Aliveness requires three processes: surviving, connecting to my environment and regenerating. Grief has a way of interfering in the practice of all three activities that make aliveness feel no longer attainable and seemingly not winnable.

But grief also calls forth a recovery process that uses the relationship between these three practices like a scaffold that leads from a feeling of deepest despair back to the feeling of fully alive. Each rung on the scaffold brings a new win of protection, promise and potentiality.

Paying attention to the basics of survival protects me from the impact of threats that changing life conditions bring. Surviving helps me focus in a very self-centered way on the most simple requirements of life.

Expanding my focus to the environment that contains me, expands my view from self-centred to include others and place. Connecting helps me take actions that can prevent further emotional (if not physical, social or cultural) losses and threats. Connecting offers new promise as it expands my horizons of time, space and moral influence beyond the tight world of merely surviving.

When I have my feet more firmly on the rung of connecting to my environment, eventually I relax into a perspective that admits the potential for a greater energy to emerge.

When I am in my circles of compassion, I am like a seed blown from the rocky ground of grief into the soil of care. Perhaps it is my own tears, witnessed by the tears of others who understand, that usher in a new season of possibility? Like spring rains upon the garden? Or maybe it is just the darkness of the soil that gives comfort to the seed to allow inner change to percolate through my being without the pressures of “regular life”?

Whatever the case, after an eternity in the darkness, one morning, I am surprised to awaken and want something more than simple surviving, staying locked in the soil, or even sharing space with friends. I notice this experience of grief has softened my heart and slowed down time, given me new eyes to appreciate the simple pleasure of feeling the sun warm the soil, and to see neighbours who suffer illness with new patience and compassion. But now I get flashes of a different energy. My concentration increases both in intensity and for longer periods of time. I want to rearrange – even restructure my space. Try a different recipe. Suggest a new training design. Offer a story with a surprising twist. I realize the impulse of regeneration is pushing me out of the underground of grief back into the sunlight of the larger world.

I venture a quiet smile. I almost feel fully alive again. Surviving. Connecting with my environment. Regenerating! Is it possible I have finally found the third win of Aliveness?