By Michael Max

This piece of writing comes from the host of a fantastic podcast called Qiological which can be found here.

We are sold the image of vitality as that of youth and physical vigor. And there is indeed a physical substrate to being wholeheartedly embodied in this world. But vitality is more than a photogenic body. Vitality comes from our bones, our spirit, from an indomitable will to engage the world with our feet planted deeply, firmly on the ground. It comes from having the heart to see what’s missing in the world and not let that throw us away or lure us into a swan dive of despair or distraction. Vitality invites us to sit with the breech, inhabit the gap between where our mind’s eye sees potential and the world as it arises in this moment.

Vitality is not purchased in a pill nor extracted from a program. It’s not a product; it’s a practice. It’s not the habituation of routine but the daily attentive summoning of heart and mind to this moment. Vitality is not about being able to skip a night’s sleep but knowing how to live our days, so we rest with a quieted mind.

Vitality is what makes you realize you love someone, even if you don’t want to. It’s what sets you off to a far corner, even though there are nothing but good reasons for staying put. Vitality is what makes you stand up with a NO! when everyone else is ducking and covering with a yes. It’s what steadies your breath and gives your eyes a peculiar and steady spark; allows you to cozy up with discomfort, take a chance, give an opportunity, notice your own folly and accept it as you would an unruly nephew.

Regardless of that extra 30 pounds, regardless of your style, which has little to do with fashion. Vitality is what makes you sexy, dangerous, and undeniably attractive. Irrespective of your failures and shortcomings, mistakes, the eight million times you fall while honing a more coherent and courageous version of yourself.

Vitality has one foot in the wild and the other in the unknown

Michael Max

Don’t expect vitality to match the media images designed to leave you feeling wanting. Vitality has one foot in the wild and the other in the unknown. It flows free from an unencumbered source only you can uncork. It rarely behaves and is leery of constrictive convention. It has little patience for the quarterly report, the quick fix, or the sloppy duct tape hack. It sees well in the dark, is fascial with feeling, less interested in spreadsheet projections, and more attuned to the scent in the wind.

Vitality is not negotiable. It’s not cruel, but don’t expect it to play nice. It can, at times, leave you profoundly lonely. Not the hopeless, helpless variety, but rather with a deep embodiment of emptiness and potential.

Vitality includes the knack for hearing the ‘yes’ that ripples deep. The calling might require more than this lifetime to fulfill and is guaranteed to cause all kinds of trouble and inconvenience. That will surely lead others to think you’ve lost your way, and you might think that is so as well.

Vitality is the opposite of resignation.

It has an innate distrust of the status quo. It causes people to whisper, and gossip, and probably complain. It’s what keeps us from resting on the accolades of the world. It is that energy that changes perspectives. It will cause you to surprise yourself. It is dependably bothersome. It asks “why not” and is willing to endure the discomfort at the growing edges of uncertainty.

How do you know you’ve engaged your vitality? Life becomes more surprising, and small inputs bring disproportionately large changes.


Michael says: ‘I’ve been a student of acupuncture and Chinese medicine for going on 20 years now. It began as a curiosity as to how a few needles could not only resolve a stubborn health condition I’d had since childhood, but also improve my digestion, quality of sleep and mood. This lead me first to acupuncture school, and then Asia where I worked my way through the gate of Chinese language so I could study with doctors there. Today my work is informed by my clinical practice, the materials I read in Chinese from doctors of centuries past, and the teachers of our modern times who synthesize observations of the past with the challenges of the present. This podcast is rooted in my own curiosity, inquiry and appreciation for different points of view.’