|This past week was my birthday. In previous years I mostly disregarded the day, of course grateful when my family and friends sent kind wishes or cards, but almost remaining impervious to the event.|
This year felt different. I not only acknowledged and relished the day myself, but planned to spend it just as I liked (within easily available options). Sunrise on the beach with a lovely cup of coffee and my journal set the tone for the day. The rest unfolded gently and pleasantly with minimal fanfare, but creating moments in special places, with precious friends or enjoying my son's school tennis match. I even spent time working on my books and projects, which I love. Kind neighbors hosted us for a simple yet sumptuous dinner with ice cream cake, something I'd never get for myself. And I finished the day by responding to all who sent wishes on Facebook, not a usual practice of mine.
Maybe this subtle shift in deciding to honor the day and appreciate myself more flowed over from my previous weekend. I had joined a wonderful group of new friends who all met one year ago when I organized the Walk for Tibet Florida for my dear friend Jigme Norbu. In the end, we did complete the 300 mile walk down the coast of Florida for the cause of World Peace, Human Rights, Tibetan Freedom and freedom for all oppressed.
However, not without tragedy striking at the end of day 1, when Jigme was struck and killed by a car while walking. On one hand, this changed everything, and yet, everything also went onward. To this day I carry the overwhelming pain of his loss, both on a personal friendship level but also on the level of what he meant to so many.
You see, Jigme was the nephew of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. He had recently taken up the mantle passed on by his own father, a recognized high Lama himself who, as eldest brother of the Dalai Lama, had led the vanguard of publicizing Tibetan issues in the West since his escape from Tibet in the 1950's.
Growing up in such a shadow and in such sacrifice, it must have been hard for Jigme to know his own unique place in the world. It took growing up, marriage, kids, business success and failure to mature into someone who could claim his own voice. Once he did, he relentlessly Walked for Tibet across thousands of miles and many countries, non-violently advocating and speaking out for Tibetan Freedom and goodwill for all. He had a ready smile, gobs of charm and a sincere willingness to listen to everyone who crossed his path.
Who could have predicted the global outpouring of sympathy on his sudden death? Nobody, even his family and especially he himself, had any idea of the magnitude of his impact over the years. And, what is still to come from the ripples he put in motion.
So it could be for any one of us. Remember the perennial Christmas movie 'It's a Wonderful Life'? If you were to imagine taking yourself out of the picture, how would life have been different for everyone around you- your family, friends, co-workers, strangers touched by your life work or simply passing through....?
Obviously we can never know for sure. But if there's even a niggling thought that you haven't made anywhere near the kind of impact you would like to before you can't, then perhaps it's time to step up and do something about it.
One of the worst human feelings is regret. Don't leave yourself open to that. Here's how to start:
• Take stock. Notice what great impact you've had, and where you want to make more of one. Build in plans to take action sooner rather than later.
• Notice where you may have done or are still doing some 'damage'- in relationships, performances, personal habits or behaviors toward others
• Either forgive yourself, resolve to make good, and move on
• Or seek to make restitution, either directly where possible (apologies, invitations, expressions of gratitude or kindness) or by paying it forward with kindnesses towards others instead
In reality, we can never know the impact of one life, including ours. But we can up the chances by being aware that we can make significant ripples of the good sort by being and acting from our highest and best self. Design them in. Create your own Living Legacy, day by day. That can only be good for everyone.
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