What are you doing when you feel the most real? What makes you exclaim, "Wow, that was real!" What circumstances lead you to feel, If I were to die now, I'd die content?
Obviously only you can answer those questions. All I want to do is raise them, because I think they're well worth pondering. If life isn't filled with really real moments, are we truly living?
For me, reality seems most vibrant, clear, energetic, and alluring when I'm engaged in a physical activity that has an edgy aspect to it.
"Edgy" is a term that's hard to pin down.
There's an element of dangerousness, though not always in a life-threatening sense. It's like I'm being pushed to do something bodily that takes me closer to some sort of limit, as if what's most real isn't perceived unless I'm jolted out of my usual comfort zone.
Which involves getting rid of concepts, thoughts, beliefs, imaginings, anticipations, conjectures -- all of that abstract stuff which is the heart and soul of religion.
Believe! says religion. Have faith! says religion. Embrace mystery! says religion.
Screw all that! says reality in my "getting real" moments. This is it, dude! Right here, right now, no intellectualizing required.
A few days ago my wife and I went on a pretty adventurous horse ride on some beautiful mountainside trails in the Cascade Range of western Oregon. Trotting and cantering in this environment brings me face-to-face with reality in a marvelously unmistakable way.
Elijah, a young wrangler whom I'd just met for the first time, and I were at the end of a six-horse single file line. During some walking portions of the ride we chatted about the joys of riding horses and certain motorized "steeds": a big scooter, like I have; four wheelers, which Elijah's family has.
When I said that getting on my scooter and getting on a horse both made me feel real, Elijah knew what I was talking about. "I love to ride horses," he told me. "Yeah, like you said, it's just so real."
We didn't need a philosopher to define "real" for us. We didn't need a holy book to tell us what life was all about.
Sitting on our horses, making our way through a lush Oregon forest, we weren't wondering what life was all about. We were living it -- directly, bodily, non-conceptually.
After a couple of hours, as we were nearing the end of our ride, I felt that if I died in the next instant, it'd be all right. I also often feel this when I'm riding my Burgman scooter or dancing with my wife, two activities that, like horse riding, have an appealing "getting real" edginess to them.
I've sat at the feet of gurus. I've meditated several hours a day for many years. I've been part of a multitude -- many tens of thousands -- filled with intense mystical devotion.
But none of that felt as real as does cantering up a narrow muddy trail between the trunks of large fir trees, or leading a woman unhesitatingly through salsa moves, or guiding a powerful scooter through linked two-lane turns on a warm sunny day.
I realize that religious true believers will tell me, "God and other aspects of divinity are even more real, my friend. You just need to open yourself to them."
Well, I've been there and tried that. Yet I'm not claiming that getting real requires doing what I do. I'm simply asking a question which I've answered for myself: when do you feel most real?