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It’s Your Funeral

It's Your Funeral

Change your life in 3 fun minutes.

I am not one of those yoga teachers who feels inclined to give out unsolicited non-yoga-related life advice to the masses. And I really never do it. Really. It’s annoying.

But this time I have to. I’ll make it quick and you don’t have to thank me, but you’ll want to.

I randomly happened upon an idea, which led to a query, which led to an answer, which led to life changing action and, I kid you not, it took one minute tops to get come serious clarity about what to do with myself henceforth.

I’ve thought long and hard about how to present this question to you in an open-ended way so that you are not influenced by my answers; yet I must also ensure that we are crystal clear about the precise task at hand so that you actually do the thing I did. Stay with me because you and I both need you to get this right, although you don’t know what “this” is yet. Trust. We have already come this far.

I arrived at a question in a rare waking moment where it didn’t matter what my mind was doing and during which I was not looking at or listening to anything.

So, I started imagining that I was giving my own eulogy.

Now let’s pause and deal with your reaction to that. Take yourself a breath. I only barely started to indulge in this eulogy thing for half a second before it became something else- the thing we are here to talk about.

But, come on. Don’t act like you haven’t had funereal thoughts. I don’t do it a lot, okay? The last time I spent a moment on it was probably in high school- where the imagined church was packed beyond fire code, and the air, humid with tears and snot, was loud with competitive crying.

No, in this slightly more intellectual, reflective version spawned by my 50-year old brain, I can’t see those gathered to send me off because my back is to them momentarily as I approach the podium to give my own eulogy.

Oh, another thing. I am also not me. I mean, how could I give my own eulogy? All good fantasies have to have some root in the real world. So I don’t know who this eulogizer is but, in this moment, I must provide him or her with something to say. So I suggest that they start by talking about a day that James would have loved.

And that was the end of that funeral. It dissolved immediately as the moment shifted into one where I did have a task. I started to answer the question, “How did James love to spend his time?” for myself.

Each day is an amalgam of different elements. Our days are made up of a mix of things … like doing yoga, hanging out, doing your job, doing hobbies (whatever they are), being with certain people, and other stuff. Get the idea?

So, I wondered, “What mix of elements should make it into my hypothetical cross-section of the good life?” My face let go, then I started to smile as my mind projected thoughts of my favorite things.

But, I didn’t write this to share my list with you. It would not be meaningful to you, unless you’re me. And you’re not. However, in the interest of teaching with clear instructions, I will tell you three of my answers because I want to make sure you get the idea, and because they are obvious.

Three elements of my ideal day would be: being with dogs, practicing yoga, and writing something. Ok?

When I put the first few things on my list, this was still just a kind of weird way to fill a moment. Then it transformed into something important. Something worth sharing. Something kind of serious.

I put something on my list- something obvious that will probably be on most of your lists. But, for me, it was very different from the elements I’d chosen up to that point. That is, I realized that, unless I made a pretty dramatic, but doable course correction, that particular thing wasn’t ever going to happen again.

Talk about a moment pregnant with value. That one was. Because at that very moment I decided to start to shift things while I still can. And I have. And it feels really good.

It feels so good that I want you to do it. Maybe there’s something obvious that you haven’t noticed, like there was for me. Is there something on your list that you’ve accidentally stopped?

You want to think about that? It will probably take less time than reading this post has and it might be just what you needed, as it has been for me.

Or maybe you will find that you are already living your ideal life, which would mean that this task was not a waste- not even for happy, self-actualized you. I’m happy for you. The rest of us are almost there.

7 thoughts on “It’s Your Funeral

  1. Really happy to get a second email from you today. I watched the video on the Yamas, from the email you sent this morning and was quite contented. Deepest thanks to you

  2. Thanks for the very insightful essay, James.

    There is something some very real and practical to contemplating ones death that might not be as palatable as the often contrived and irrelevant advice accompanying a display of extreme flexibility and strength (although recently I’ve taken a less critical view of this, which I can share with you privately if you want). Your experience seems to magically capture the serious yet light hearted approach that Seneca recommends to contemplating one’s death in his book “Letters from a Stoic,” and I’m inspired by an impression of gentleness that seems to emanate from your reaction to your eulogy. To me, it seems like this experience triggered a wellspring of peace and love. To me, that’s just as important as the intellectual realization that you’ve dropped something important to you.

    Pardon me for my unsolicited opinions, and I can’t help but share another. Your writing lately seems to have evolved. Something earthy and gritty feels likes it has settled in between the intelligence and wit. Or maybe something has changed in myself. Keep it coming!!!

    1. Thank you, Stephan! I think that with this thing I had a more clear agenda than usual and I felt a lot of urgency about getting the idea across with precision. So it kind of wrote itself! I wish I had that kind of clarity all the time. I really appreciate your comments. I felt less sure than usual about how this would be received and I am glad that at least one person got what I was saying. And your take on what happened with me and how it has affected me beyond that single decision is very insightful and accurate!!! Well done! Thank you again.

  3. My list is similar to your list except that my “dog” is my boyfriend who happens to act more like a dog than a human:) I had quite a similar epiphany too yesterday about “what makes me happy” for gods sake?!?! Instead of “what am I supposed to do to be a better person.” Thanks for the gentle reminder, and let’s not die anytime soon!

    1. Dogs make the best boyfriends! And I bet that tending to one’s own happiness first will then make one a better person. I like to go at being better from that direction ,,, from the inside out. Be nice to yourself then you connect to others in a way that is that “better person” that we are told to be. Be happy first. Then, being better grows organically from that.

      Notice how I took what you said and repeated it over and over in different words? So I guess that means we agree and I talk a lot.

  4. This topic is the the air – well my air anyway. Thanks for writing and sharing this.

    1. You’re welcome and I hope our airs commingle soon!

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