hey- did you get the memo? the last day on earth has been rescheduled.

A few years ago, my teacher Max Strom asked us to try this exercise: imagine that you only had a year to live. How would you choose to spend your days? What would you change, how would you live? He asked us to do this exercise, (and really believe it to be true) for one year. Basically, by giving yourself an end point, a final destination, it begs you to ask yourself the questions: Who am i, and why am i on this planet? What do i value, what is important? How do i want to spend my time here on earth? What do i want to accomplish, and who do i want to share this precious time with?

The Mayan calendar cycle comes to an end today- which has been widely interpreted as the ‘end of the world,’ or as the dawn of a new shift in consciousness. Like many of the ancient wisdom traditions, the Mayans believed that time is of a cyclical nature, rather than a linear one- and that today, December 21, is celebrated as the end of one long cycle in history, and marks the beginning of the next. Falling neatly on the Winter Solstice, we sit on the precipice of the longest day in darkness. And although i was skeptical about ‘the end of days’ theory, i decided to use this opportunity to revisit the exercise i originally learned from Max. From time to time, i do this exercise- when i need to wake up from habitual patterns of behavior, to shift my perception, to get me centered and connected to the present moment- and i highly recommend it, if you have never tried it before! i decided do this exercise today and here are some of the things i learned:

i learned how to slow down.

i noticed that there were many moments i wanted to rush through- i wanted to drive faster in my car, to get to my destination- somehow propel myself forward through time and space… i’m in the middle of doing one task, and i’m already thinking about doing the next task. If this were truly was my last day on earth, i wouldn’t want to rush through it. i would want to enjoy and appreciate every single moment, every single breath. In slowing down, i noticed that time expanded for me. i was never late. Everything happened at the perfect moment. In moving slower and with more deliberate attention, i noticed that i was calmer and more centered- to truly appreciate every moment as it arrived.

i noticed how my perception shifted- and i became more aware, awake and conscious.

i became more alert and sensitive to what was going on around and inside of me. i was able to connect with my senses in a deeper way- sounds, tastes, colors and light seemed more vibrant, brilliant and clear. The trees looked so beautiful in the sunlight- every leaf, precious and unique. i enjoyed feeling the temperature of the cool air on my skin, and the sounds of birds calling distantly through the canyon. Every moment became a conscious act- i felt more awake and present. i felt more human- more like myself.

Everything can be a ritual- not of doing, but of Being.

Can you do the things you do, and be present while the event is happening? Even during habitual, everyday activities- making lunch, driving the car, speaking on the phone- can it be a ritual to Be in conscious presence? i played with this idea of ritual during my early morning shower: if this were my ‘last shower,’ how would it be different? Instead of going through the regular motions of my morning routine, being in the water felt like a ritual purification. i treated my body with care and attention- not just taking my daily shower, but participating in the art of cleansing my body. It transformed the way i approached the things that i do… and instead of just going through the motions, i participated fully in what i was experiencing.

Live in a state of awe and appreciation.

Every breath is precious. Although breathing can happen automatically on an unconscious level- when you take the time to experience the intricacy and beauty of the breath, it can be an amazing, inspiring event. Enjoy the depth of every single breath you take. Savor the subtle nuances of every inhale, as it expands the ribs in all directions. Delight in the release of every exhale. Open your eyes, and see the beauty of nature… everywhere. Can everything you meet- every person, creature, and situation that steps in your path be seen with wonder and gratitude? Wow, that sunrise is beautiful. Wow, that person is angry, but i am not. Wow, i feel my breath moving throughout my body. Wow, i am alive, and every day is an opportunity for me to figure out who i am and why i am here. Living in a state of awe and appreciation creates a positive shift of consciousness, and i have to say, is a really enjoyable practice.

Change begins from within.

Aside from being the ‘last day on earth,’ today marks one week since the tragic shooting in Connecticut. Murder and violence happen every day all over the world, but this horrific event sent a very specific shock wave of trauma, confusion, anger and sorrow throughout this nation, and across the globe. It is stimulating conversations of change, with questions about gun control and mental health issues coming to the surface. But beyond this, it is holding up a mirror for our society to take a good hard look at itself, to see the roots of our culture that are unhealthy and destructive, so that this atrocious situation can be prevented in the future. It makes me think: is this terrible tragedy the event that will inspire our culture to say “this is enough” – and help us make a true paradigm shift in consciousness? Will this motivate the experts to more deeply study the origins of mental illness, and encourage our government to create more suitable means to help troubled youth? Will this reveal the impact of how violent games, movies and television have de-sensitized us as a culture, and will it inspire the makers of these forms of “entertainment” to change its content to promote a more civilized, enlightened society?

i’m not sure how to deal with these ongoing questions- but i’m grateful the dialogue is happening. Here’s the thought that gives me peace as we enter the long night: last Friday, all over the world, millions of people felt this tragic event, deeply in our hearts. It moves me to tears to visualize the outpouring of love, the rippling of prayers, support and compassion that travel from every corner of this planet to the community in Connecticut. This week, my personal intention has been to light a candle in my heart for those who lost their lives, and to send love and light to all those affected and suffering. Is this the vision that the Mayans predicted would happen toward the end of this particular time-cycle? Did they know that the entire globe would light up, with compassion and love, conscious presence… and stillness.

This is what the wise Lisa Walford shared tonight: “Every ending turns into a beginning. Perhaps an apocalyptic sacrifice that wakes up the hearts and minds of an entire nation can be an offering to see from the innocent eyes of those who left us. Perhaps this collective idea of a mythic end is to shake up the roots of a nation and dedicate the discussion to the kind of world we can imagine. A world filled with mutual respect, tolerance, sustainability and food for all. We have the external resources. Do we have the internal resources? I think we can.. little by little, stay informed, every smile counts, exhale frequently. Happy beginning..”

Today ends a long cycle in our history. Tomorrow, we turn toward the light- beginning a new phase in time. And although the opportunity for cultural transformation is ripe, i realize in actuality, change happens slowly. In order to re-invent the values of humankind and transform consciousness, i recognize that change begins from within- it starts with you, and it starts with me.

“Your beliefs become your thoughts.  Your thoughts become your words.  Your words become your actions.  Your actions become your habits.  Your habits become your values.  Your values become your destiny.” Mahatma Gandhi.

So tonight i choose to celebrate Being. i choose to celebrate Love. i know that i can choose how i am, how i react, and that i can choose equanimity, evenness- and i choose peace.

(Thank you to my awesome friends in the LA yoga community for inspiring the content of this writing. Photo taken by me in Bali, 2012. Copyright: me)

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