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Primal Spirit

Written by “Suburban Guy”

I realized recently that I’ve forgotten something very important. I realized that hidden behind all of my self-imposed restrictions and fears and limitations, there is a spirit within me that wants to feel absolutely powerful and free and beautiful. I connected with this feeling recently while listening to some primal music by a percussion team known as David and Steve Gordon. The song is called Spirit Vision, and it is a very primal and beautiful piece of music that evokes images of being wild and free and strong. You can listen to it here for free:

As I listened to it, I found myself yearning for a feeling of being fully alive, standing on the edge of a high cliff, feeling the wind on my face, tall, strong, brave, in the moment (add tanned skin and rippling muscles for a bonus). My imagination carried me away to a place where I lived as a part of a primal community, where I was respected for my strength and wisdom, where I was deeply connected to the earth and to the people and to a greater spirit, where I was powerful and beautiful. I stood on the cliff looking down, arms extended, overlooking my village, and knew that I was fully alive.

Okay, I know it sounds crazy, and perhaps something from a movie, but think about it. You’ve had this feeling yourself, perhaps after winning a big game, getting the girl/boy, achieving something really big or doing something that earned you lots of praise.  You may not have been half-naked on a cliff, but inside your spirit was soaring. You’ve also gotten this feeling from watching movies. I recently watched Avatar and found it beautiful this way — the main character transforms into a powerful and respected being who takes on life moment by moment with incredible bravery and strength. Think about it. Many of our favorite stories seek to invoke this feeling, the feeling of living a life that is essential, spirited, adventurous, engaged moment by moment, meaningful: Braveheart, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and even How to Train your Dragon.

I think the desire to feel this way is there for all of us, but we don’t think we deserve to feel it.

What stunned me is how briefly I was able to sustain the feeling. Way too soon, I felt my mind, my inner critic, step in and remind me: you’re not that! You’re a dopey Dad who’s arms are anything but rippling with muscle and your “tan” is on your forearms and nowhere else. You thinking of yourself as brave and strong is laughable! You can’t remember to give the dog medicine let alone be the wise leader of a tribe of beautiful people. You’re being ridiculous. Get down from there! You’ll poke your eye out! (sorry, couldn’t resist that one…)

You get the idea. I shamed myself out of the feeling as soon as I had found it. The good thing is that one of the lessons I’ve learned in my life is that in order to heal, I have to first know how I am suffering. It’s sort of the internal “bulking up” version of “no pain no gain.” Seeing the gap so clearly between what it would be like to feel expansive and free and what I “allow” myself to feel in everyday life is an amazing gift. The truth is — it doesn’t matter if I think anyone else sees me as a beautiful and wonderful spirit. What matters is that I allow myself to feel that way. Waiting for external approval is a losing game — why wait for other people who are limiting themselves to approve you so you can stop limiting yourself?

The truth is, there is no “entrance exam” or “quality bar” associated with feeling really amazing and free and alive. It’s available to anyone, and everyone deserves it. We just have to learn how to stop our inner critics from telling us to stop jumping on the bed because we’ll break a leg (or get laughed at for wearing a loin cloth on a cliff). Here are some lyrics from a John Mayer song that has now taken on new meaning for me (from No Such Thing):

I wanna run through the halls of my high school
I wanna scream at the
Top of my lungs
I just found out there’s no such thing as the real world
Just a lie you’ve got to rise above

The lie is that you don’t deserve to feel expansive, beautiful, free, and strong.

Once again, I find that music has brought a valuable insight into my life. I think I’ll go out and buy a drum with feathers on it.

27 Comments on Primal Spirit

  1. I had an experience like yours many years ago. I was standing on a tee box, getting ready to tee off, when a huge red-tail hawk flew over my head and out in front of me. In a split second I felt as if I were the hawk, balancing on my wings with my feathers ruffled by the breeze. It was the most amazing touch with nature that I have ever had, and it only lasted a couple of seconds. I have seen many hawks on the golf course since then, some of them up close and personal, but I have never had that feeling again. I will never forget it.

  2. Music is often called the senior art and your experience underscores why. Thanks for sharing this.

  3. Suburban Guy // June 18, 2010 at 7:54 am //

    @Chris – like that saying, and I really am amazed at how deeply music can connect. Not that other art forms don’t too, but somehow music seems to go deeper.

    @Judie – I love that story. I have a window at my office where I can see hawks flying over a little field surrounded by trees. I love to watch them move through three-dimensional space. Great reminder of what freedom can feel like.

  4. Love the drums in this song, it does invoke a feeling of freedom. I read a post yesterday about finding your inner zen. How enlightenment (like your revelation above) can bring about greater understanding and strength in life.

    Finding those moments and hanging on to them is a great path to be on.

  5. I think this song was featured on the “Pure Moods” CD from the late 90s that they used to sell on TV.

    I’ve never experienced the feeling you write about. I don’t know if that makes me more or less sad of a person than having experienced it and lost it.

    As that sunscreen song says, “Don’t congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. You’re choices are half chance. So are everybody else’s.”

  6. avatar! avatar! avatar! (shouted in the al pacino voice cheering “attica! attica! attica!” in dog day afternoon.)

  7. Odd one out in so many ways. FIrst, never had that feeling either. :/ Second, hated Avatar so much I didn’t finish watching it. Third, have no idea why Al Pacino was yelling “Attica attica attica!” Also, it was always my family telling me i didn’t deserve…well, ANYTHING. It’s a hard way to grow up. Today I (still) have to mentally with conscious effort beat back their voices which not only reside in my head, also seem to be part of my chemical make up.

    I thought of another song while I was reading your post…but forgot it already. If it comes back, I’ll let you know.

  8. I sometimes feel that way when I bring on a new client or get something accomplished, but my issue is anxiety. Shortly after, I will begin to worry about the things that can go wrong.

  9. The drums in the music are wonderful, but it is the flute that gets to me. There is an old movie, Ice Man, that has a flute in the soundtrack. That flute can take me to the forest primeval in a heartbeat.

  10. Suburban Guy // June 18, 2010 at 12:50 pm //

    @Trixie, Anne, Elisa, others – I never used to be able to feel this way either. I consider it a wonderful gift that I’ve learned how, despite struggling to sustain. In the past, I would have shot myself down from this feeling so quickly that I would have barely gotten a foot off the ground. The “judge” in my head would have gone wild with fear and attempts to minimize me back into a safe shape — that’s for those other people, the beautiful people, the popular people, the bigger people (add your own here). You’ll be horribly shamed if you allow yourself to feel like that! Something bad will happen, etc. (Anne, isn’t anxiety really just this? Fear of shame?)

    I recommend you try something in private: close your eyes, and try to imagine that you are the you of your absolute, irrational, deepest dreams – beautiful, adored, powerful, whatever that would be for you. Forget all ties to reality (most of it is lies anyway) and just imagine. Music helps for me, obviously. I’ll bet two things will happen. You will connect with a sense of desire for something more than what you have and you will immediately also 1) feel afraid of thinking about it and 2) beat yourself down from being worth of it.

    We humans are such bizarre, fascinating creatures, aren’t we? We are capable of such heights but stay so low out of fear and confusion (read: lies). It’s not just knowledge that can set us free either, it’s hard earned re-conditioning of decades of harsh self judgment and misinterpretation of reality.

    Thanks for the great comments. Love to hear about if anyone tries the little experiment.

    @Punker – Al is cool, no doubt about it.

    @Trixie – This song was not on any of those CDS, but there were some good artists on the Pure Moods series — enya, enigma, David Byrne, Moby, Brightman. The songs were all much more “poppy” though. This song is a bit too “primal” for that series.

  11. I can totally understand that feeling that you described and the “inner critic” we all have who limits us. The only times in my life where I’ve felt that “alive” feeling in my life is when I’ve done things that have been dangerous, such as many of the live fire exercises i’ve been on, or scuba diving in a sunken wreck for example. Not sure what it is exactly, but in moments like those where things can go wrong at any time is when I feel truly free and alive and that I can accomplish anything.

  12. You don’t have to stand naked on a mountain to get that feeling. You can have it anywhere, at any time. The joy, the energy, is always there in your body. You just have to learn how to release it, to overcome your self-consciousness. It takes awareness and practice. The more you do it, the better at it you’ll become.

  13. Enter your comments here…
    Beautifully written as always. I found myself soaring right along with your words. And your words came exactly at a time I needed to soar. Thanks for allowing me to medicate on your story.

  14. I was TOTALLY ready to call you a dipshit weirdo… BUT, then I understood what you meant. Hey, it’s me! What the fuck did you expect? Takes CB awhile sometimes!

    I hadn’t felt like that in FOREVER, until about a month ago. Now I CRAVE the feeling. It’s like a goddamn drug! I can’t believe you posted this when I needed a reminder of how much I missed it! (sarcasm intended)

  15. Suburban Guy // June 18, 2010 at 10:01 pm //

    @Wolf – I think that works because the feeling in part is a true connection to our vital aliveness in the moment, and danger naturally invokes this. We leave behind our inner critic to engage what is at hand, right now. That’s half the battle, I think. You know when else people sometimes feel like this, and what I believe we are really looking for in the activity: great, intimate, loving (Tantric in nature) sexual experiences. Egos, inner critics, gone — just experience unfolding.

    @nothingprofound – I agree and disagree, actually (sorry!). I agree that there is no need to shed cloth and head for the hills, but I think one of the really necessary tasks is learning to dismantle that inner critic, which is a bitch of a chore. My personal belief? If we can free ourselves entirely from our inner judge, this kind of expansive joy is our natural state (I think we are also agreeing on that…). The problem is, the judge defines 90% of who we are and how we see the world, so in Buddhist terms, it practically defines our ignorance. We can’t even see the misshapen form it has twisted us into, let alone imagine what form we might take were we free of it’s influence. I guess what I’m saying is that practicing feeling this way probably won’t work. We need to understand how we limit ourselves and heal.

    @Cathy – Compliments are always appreciated. I wrote this in one pass, no edits. I don’t say that to brag, but because I was surprised by this myself. Somehow the feeling I was trying to convey just came out in words organically — befits the feeling, eh? That said, with my editor hat on now, I might eliminate a few repetitions and touch up a bit here and there /8-).

    @Crazy – When I finished this, you came to mind. I wondered what you would think of it. You usually aren’t a fan of my internal analysis pieces, but I thought might see this one differently. Glad it annoyed you by reminding you of what you don’t have. Frankly, I think that there is a boldness to acknowledging that we “crave” this that is hard even to achieve. I had trouble with that, and still do. I’m so conditioned to thinking of myself as needing to stay small to stay safe (comes from being absolutely trashed by bullies from k-4th grade, I suppose, and being a youngest of 4, and having parents that…okay, that’s enough ;-). You have boldness by the DDD cup bra full. Good for you.

  16. Loved the video. Some funky drumming. Kind of a cool contrast with the visuals.

    The inner critic is a total pain in the butt. It’s like a play along audio that is constantly replaying your life as it’s happening. Eliminate that or at least mute it, and all of a sudden a clear vision of yourself and the world appears. But this usually only lasts for a brief moment. The inner critic is always looming because quieting the mind is a very difficult task. The key is to keep the mind active, but open. Tough!

    I’m enjoying the discussion.

  17. I feel that way when I dance to the music alone in my room!
    It is fabulous!!! Thanks for sharing your experience Suburban Guy!

  18. You’re not crazy, I’ve had that feeling now and again when I listen to my Pagan music. I think it’s natural for us all want to feel connected again, to earth, spirit and our fellow humans. We miss that primal connection we used to have with everything around us. Unfortunately, that feeling can be hard to maintain, especially when we talk ourselves out of it for whatever reason. But, I also think we need to keep trying to capture that experience as often as we can because it is vitally important to have that connection. It nourishes our spirit and soul. Thanks for sharing your experience. 🙂

  19. Sae, I am back from the dead. Check my blog.

  20. Sae, I have a new post out. NO ANGST! Just sports.

  21. Suburban Guy // June 19, 2010 at 10:41 pm //

    @GoGo – yeah, movement is a key for me to. I sometimes break into dance when no-one is looking. I do Chi Gong and Tai Chi, which are just slow, repetitive dances in a way, and I even do free-form moving meditations to music. Guess which song is one of my favorites? Keep dancing and feeling beautiful and perfect. Everyone deserves to have that feeling as much as possible.

    @Raven – Pagans used to dance wildly around fires. Many primitive cultures incorporate powerful music and dance into their religious routines. I was raised Roman Catholic. We sat and listened to an old man speaking with a heavy accent and didn’t ask questions. Glad to have left that far behind, but I still haven’t managed to spin the naked wild-one around a blaze in the forest under a full moon. Maybe someday?

    @Judie — you appear to be lost, dear. Try the other building? /8-)

    @All – GREAT BOOK ALERT: This book has lots to say on the topic of inner critic. It’s brilliantly written and offers guidance that could change your life: Soul without Shame by Byron Brown. Read if you dare to consider actually taking on the diabolic part of your mind that eats your joy for lunch.

    Thanks for all the great discussion and comments.

  22. Oops! My bad! I thought for sure this was the drummer’s blog.

  23. .Beautiful relaxing video Guys , I have often found the sounds of music (Specific ones though) quite powerful .

  24. I absolutely LOVE that video and song. Music has ALWAYS had such an influential effect on my life too.

  25. After reading your post and watching this video, I have to agree with you. It is too much a shame that we don’t see our inner strength. We should think, in a way, that we are each our own hero and we need to realize that we are usually much more than we believe ourselves to be. This video gave me the feeling of being free, as well.

  26. Reminders of our inner Strength … often come when we aren’t looking.. but tend to need them most…

    Thank you, Suburban… for the reminder.

    This music… definitely … speaks to the Soul.

  27. I feel that way when I dance to the music alone in my room!
    It is fabulous!!! Thanks for sharing your experience Suburban Guy!

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