken planet
we once came from,
to which we will never
be permitted to return.
We are amazed how hurt we are.
We would give anything for what we have.
Carpe diem remains an enduring rhetorical device in poetry because it is a sentiment that possesses an elasticity of meaning, suggesting both possibility and futility. Many poets have responded to the sentiment, engaging in poetic dialogues and arguments over its meaning and usefulness. Robert Frost briefly considers the notion of living in the present in a poem appropriately titled "Carpe Diem." He concludes, however, that "The age-long theme is Age's" and ends the poem with his own sentiment, that one should seize tomorrow, not today:
But bid life seize the present?
It lives less in present
Than in the future always,
And less in both together
than in the past. The present
Is too much for the senses,
Too crowding, too confusing—
Too present to imagine.
The existential dilemma suggested by carpe diem includes a sense of helplessness and senselessness, sentiments which are often expressed in a poet's resignation to a life filled with inexplicable losses and hardships. In Gerard Manley Hopkins's poem "Spring and Fall: To a young child," the poet warns that "as the heart grows older / It will come to such sights colder." However, Walt Whitman's poem "O Me! O Life!" represents a refusal to acquiesce to such interpretations of existence. Whitman calls the reader to the present moment, and demands something meaningful be attempted:
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?
That you are here—that life exists, and identity;
That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.
Some other examples of carpe diem poems include:
"We live in deeds" by Philip James Bailey
"Are they Shadows that we See" by Samuel Daniel
"Vitae Summa Brevis Spem Nos Vetat Incohare Longam" by Ernest Dowson
"The Road Not Taken" (with audio) by Robert Frost
"Three Airs for the Beggar’s Opera, Air XXII" by John Gay
"Catch What You Can" by Jean Garrigue
"O Gather me the Rose" by William Ernest Henley
"The Dead Do Not Want Us Dead" by Jane Hirshfield
"Flowering Vetch" by Jane Hirshfield
"A Shropshire Lad, II" by A. E. Housman
"What the Living Do" by Marie Howe
"Dreams" by Langston Hughes
"Song: to Celia" by Ben Jonson
"The Time Before Death" by Kabir, translated by Robert Bly
"Otherwise" by Jane Kenyon
"The Still Life" by Galway Kinnell
"If— " by Rudyard Kipling
"One Heart" by Li-Young Lee
"Daphnis and Chloe" by Haniel Long
"A Psalm of Life" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
"First Fig" by Edna St. Vincent Millay
"You Can't Have It All" by Barbara Ras
"O mistress mine, where are you roaming?" from Twelth Night by William Shakespeare
"All the World's a Stage" by William Shakespeare
"The Truly Great" by Stephen Spender
"Live blindly and upon the hour" by Trumbull Stickney
"The One You Wanted to Be Is the One You Are" by Jean Valentine
"The First Angel" by Jean Valentine
"Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy's Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota" (audio only) by James Wright
read more carpe diem poems