Everything has an end: books, movies, TV shows – even this Yoga Teacher Training. And, as my Yoga Teacher Training came to an end this past weekend, we were given our last assignment, one with a “deadline” of sorts. We were to write an essay that answered, “If I had 24 hours to live…”
It seemed like a simple enough question, especially for someone like me whose A-type personality always has a game plan on the ready. I mean, this kind of question screams that I’d not only have said game plan, but that my list would be color-coded, time-organized and full of contingency plans…because we’ve got shit to do and not a lot of time to do it, you know? But, when I really sat with how I’d want to spend my last 24 hours, there were no bullet points, no bucket lists, no “I just have to do’s”. Sure, there are things I want to achieve in my life – I want to write and publish my book and become a master trainer, traveling to cities across the U.S. to train teachers for intenSati and LifeTime Fitness. But, none of those life achievables were things that could be accomplished in their entirety in 24 hours. I was left wondering if I could do enough in 24 hours to leave a legacy behind that I’d be proud of. I was left wondering, If I had 24 hours to live, would I just be alive or would I really be living?
When I was 21, my brother Tim passed away in a tragic car accident at the age of 18. No forewarning. No 24-hour notice. No final to-do’s or bucket lists. Just an early morning phone call from my father with two words: “Tim’s dead.” When someone you love dies it’s their messy, unplanned last 24 hours that replay in your head – it’s your memories that create the legacy they leave behind. When I thought about Tim’s life, though it was short lived, I reflected on how he was always one to live life to its fullest. Sometimes he was admittedly a bit too full and daring in his approach to life, but more than anything he was the reminder that life was a delicate gift – how it is both a beautiful and precarious and paralyzing thing because it can make you live fuller and bolder, or it can make you feel stuck, anxious and scared of losing everyone you love. My formal relationship to death has had me hold on too tight, worry too much and even wall myself off for protective reasons. For almost 10 years, I’ve lived a pseudo life where I’ve been alive but not fully living the rapture of life itself. I’ve lived in my head, afraid to feel my body. I’ve been afraid to answer the phone, anticipating bad news. I’ve crafted and carved stories of unworthiness and un-belonging and loss because anything can happen at a split second and anything is happening all the time.
Well, the truth is anything CAN happen in a split second and anything IS happening all the time. So, living has nothing to do with the specifics. It’s not about 24 hours or not having 24 hours. It’s not about knowing or not-knowing anything. It’s not even about having a game plan or a bucket list. These past nine weeks of Yoga Teacher Training have taught me that even if you think you have your life, your bucket list or your 24 hours figured out, you don’t.
There’s always another layer waiting to be peeled back. There’s always another layer of self-discovery and the only way to unveil the new layer, the only way to go deeper and live fuller, is through connection. Tenacious vulnerability, unparalleled kindness and the authentic sharing of our story is the greatest gift we can give to the world and the only real measure of living.
If I had 24 hours to live…I’d share my story. Not the kind of “story” you’d read on my website. Not a story about me. But, a story about YOU. The one that YOU are a part of. I’d tell you:
My story is really your story. And it was your acts of kindness and courage and tenacity that have helped me break down the walls I’ve built. It was the moments you pushed me to my edge that allowed me to get stronger. It was your unwavering trust in me that allowed me to find that space within myself. It was your intuitive knowing of what to say and when to say it that helped pull me through. It was even the moments you called me out on my bullshit that helped me get back on course. All of these things – all of you – are my story, my legacy and truly, my greatest gift.
If I had 24 hours to live, I’d spend it connecting. Whether in person or through emails, hand written notes or phone calls, I’d reach out to people who have made a difference in my life. Beyond that, I’d introduce myself to someone new, smile at a stranger and tune in to all the sensations and people around me in an effort to be more present and connected in my last moments. The best part about realizing this, is that I don’t have to wait to connect to others or my life. The more I connect, the more I open up and allow myself to be seen, the more I see others as they truly are, and the brighter this whole world becomes.
Everything has its end and while we can never be sure of our own ending, we can start living it now. If you had 24 hours left to live, what would you do with that time? Where would you spend it and with whom? How would you prepare and what would be your final thoughts? I’d love to hear how you’d spend your last 24 hours.