Give Yourself What You Want
I’m lying on the floor, eyes closed, body relaxed. We’ve just finished another yoga class and now we are given time to meditate.
The calming piano music and the sound of the ocean waves gently crashing on the shore and lazily rolling back into the massive stillness pick me up from my yoga mat and transport me onto a beach.
Suddenly it’s me playing the piano. I see my hands pressing the white and black keys: left hand, right hand, both hands together. It’s now me creating this beautiful tune that I’m listening to. The ocean serves as a live metronome and the occasional sea gulls’ calls and the sound of the soft breeze join the piano to form an impromptu orchestra…
“How cool would it be to actually play a piano by the ocean?!…” I think.
“Can you imagine how different this world would be if we all gave ourselves what we really wanted, Diana?” I suddenly hear my late friend’s voice and tears fill up my eyes…
In fall 2014 I went to a personal development weekend intensive. My divorce the year before had shaken up the whole foundation of my life, revealed the illusory and fleeting nature of the many things that I had been taught to see as solid and real, and my search for the unchangeable truth and for my own truth began…
We had already completed many exercises that day and this was our last task before lunch. “Write your own obituary,” one of the facilitators announced. I smiled. “This is something different!” I am not afraid of death, so I contemplated this task with excitement and amusement.
Everyone in the room found a quiet place, pulled out their notebooks and started writing. I climbed into the furthest corner barricaded by several chairs, sat on the floor, found a comfortable position and stared at the white page in front of me.
“I have died. There is no more Diana Kay on this planet. The world carries on as usual, but without me. I am not here anymore. Gone….” I am trying to feel into these words and imagine not being part of the earthly flow of life any longer, trying to look at my existence as completed.
“Diana had a bright, joyful and fulfilling life…” I watched my hand write in my journal…
When we finished writing, we were instructed to get into small groups and take turns standing up and reading our obituaries out loud. “Uh-oh!!!” I felt a hot apprehensive wave wash over my body. “I did not write this for others to hear… I didn’t know we would have to share it with others…. What do I do now???”
Anxious thoughts were running through my mind while I was joining my assigned partners, moving a spare chair to our little circle and sitting down facing everyone, smiling nervously. My journal was squeezed tightly in my sweaty hands.
“Do I skip my turn? Do I plainly refuse to read what I’ve written? Do I make up something different as I go, pretending that I am reading it?…” My mind was desperately looking for a way out…
“C’mon!!! Grow up!!!” I heard a different voice in my head. “Just stand up and read what you’ve got! It won’t kill you!!”
The woman next to me just finished reading her obituary and then it was my turn. I stood up, took a deep breath and read my little paragraph. The short fifteen sentences lasted eternity and when I finally reached the last sentence, I was sweating bullets and was almost in physical pain…
When we were finally back together as one group, we were invited to share our thoughts and feelings about what we had just experienced. Several participants talked about being empowered by this exercise, about the big breakthroughs and realizations they’d had. While I was listening to them speak, my discomfort level reached the boiling point, and when the last person sat down and the hosts asked if someone else would like to share, my arm flew up before I had a chance to stop it.
“Diana!” – Michelle, one of the facilitators, announced to the group and all eyes turned in my direction.
It would be ridiculous to try to back out at this point, so I stood up. Writhing my hands and breathing heavily, I began: “This was a very difficult task for me. Everyone in my group was very noble and wanted to serve the humanity in some way, and my obituary didn’t have much of that… In my story, I didn’t feed starving children in Africa or open shelters for the homeless. I didn’t even build any schools for disadvantaged teens…
I hadn’t known that we would be reading this out loud, so I’d allowed myself to be completely honest about what I wanted, and in this little essay I simply gave myself all the things that I’ve always dreamed about and never had a chance to experience in my life. Those are very personal things, you know – a happy family, a beautiful place to live, a chance to travel the world… But reading this out loud made me feel like the worst, most arrogant and selfish person on this planet, and I AM NOT!!!
I am not selfish and I do love people, and I love helping others and sharing all I have and know with others, but when I looked into my heart and asked myself, “What would you really love to experience before leaving this planet?” this is what came out, and it makes me feel horrible to realize that at the moment I don’t have all those big ambitions to save the world while everyone else does!”
I was fighting tears and overwhelming emotions while presenting this very honest report. I had been raised to believe that selfishness was one of the worst characteristics that a human being could possess, and I prided myself on living in such a way that no one would ever be able to accuse me of that, and here I was, sounding as the most selfish person on planet Earth even to myself!..
Michelle listened very attentively to my speech. She allowed a minute of silence before thanking me for my honesty and then she said: “Can you imagine how different this world would be if we all gave ourselves what we really wanted, Diana?..”
All the weight and turmoil of self-judgment and criticism evaporated in an instant. With just one very simple sentence, she eliminated all the pain and doubt, and made it OK for me to simply want to be happy.
Both my heart and my mind knew immediately that she was speaking the Truth, but there was also so much compassion for my suffering and so much love and acceptance in her voice and in her words that I was able to start feeling them towards myself, too.
I realized that there was absolutely nothing wrong with me, nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to feel bad about. I was simply being human, and it was OK. All was well.
The meditation came to an end. I pulled out a Kleenex out of my purse and sincerely thanked Michelle for this beautiful reminder while wiping away my tears.
I love you, Michelle, and I promise to live a happy life for you and for me!..