Thursday, January 21, 2010
Imagine yourself at the end of your life. You have reached the ripe old age of 100 and have carried with you a century of personal growth, life experience and wisdom. You have lived a full rich life. There have been many twists and turns in the road. There have been hills and valleys to pass through. Many moments were accented by laughter and joy. Some, filled with tears. One thing is for certain, it hasn't been boring. It has been quite the wild ride, peppered with plenty of adventures that could be the basis of more than one tale. You have done everything you came into this world to do. As the end of your life draws near, you feel pulled to reflect on your time spent here.
Grab a journal or piece of paper and allow at least 20 minutes to write your autobiography. Write about the moments in your life when you felt most proud. What do you want to be remembered for? What is the legacy you are leaving behind? How many hearts have you touched? How many lives have you enriched with your presence? In what ways has your life made a difference in the world? What are your greatest successes? What lessons were hard-earned? What wise counsel do you have to share from a life well-lived?
Take some time to read your autobiography out loud to yourself. Was the picture painted with your words a portrait of a person you admire? Do you feel a sense of pride for your contribution to the world? Did your autobiography include goals you have already achieved, as well as future dreams you are presently nurturing? In your reflection, did you look back on a life that was deeply rewarding, full of experience, with no need for regret? Was it a struggle for you to envision yourself living a happy fulfilling life? If this was a challenge for you, can you move into the emotional space where you can create room for a more meaningful vision of your life?
Discussion and Homework:
It's amazing how much your perspective can shift when you realize that you have this one life. Your body is the vehicle that allows you to have a direct experience of the world around you. Life is a precious gift. Friends and loved ones will come and go. Careers will change. Home is a state of mind and that's a good thing because you may move residence many times throughout your life. There will be successes to celebrate and losses to mourn, but one thing remains consistent... your body is with you for the entire ride. Its appearance may change over the years. Gravity takes over. What was high up north will soon be heading south. A fresh face once smooth will become etched with the lines of experience. Each wrinkle could tell the story of a heartache and the tears shed, or a celebration echoed in laughter. We have no control over this process. It's out of our hands. Instead of fearing the inevitable, we should embrace aging and the experience it brings as the wonder that it is.
Our body size is also not going to define our time here. Who we are, the people we love and the work we do in the world, is far more relevant than the size jeans we wear. When we pass, we will not be remembered for our appearance. We will be remembered for the fullness of our hearts and souls. When you wrote your autobiography did you note, "My greatest accomplishment in life is that I was able to fit into a size 2 up until the moment I passed?" I should hope not! I hope you spun many tales of adventures lived out, dreams claimed and passions explored. More fitting of a life well-lived would be stories about the joys of parenthood, the volunteer work you did for a cause close to your heart, the books you wrote, the mountain you climbed, or the summer you spent backpacking through Europe.
We can learn so much from the elderly. Spend some time at a senior center and talk with the women and men there. You will hear all kinds of interesting tales of times gone by. Once people reach their golden years, they are no longer concerned with trying to look like a fashion model. They have experienced the passage of time and understand that they will never have the body they did as an 18 year old. They are at home in their bodies. They have moved into a space of self-acceptance. There is such a sense of liberation that comes from accepting your body and focusing on the more meaningful aspects of your life. You do not need to wait until you are elderly to embrace this experience. You can move into this space now.
I have found personally, that I have a lot of time to make up. I squandered many years of my life mired in body obsession. I don't want to let any more precious time pass me by without living each moment to its fullest. I encourage you to do the same.
Stop putting those dreams on ice. Start pursuing your interests and passions now. I encourage you to begin to build a vision of the life you want to live. Leave body goals out of your vision. Forget about investing your life energy in something so transitory. Can you imagine how different your life would be if you redirected all the time and attention you put into chasing the dream body toward actually living your dreams? Think of how fulfilling that would be. See if you can drop the food and body focus and instead put your energy into more meaningful pursuits now. Where do you envision yourself this time next year? What about 5 years from now? How about 10 years down the road? Do you even know? If you haven't a clue, perhaps it's about time you created some space to reflect on what is important to you. What rocks your world? Get out there and find out.
You can begin this process easily enough. Jot down your passions and interests in a special journal. Let this be a scared space to explore your dreams. You can continue to add interests you would like to pursue to your journal when you feel inspired. If you aren't sure what you are passionate about, consider listing activities that have always piqued your interest. You won't know if they light your fire until you give yourself the opportunity to experience some of these things. Keep it simple. The road to the fulfillment of your dreams is made up of lots of small steps. Let's say you have always wanted to create your own line of jewelery but don't have any idea about where to get started. You could begin by taking a beading class. Maybe you have long dreamed of having your own magazine. You can take a small step forward by starting up a blog that will become an online template of the publication you want to create. Perhaps you have longed to travel the globe. Open a savings account and each week deposit a single dollar. It may not seem like much but these small steps bring you closer toward the life you want to create for yourself. They are also symbolic acts of moving forward toward a more meaningful existence.
Our society is so hung-up on instant gratification that we miss the pleasure of the journey. We want it here and now but that is a self-sabotaging mindset. This kind of thinking can make us feel defeated. When we approach our lives in this manner we don't allow time to figure out what we truly want. "Why bother", we think. "There's no way I can have what I truly want. It takes too much time, too much money I don't have, too many connections. What's the point?" We limit ourselves. We give up before we even get started. Stop that train in its tracks. Do you! Don't put off the pursuit of your dreams. Go for it!
Your dreams are a direct communication from your soul. They act as a compass to lead you down the path of a life well-lived. Feed your dreams. Nourish them with your attention and care. Put one foot in front of the other and follow your bliss. When you allow yourself to shine, your example helps others claim the radiance within themselves.