©2019 by David Westerlund. Photo credits: Ramona Laird, Alvin Shim, and David Westerlund.

becoming more fully alive

Updated: Aug 29, 2019



To be present with someone involves vulnerability.

"There is no real conversation without vulnerability." - David Whyte

This involves allowing ourselves to be seen - which we want, and we don't want.


What we need is a visceral experience of support in the face of vulnerability. This is the foundation of trusting relationships. Trusting that I can ''put myself out there'' and you've got my back.


Visceral is a key word.


We hold the memories of times we've been slighted, shamed, hurt in our bodies.


And so, we need a experience that viscerally contradicts the experience of being shut down, shamed, quieted, blocked. When we build this in small, safe containers (trusting friendships, trusting work relationships, with a therapist, spiritual guide, etc) this allows us to develop what David Whyte calls a robust vulnerability, which allows to risk and face the unknown with the visceral memory in our bodies of ''being in this together'', being supported.


Play is a magic gift we've been given.


Children intuitively play. And research now shows that play is critical to a child's healthy development. People who commit acts of violence are often found to have zero play in their life history. (see Apr 13 blog post)


And as adults, we come to believe that play is trivial, when actually it's foundational to our continued growth and learning.


Not only that,

it's also about being alive.


I just heard a fabulous interview with Esther Perel last weekend on the topic of eroticism. She said it's bigger and broader than just sexuality; it's about a quality of aliveness. A quality that we are sadly loosing in our world.




I recently led an applied workshop at a non-profit fundraising conference in Seattle. Participants experienced what it feels like to be present, to play, to embody a posture of YES, to give and receive, to tune into what's actually happening in the moment, to be agile.


And we translated this experiential learning to our work in nonprofits, and as fundraisers, where really - it's all about building trust.


The next morning a young 20-something man came up to me and said, "David! Last night I was talking with my wife, And, by the way, we are newlyweds, so we are just figuring this out. And I realized I wasn't being present with her. So I shifted my way-of-being and started saying Yes, like we did in your workshop. And everything shifted! It was a totally different conversation. It made such a difference! Thank you!"


I was delighted to hear this, and reminded how much ability and responsibility we have - in every realm of our lives - to create safe containers for others (and ourselves!) to be fully alive.


What would be made possible if we all became more fully alive?