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How do I make the most of an experience?

Deepak Chopra
Alternative & Complementary Medicine
Living fully is extolled everywhere in popular culture. I have only to turn on the television at random to be assailed with the following messages: "It's the best a man can get." "It's like having an angel by your side." "Every move is smooth, every word is cool. I never want to lose that feeling." "You look, they smile. You win, they go home." What is being sold here is a fantasy of total sensory pleasure, social status, sexual attraction, and the self-image of a winner.

As it happens, all these phrases come from the same commercial for razor blades, but living life fully is part of almost any ad campaign. What is left out, however, is the reality of what it actually means to fully experience something. Instead of looking for sensory overload that lasts forever, you'll find that the experiences need to be engaged at the level of meaning and emotion.

To experience this moment, or any moment, fully means to engage fully. Meeting a stranger can be totally fleeting and meaningless, for example, unless you enter the individual's world by finding out at least one thing that is meaningful to his or her life and exchange at least one genuine feeling. Tuning in to others is a circular flow: You send yourself out toward people; you receive them as they respond to you. Notice how often you don't do that. You stand back and insulate yourself, sending out only the most superficial signals and receive little or nothing back.

The same circle must be present even when someone else isn't involved. Consider the way three people might observe the same sunset. The first person is obsessing over a business deal and doesn't even see the sunset, even though his eyes are registering the photons that fall on their retinas. The second person thinks, "Nice sunset. We haven't had one in a while." The third person is an artist who immediately begins a sketch of the scene. The differences among the three are that the first person sent nothing out and received nothing back; the second allowed his awareness to receive the sunset but had no awareness to give back to it - his response was rote; the third person was the only one to complete the circle: He took in the sunset and turned it into a creative response that sent his awareness back out into the world with something to give. If you want to fully experience life, you must close the circle.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.