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Saturday, March 6, 2010

Can A Year to Live Make You More Successful? Responsible?

We're 69 days into our year to live and so far nobody's blown all their cash, quit their job, left their marriage or lost their home. In fact, quite the opposite is true.

When I tell people about A Year to Live some people immediately respond that they'd quit they're job, spend all their money, and blow their diet but after only a few minutes, every single person has changed their mind.

You may recall that when I sent out this challenge I received hate mail from a man named Fred. He told me I was irresponsible and reprehensible because those who joined my experiment would end up penniless, homeless and I'd be to blame. Perhaps Fred was only expressing his own knee-jerk reaction to this challenge? If he'd thought about it a bit more, maybe he'd realize as others have, that a year of hedonistic abandon may not really be his soul's deepest longing.

I've been impressed with the priorities people have set for themselves and the accomplishments people have made already.

  • One participant told me that she's much more focused on her relationship with her husband, and taking more responsibility for creating a loving tone in their marriage.
  • Another admitted that the first week of feeling what it would mean to have A Year to Live was an exhausting roller coaster of tears. She was tired of living in the moment and wanted to crawl back into bed when Monday rolled around. But instead started doing her job as if she only had a year. She felt focused but not stressed or overwhelmed. She approached a potential client she'd been trying to attract for over a year in this new "year to live" way, and she got the account.
  • One participant shocked herself when she realized the number two item on her bucket list was to get out of debt.
  • Margaret Floyd of EAT NAKED admitted that A Year to Live helped her take her focus off her financial goals and focus more on what she can give her clients as their nutritional therapist. She's even writing her book to help more people. It will be completed within the year.
What do you think you'd accomplish if you only had a year to live? What legacy would you want to leave for others?

Join Bcelebrated and leave a legacy of love and inspiration for those you will leave behind one day.

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Friday, March 5, 2010

Why you want to have a brush with death

After a wonderful trip to Hawaii I returned to life as I know it in Sunny Santa Monica and got back into the groove of my every day life. Saturday morning I woke from a dream about a Tsunami. Now I know that dreams of water signify emotions and a Tsunami would be a LOT of emotion. In the dream I could see the Tsunami coming but nobody else could. Everyone was going about their business. Since the water wasn't going to harm anyone so there was no point in creating alarm.

A few hours later I was having lunch with a friend and my husband called. Turns out there'd been an earthquake in Chile hours earlier and a Tsunami was heading for Hawaii, where we'd just been, where my good friends still were. He told me that Nancy had just called to say goodbye in case they didn't make it through. I was shocked to hear the news, and at the same time felt very calm, knowing that they would be ok, perhaps because of the dream. I prayed that they would feel peace and find their inner resources to deal with the stress that is must be causing them.

As you know by now Hawaii wasn't affected by the Tsunami, and so my friends were fine. When Nancy returned home we had a talk about the experience. She kept saying how good it was for her. I delved deeper into the reasons for that. She said that facing her own death - and death felt like a very real possibility when she was woken by alarms and friends telling her to evacuate the area - things became clear.

She was happy to be with her husband and daughter. She was appreciative of the time we'd just had. She reached out to her family and let them know how much she loved them. She was surprised to find that she was without regret, and decided that if she made it through she'd like to have more fun. Maybe even drink more - that made me laugh since I decided to drink more, with only a year to live. (Neither of us really drink at all so drinking more is pretty minimal.)

Something happens when we face death. Things become crystal clear. The unimportant drivel that fills most of our waking hours, repeating itself over and over in our minds, is stripped away. What's left in its place is what really matters to us. As our life plays before our eyes we can reflect with gratitude or regret.

That's why I am living this year as if I have a year to live. It gives me a chance to review my life, get clear on what matters, and express my love to those I cherish. It's been a blessing to discover that I don't have regrets, that my relationships are solid and loving. I've been fortunate to do work that I'm passionate about, and have friends I care deeply about. My life has been a treasure, and while I've always been grateful, A Year to Live has made it all so very very clear.

I encourage you to take the challenge and live as if you only have a year to live, before you have your own brush with death. You'll be amazed at how facing death can enrich your life.

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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Swimming With Dolphins

Intention, Acceptance, Surrender, Gratitude

These four words were the theme of my week in Hawaii. Immediately after deciding to experiment with a Year to Live I created a bucket list. It isn't long: 1) spend more time with the people I love and 2) swim in the wild with dolphins.

Just after I wrote it, the chance to meet my girlfriend Nancy and her family on the big island of Hawaii presented itself. Seemed like an opportunity to check items off the list. We found a wonderful house to stay, booked our flights, and momentum carried us the rest of the way. If I was a more organized person I would have spent at least a bit of time researching what's involved in swimming with dolphins. I know when dealing with wild beings there's never a guarantee, but a little research might have increased the odds that it would actually happen.

A few people recommended places where I could swim with dolphins in captivity, but I love these creatures too much to do that.
To me it's the equivalent of putting good gentle humans in jail so another species can be entertained by us and learn about us. Dolphins live with their families (pods) for their entire lives, communicate with each other through individual whistle sounds, can swim up to 20 mph and travel 3 - 7 miles a day. Their skin is made up of live cells and is incredibly sensitive, with no protection from bumps and bruises. In captivity they are taken from their pods, forced to swim in small circles, subjected to harmful noises, and handled by people for long periods of time. None of this is "natural" or healthy for them. Perhaps one of the saddest facts about dolphins in captivity is that tens of thousands of dolphins are killed each year during the hunt to provide dolphins for aquariums and "swim with dolphins" locations. It would break my heart to be part of this, as much as I want to experience them up close.

Back to Hawaii. The week was more than I could have hoped for. Lots of time to connect with my friends, time to play with my god-daugther Faith, beautiful sunrises, yoga, fabulous food and a community of interesting people who invited us to parties and took us on a hikes across the black lava fields, and to lush waterfalls. It was heaven. When I inquired about swimming with dolphins I got mixed responses: Yes, dolphins are spotted occassionaly at the black beach where we were staying. No, dolphins hadn't been seen there in a month. A few people recommended I drive up to Kona and take a boat tour which would pretty much guarantee that I'd see them.

Over the past two months decision-making has become much clearer for me. It was more important to spend time with my friends, than take a day away from our short trip to swim with dolphins. A bucket list is not a bunch of items to be checked off as accomplished at any cost, but rather meaningful experiences that I want to savor.

It had been my Intention to swim with them. I Accepted that it wasn't likely to happen. I Surrendered to the flow of the trip that lead from one great experience to another, and I was Grateful for the time to connect with my friends in a beautiful, warm location.

On the final morning before our flight I sat in meditation just before the sun rose. I had the strangest feeling that the dolphins were calling. My husband and I walked down to the black sand beach as the sun was rising. The water was calm and warmer than it had been. Far out there were two people swimming. I told Mark, "They're swimming with dolphins". And they were. We swam out and joined them. They welcomed us as friends. The woman sang through her snorkel mask and the dolphins LOVED it. Sticking close to her, we were surrounded by the pod of 20+ spinner dolphins. It was better than I could have hoped for. It was private and magical. The dolphins were playful and graceful and they filled my heart. I cried with gratitude for the gift that they are. It was so much more than an item to check off my list.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Shilpa's Year to Live - Week Six

A year to live by Shilpa

The past few weeks, I have been busy with family, friends and work. I did have a chance to head out to Mammoth for some R&R. The snow conditions were remarkable and I was miserable to say the least that I was not able to ski. I love to ski, it is one of my few passions and can’t wait to get my kids on the slopes. However, this ski trip was different, because it did cross my mind what if this is my last year and this is my last opportunity to hit the slopes. How am I feeling? Well I was extremely depressed and tried to put on a good face for the group. I did take this opportunity to bond with my friends over spa treatments and food. This was especially nice, since we all left our kids behind. We all had the opportunity to focus on each other and actually finish a conversation. I love my friends and to me there are my family.

I also saw the light - Moving forward I am not going to put off something I love to do. For the past few years, I have only gone up to the mountains once maybe twice a season. This is not cool. Since skiing is something I truly enjoy and can only be done certain times during year, I need to reprioritize. Skiing is a luxury and I need to budget for it. It also takes some effort to drive out to the mountains and actually plan accommodations etc… Luckily, I love to plan so this is easy. Finally, I just need to be better about committing, packing and heading out the door with family, friends or alone.

n addition to work and play, I have been working on my “Bucket List.” I have created two sheets, as Debra from Bcelebrated suggested. 1. MY TO DO LIST and 2. MY TO BE LIST.

My “To Do” list is mostly comprised of travel destinations, adventure activities etc.. A few examples: Complete the Malibu Triathlon, Go to Base Camp at Everest, Take pottery classes, Take up Buddhish Chanting, Rent a Villa in France or Italy and spend a week or so wine tasting and cooking. For this, I definitely need my sister and brother-in-law to show up. They are the foodies in our family! Heli-ski in Canada, Stay at the Ice Hotel, Have a meal at the Undersea Restaurant in the Maldives.

My “To Be” list is comprised of characteristics that I want to improve on, stop doing or begin to express. This list is definitely more challenging to create. I have to become more introspective and really look at myself in a honest and unbiased light. I am still working on this list but can share a few entries: Be more calm, Be healthy, Be more giving to the community, Prioritize me more than I do now, Accept all compliments and criticisms objectively, not personally, Be a parent who is open, empathic and involved. These are a few.

s I began to create these lists, I have found that they are inseparable. In order for me to complete my “To Be” list I need to have follow-up actions on my “To Do” list. Vice versa, the items on my “To Do” list need to be back by the type of person I want to be. Confused yet? For example, if I need to be more “calm” then I need to do an activity i.e. pottery class, Buddhist chanting or Pilates to help me get there.

Something else came out of me creating these lists. Things actually started to happen. For example, when I started to tell people I want to go Heli-skiing and take up Buddhist chanting , I started to meet people who have connections, information and deals to help me get what I need. It is amazing the power the universe provides to you once you are clear in your goals. My advice- write it down!

Finally, my sister has always wanted to climb Half Dome, so for her birthday this year she is planning a trip and I am going to do it with her. It will be about 2 ½ months after I deliver so hopefully it will work out. But it is on her “To Do” list and I want to help her achieve her goals. Not to mention, it is a good one so I have also added it to my list! Thanks Sis for the idea. I give you all the credit LOL!

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Thursday, February 4, 2010

A Year to Live - A Life In Review

It is said that when facing a death many people see their life flash before their eyes. I decided not to wait to the end. Rather than a flash it was more of a feature film played out on the big screen of my imagination. I relaxed and let my mind float from one memory to another. I was felt such deep appreciation for the wonderful people in my life, the chance to live in three great cities and one amazing small village, have a career full of challenging, meaningful work that excited me, and the many experiences of love I've had. I was so grateful, feeling deeply how great my life really has been, how rich and full, and truly satisfying.

The experience held some surprises for me. People I hadn't spoken to or thought about in years came to mind. After meditating on it all, I wrote down the memories. I found myself compelled to reach out and find some of the people from my past. It was wonderful to express my gratitude for the joy of knowing them at some point in my life. In a few situations there was a voice inside my brain that tried to stop me, and I'll tell you why.

During my late teens and early twenties I was very involved in a church. The beliefs, activities and community of the church were all consuming for me. At 21 I realized that I had lost myself during those years. I had joined the church after a deeply personal spiritual experience that I could only define as God. Overwhelmed by this touch of grace and wanting to know more, I was lead to this church. I parroted the churches teachings without checking inside myself. I gave up many things I loved so that I would fit in. Eventually, I no longer knew who I really was, and I didn't like many aspects of who I had become. I felt that the only way to get to know myself was to pull away from the church. A clean break was needed so I could do some soul searching and exploration to learn what was true for me. Separating from the church I also cut myself off from the community, which included a few very close friends. It was the loneliest time of my life, but I felt a need to endure this dark period to reap the rewards of much needed self discovery. For years following I was a seeker. It's much more "comfortable" to be sure than to seek, but seeking was what I needed to do.

Over the years I have thought about a few friends from this church, wondering where life has lead them. I had impulses to reach out and find them, but pangs of guilt and shame stopped me every time. I had turned my back on their beliefs and their friendship. Why would they ever welcome me back? And if they did, would our relationship be riddled with attempts to convert me. I didn't feel strong enough to face all that reconnecting might entail, until I was faced with A YEAR TO LIVE.

During my life review I remembered these friends who had once been so dear to me. I knew that I would regret reaching the end of my life without telling them how much I loved them, how much their friendship had meant to me, and sharing with them who I have become.

Thanks to the internet I found them easily. I shared with them where my life had taken me, what I'd learned about myself and what I believe and no longer believe at this stage of my life. I didn't know how they would respond, and I realized as I wrote to them that their response was not the point. My expression of love, gratitude and truth-telling was.

Then I got an email that was a far bigger blessing than I could have imagined from one friend, "I can't tell you in words small or great, just how wonderful it is to be in contact with you again," he wrote. "If I drew a time line of my life, and gave it different tones and colors according to my reflections of my time, your space would definitely be bright." I was moved to tears.

I'm sharing this with you to encourage you to act before it's too late. It would be a shame to get to the end of your life and know that you had impulses to reach out and connect with loved-ones from your past and didn't do it. If you never take the chance you'll never get the reward.

Bcelebrated is a great way to reach out to people in your life and leave them words that will comfort them long after you are gone. Sign up for a Free Trial today.

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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

What is the RIGHT way to live?

After offering this experiment of A Year To Live to others I started feeling fearful about leading a group of people through this deeply personal process. As I sat with the fear I realized that I was holding onto an outdated image of leadership. One that didn't resonate with me. My intention with this experiment was initially to do it for myself, and then offer others the opportunity to live it for themselves. I offered to share things  with the group as they unfold for me and give suggestions, ideas, and resources that may inspire them. It felt important not to be directive as I couldn't possibly know what is appropriate for each person. I've never even met many of them.

After my first email of the year I started hearing from participants. Then of course it happened. Amongst the many that were telling me about their feelings, their plans, and their expectations there were a few that said, "Aren't you going to tell me what to do?", "Am I missing something? Where are the instructions for how to begin?" My initial response, which is the way I've responded to many situations throughout my life, was "I'm not doing it right."

It was a wonderful gift to see that old pattern creep in so soon in the experiment. The part of me that feels I can't do things right. I started wondering how often I've held myself back from doing things for fear I won't get it right. I remembered times when that fear stopped me from taking improv classes or dance classes. So sure I wouldn't be able to do it right. I also remembered times when it blocked my career. My friend Nancy showed me many years ago that I was approaching business opportunities offered to me with, "I wouldn't do it right". I had a belief that there was a "right" way to do things and that someone else knew this "right" way. Not me. I repeated this pattern over and over again, passing up opportunities, sure that I wouldn't get it right. Then Nancy guided me through that stuck place in a really graceful way. She said, "We know you don't know what to do, but if you were advising someone else on what to do in this situation, what would you say?"

Taking myself out of the picture was a great idea. I tapped into my intuition and suddenly "knew" what to do. Not because I had any more knowledge. I didn't. Perhaps I was bypassing knowledge and tapping into wisdom. That "knowing" we can all access when we stop thinking so much. Whenever I trust my intuition, tapping into that universal wisdom, things work out well. Unfortunately, regardless of the amazing experiences I've had from following my intuition I still override it regularly with thinking. Don't get me wrong, thinking is useful, and I'm grateful I have a functioning brain. But thinking is overused and there are many times when NOT THINKING is the answer.

I also remembered, with great compassion, the participants who contacted me before A Year To Live began and told me they feared they would not get it right. Mellissa Rudder wrote a thoughtful and eloquent piece about this in her blog. I encourage you to read it.

But before remembering that this pattern has been with me for so long, before remembering that I know to tap into my intuition which always gets it right, before remembering the participants who had this same fear, I had my patterned second response which is, "I'll change the way I'm doing it, because their way is the right way."  Thoughts kept swirling through my head, making me feel embarrassed, ashamed and not good enough. It didn't last long. I caught it quickly, that familiar old patterned. All I had to do was stop and breathe. As I breathed in I calmed down. As I breathed out I released fear and shame. I was quickly reminded of my intention in doing this. I once again felt that my intuition to provide suggestions but not directions was the right one. At least right for me, right now. 

Then a few days later I got a most powerful email from a participant. She began with "How does this work? Am I missing something? Should I be blogging? Creating a vision board?" By the fifth line she wrote, "If this were my last year to live I would structure it". Her email then turned into a dialogue she had with herself, in which she discovered what mattered to her most, she surprised herself with some of the things she wanted to accomplish because they didn't make logical sense. She got clear on how she wanted to be. She determined five things she wanted to accomplish in the year, and even prioritized her top two. In the end, all she needed from me was information about how to access the forum so she could share her experience and hear from others.

I'm so grateful for every single person who has asked me for more direction, and especially to this person who showed me that it's not needed. And I'm grateful for my pattern of thinking I'll get it wrong, as it continues to lead me to my intuition rather than logic.

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Saturday, January 2, 2010

January 1st the  A Year to Live experiment officially began. What a wonderful start to a year. Waking a little groggy from activities the night before, my husband and I did our usual morning walk along the ocean with our dog. The sky was bright, the air warm, and the ocean calm as a lone dolphin swam along the shore. None of this is uncommon, and I never take it for granted. I live with a deep sense of gratitude for all that surrounds me. Often Mark and I will say to each other, "Can you believe we live here?"

This day I had a whole new appreciation for it. It came into focus in a new way. Everything felt crisper, brighter, and yet softer. It was as if all of this, the earth, sky, ocean, each other, and life itself are all for my appreciation, my enjoyment. I felt love for everything I could see, hear and feel. I am reminded of the quote by Marcel Proust, "The real voyage of discovery is not in seeking new lands, but in seeing with new eyes."

Speaking of LOVE, I've spent the weeks leading up to this day allowing feelings to flow through me as I think about having A Year to Live. Preparing for this year I've been thinking about the past and present. The love I feel for my family and friends could split me in half. I'm overcome with gratitude for all the experiences I've had  - the joys, sorrows, laughs and challenges. I feel I've lived one of the most privileged lives I could imagine. Reviewing my life and the love I've experienced I feel incredibly full, satisfied, content. I could die without regret.  It may seem that I'm living in deep denial of death, but when I've faced death before  I was deeply grateful for my life and ready to go.

Then on the first day of this experiment things changed. Our dog walk lead to breakfast on the patio at La Grande Orange. While eating, Mark and I talked about the year ahead. It was the first time I'd really thought about my feelings in the future. The tears came. I was touched by a very tender sadness, imagining how it would be to say goodbye to Mark. But beneath the sadness was love. I was sad because I love him so much and saying goodbye would be painful a year from now. Goodbyes to all of my community would be sad because I feel so much love from them and for them. Deep love that will live on longer than me.

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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Living life like it's a basketball game.

Seven years ago my husband stopped me while walking out of a bar to watch the last few seconds of a basketball game. While I didn't mind the delay, it seemed ridiculous to watch when the game had clearly been decided. (I knew NOTHING about basketball)There were less than 3 seconds on the clock. Lakers were down by two. Kobe got the ball and nailed a three pointer to win the game. From that moment on I've been a basketball fan, specifically a Lakers fan. The team has struggled since then and it wasn't until last year that they became a championship team again, but I've enjoyed watching them through the ups and downs, changes in players, and the drama that only a team from Los Angeles could manufacture.

I love to watch the skill of the pros, I especially enjoy it when a game is close and there's no telling who's going to win. The obstacles faced, the challenges overcome, the drive and passion players bring to the game, get my heart racing.

Basketball is like life, condensed into 48 minutes, with breaks for commercials:
  • It's important to find a good coach. Someone who's been where you want to be, is willing to guide you, and let you make your mistakes.
  • You can't do it on your own. It' important to surround yourself with a good team.
  • All that practicing done in private will determine how you play in public. The skill of your opponents makes you stronger.
  • You'll never know the thrill of victory from sitting on the bench.
  • It's not how many minutes you play that matters, it's what you do during those minutes that counts.
  • Nothing will bring more focus to your game than the clock counting down to the final two minutes.
My desire to live 2010 as if I only have A Year To Live is to bring some of that "two minute" intensity to my own game. Anything I've read about the end of life says that people become more alive when they are given a terminal diagnosis than they ever were during their life prior. When time is running out, we get a chance to give it our all. I don't want to wait till the end of my life to know what that's like. And if I die unexpectedly, I'll never get that chance, so I'm taking myself through the drill now. And I've been fortunate to have excellent coaches so far.

Brugh Joy is a beautiful teacher with whom I had the pleasure of learning. Earlier this year he was diagnosed with a recurrence of pancreatic cancer. He had beat it 16 years earlier. Throughout his journey of treatments and further diagnosis he shared his experiences with his students. In one posting he wrote: "When you have death on your left shoulder... life is ever so amplified." He was living the "two minute intensity". A few weeks ago my friend Sugar got to do a meditation with him. She said, "he's never been so alive." Brugh passed on from this life to his next on December 23 at 7:30pm. But he lived, really lived, with intensity, integrity and an open heart. Like a pro!

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Is Fear of Death Really A Fear of Life?

As people have signed up to join our experiment of A Year To Live, many have expressed a fear of dying. Some people have inquired about the experiment without committing, telling me they fear that if they commit to this they might bring death upon themselves. Others have asked me to change the name of the experiment so it would be more comfortable.  A year to live out loud, A year to Live of purpose. There have been several options presented. I haven't agreed to change the name because adding anything to it would suggest how I want people to live, and I have no desire to do that. 

What I'm really asking people to do is commit to A YEAR TO LIVE. Emphasis on LIVE. A challenge to live would inspire me to be and do something very different than it would for you. That's the beauty of this experiment. I don't expect our experiences to be all the same. And without living as if it's our last year we would lose the intensity that the nearness of death brings.

With some of these folks I've gotten into deeper conversations already. It turns out for some participants, what lies behind their fear of death is actually a fear of life. One participant said, "I've been on autopilot for over a decade. It's about time I started living." Another wrote, "I am so enmeshed in survival, which is more about not dying than living". A third said, "I'm not sure if I have the guts to do what I really want to do." Does any of this sound familiar? 

They all had valid reasons for their fear of living: Looking after an aging parent, potential of being ostracized by their family if they follow their dreams, worrying what will happen if they don't do what's expected of them.

We all have reasons for suppressing our passions, dampening our light, and doing what is required to maintain the status quo. So while I think it's true that many of us fear death, since we tend to fear with that which is unknown, I think it is also true that just as many of us may actually fear living. We've become so use to surviving, coping, and getting by that we've never challenged ourselves to LIVE. 

A Year to Live is just that- a year to live with full intensity, integrity, surrender, or whatever calls you. To live as if it's the most important year, and will never come again. To live with full knowledge that one day you'll be gone. There's a chance some of us in this experiment won't live to the end of the year. There's a chance that I won't. While our own death, and preparing for it, will be a bigger part of our consciousness this year than it usually is, we'll be using it as the inspiration to live more fully now.  I'm a believer that what you resist persists and that by fearing death we perpetuate it's hold over us and miss the opportunity to really live.

What does this quote mean to you?

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Embracing the Cycle of Life and Death

I'm continually amazed by who's joining the experiment A YEAR TO LIVE. We have everyone from CEOs to hospice workers, yoga teachers, health practitioners, funeral directors, and retired couples, ranging in age from 30 - 70, but the person who's actually shocked me is Shilpa. 

Shilpa is a 36 year old professional woman living in Los Angeles. She's a wife, daughter, sister, aunt, and mother to an 18 month old son. What's so shocking about that, you ask? Well, the fact that a mom of an 18 month old is willing to consider living as if she only has a year to live is pretty surprising, but the shocking part is that Shilpa is 17 weeks pregnant as I write this. 

She is the only person who's going to be living as though she's dying while growing a child inside her, truly embracing the cycle of life and death.  If her  "diagnosis" of a Year to Live were true Shilpa would be leaving behind a 2.5 year old and a 6 month old baby at the end of next year. I'm so intrigued by her decision to do this, what inspired her and what the year will be like for her, that I've asked her to contribute to my blog throughout the year to share her unique experience. This is what she had to say when I asked her why she's joining this experiment:

So I am taking the Bcelebrated A Year to Live Challenge in 2010.   Am I crazy, especially since I have a 18 month olson and another baby arriving in June 2010?  The thought of having only one more year with my son and six months with my newborn is NERVE-RACKING and HEARTBREAKING.  

My husband asked me why I want to take on a challenge that is so emotionally trying and quite frankly difficult to face. Well, I am the type of person who is willing to take risks and this is an opportunity for me to learn more about me!  Over the course of the year,  I will get the chance to create my own bucket list, heal broken relationships, foster stronger bonds with my family and friends and of course explore new adventures.    

With me being pregnant, I can only only do so much, however, I look forward to explore the deeper meaning of my life and my actions.  I don't want to look back and say coulda, shoulda, woulda.

I hope you will all join us as we take this journey.  I am feeling very scared and nervous  but 2010 is my year to LIVE and  I believe it will be an enlightening experience.

As Lance Armstrong says "LIVE STRONG" ~  Shilpa

To find out more about  A YEAR TO LIVE email me. Debra@Bcelebrated.com

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Monday, November 30, 2009

A YEAR TO LIVE - a new type of leadership.

I thought I was through the fear. When I first considered living next year as if I only have A YEAR TO LIVE, it scared me. It excited and inspired me, no doubt, but it also scared me. Would I be brave enough to make the choices that I would really make if it were my last year. How would it effect those around me. Would people think I was crazy. Should I tell people about it or not.

The more I wanted to do this the more it scared me. Once I committed to doing it the fear increased. I found I couldn't stop thinking about what might unfold next year. How it might change me. What things I might do differently. Soon the fear subsided and the void it left filled with excitement, enthusiasm and curiosity.

Now I'm facing a whole new fear, or perhaps it's the same fear cleverly disguised. This fear is dressed as, "Who am I to lead this?" I'm not a therapist, spiritual teacher, motivational speaker or author. I've never done anything like this in my life. I haven't even practiced it for myself, and here I am inviting others to join me in this adventure.

Some of the people who are joining this experiment are teachers and guides who should be the ones leading this experiment. They have more experience with matters of life and death. I find that having them in the group is humbling and intimidating. Donna Belk is a death dula who teaches The Yoga of Dying. Caroline Flanders leads family directed funerals. Richard Cohn is a well respected therapist and shaman. I could go on and on. Many of the participants are the very people I would look to for guidance in living my life if I only had a year to live.

What I realized this morning is that I'm not leading others in the way I've considered leadership in the past. I'm not going to be telling people what to do over the year. I'm going to lead my life and they'll lead theirs. Throughout the year I will share my journey with others, encourage them to share their experience and ideas with me, and hopefully draw from this vast pool of experience of those who carry in their cells the essence of what it means to face death with dignity, grace and an open heart.

As I let this sink it - it hasn't totally yet - I can feel the fear shifting to gratitude. A few days ago my friend Sugar asked if I would really offer this experiment to others if I only had a year to live. I said I would. I was glad she asked. When I had a moment to think about it I was clear that I would want my last life to be as full and rewarding as possible. One of the biggest rewards for me is to be of service. With only a year to live I would want to find a meaningful way to be of service to others. Perhaps this offering would fill that need.

As I think of this project as an act of service I find the fear subsiding. Gratitude is filling its place. I'm grateful to be of service. I'm grateful for the close friends and strangers who've decided to join me even though they have no idea where it will take us. I'm grateful for the rich resources we have in those who are noted experts in this field and those who are as yet un-noted experts in living.

I'm grateful that I'm already becoming aware of some of the fears that stop me from living fully. I can see how stepping back into a leadership role scares me. I've avoided it for many years now. This is an opportunity for me to approach leadership in a new way. The kind of leadership where no one person makes the decisions or has the answers. The kind of leadership where people create a container and hold a space for everyone to thrive, contribute, learn and grow together.

If you'd like to join this experiment and be the leader of your own life as if you have only A YEAR TO LIVE, contact me at Debra@Bcelebrated.com

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Forty Two days to go ... things are already happening.

Its' 42 days until A YEAR TO LIVE begins, but already I'm getting "reports from the field" about what is happening for some people.

I had lunch with Pam Maloney who said that since agreeing to live next year as if it's her last she's been more present to her own experience. In yoga class she thought, "what if this was my last class ever?". She didn't push herself to do the best yoga EVER. She didn't feel melancholy or remorse. She focused on her breath and allowed her awareness to turn completely inward to the magic that was going on inside her body. She became immediately aware of the effervescent cell activity. Now, many people might live the next 10 years as if each one was their last and never feel the effervescence of life inside them. We all have different callings, gifts and experiences and this is one of Pam's.

As a child Pam was always aware of this energy inside her. She's a very sensitive being, which is probably why she's a great health practitioner. When she was young she felt that all of this energy she could sense was a bit much for the "real world". It made her different, so she dimmed her own light. She refers to it as switching stations. The station she was tuned into at birth plays this incredible energy and gives her the ability to see auras and sense energies. But to "fit in" she tuned into the station she calls "The Mass Agreement Field". It allows her to feel normal, at the cost of feeling extraordinary.

Agreeing to live next year as her last has inspired her to tap back into the station that was most natural for her as a child. Pam made it through the yoga class, so it probably wasn't her last, but living as it was has re-introduced her to a wonderful world. I can only imagine what the year might bring her.

Before we parted Pam asked, "Do you think by living this way, we'll be feel prepared and open-hearted when the time really comes?"  "I hope so", I answered. I really do.

To join the experiment of Living 2010 as if you only have A YEAR TO LIVE, email me at Debra@Bcelebrated.com

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Things are stirring up with A YEAR TO LIVE

When Margot recommended that I invite others to join me in my experiment to live next year as if it's my last I thought it was a great idea. I invited my family first. Then some close friends. Then I sent out an email invite to a larger group and even posted that invite on Facebook and Twitter.

The response has been beyond what I could have imagined. I've been getting a wide and wonderful variety of responses. Many enthusiastic joiners saying things like, "I'm IN!", "This is just what I needed", "I"m scared but excited. Thanks for sharing this idea". Then I got one that stopped me in my tracks. Amidst all of the happy people signing up to live next year with more gusto, passion and consciousness, I got a long email from a man who was very angry with me. He called me IRRESPONSIBLE and REPREHENSIBLE. I've never been called reprehensible before, at least not to my face. He told me he hoped the experiment would get SQUASHED before it got started. He used CAPS so it felt like he was yelling at me. I don't know who this man is but I was shaken by his response to what I am doing.

I responded to his email with as much calm as I could muster. I could tell this man had a deep concern and passion for people. He was worried that I was going to lead them to live wildly for a year and blow all their money. That people would be left destitute at the end of this experiment and I would be to blame. I tried to reassure him that it was not my intent, but in the end I won't take responsibility for how others choose to live their lives. If someone leaves a soul-sapping job and starts a dream career, if passion is rekindled in marriages, people become better parents, or get into the best shape of their life I won't be responsible for that either.

So, why is it that I was so rattled? Well, there are two things at play:

First is that a small part of me is afraid people might have a bad experience next year and blame me. I've had a tendency in my past to feel overly responsible for others. I've grown and now see others as capable, and I know that I can't see what is the best path for others because I'm not living their life. I may have my ideas, and offer suggestions but I don't have the answers. My intention is that people will have a great experience, but life will do what it will and I can't guarantee that any of us will have a good time.

Second is that I really like to be liked. I think of myself as a good person, and it matters to me how others think of me. Clearly it matters too much. In fact I can think of times in my life when I've held myself back for fear that people might think badly of me for stepping out of line, acting too big, following my passion. I don't even know if people have thought badly, just the fear of it has kept me small at times.

Fred's email was a great opportunity for growth for me, and today I am so thankful to him, whoever he is. For me this experience is about growing into the person I want to be. The one who will boldly live her life in love and joy, who will offer inspiration to others to join her in the dance, but trusting that we all hear the music we are meant to hear and we will move in the way that best suits us. So I am moving forward to the music that is calling me to Live a Year like I've never lived before.

Thank you Fred, whoever you are.

If you want to join me in this experiment, email me at; Debra@Bcelebrated.com

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

When the student is ready...

When the student is ready the teacher arrives. In my case the teacher has come in the form of a book. As soon as I decided to live next year as if I only have A YEAR TO LIVE, I came across a book by Stephen Levine. For over twenty years Stephen and his wife Ondrea have worked gracefully, courageously and creatively to help thousands of people approach their own death with peace, honesty, and an open heart. I have admired their work for many years. The book I found is aptly called A Year to Live.

Turns out my idea is not knew. Stephen lived a year as if it was his last. This book shares his experiences and offers ideas, meditations, and practical advice for living each moment, hour and day mindfully.

Most teachers and spiritual guides from Jesus, Buddha, and Socrates to current day teachers like Eckhart Tolle and Adyashante teach us to practice dying before we die. I've never really understood what is meant by that, but I'm hoping to unravel that mystery over the next year.

I'm hoping that living with this sense of urgency will create a radical shift in consciousness - am I wanting too much? Perhaps. But my experience of those who've been close to death is that a shift does happen. Hearts open, truths are told, loved is expressed, fears are shed - at least for those who are ready to embrace the next adventure.

I've also been with one friend for whom the opposite was true. He shut down as fear overtook the man he use to be. It was heartbreaking. I'm not sure if he was filled with regret, or what it was he feared, but his last days were torturous to witness. I can't imagine how horrible it was to be him during that time.

I don't want to get to the end of my life overwhelmed by fear or filled with regret. But I'm not doing this experiment because of what I don't want. I'm not a person with many regrets, and I'm pretty good at facing my fears and doing things that scare me. In fact one of the reasons I know this experiment is right for me is because it scares me, and I like to explore my fears all the way through to the other side. But mainly I'm doing this experiment to see how much richer, fuller, and deeper my life might become.

Perhaps my life will change in bold and wonderful ways. I'll become a source of joy and inspiration to those around me. Possibly nothing will change and I'll discover that what I have now is as good as it gets. Or maybe I'll find the whole thing is just too damn hard, and I'm not really up to the challenge. That's what makes it an experiment.

Would you like to join me on this journey? Since telling others of my plan, nine people have agreed to also live 2010 as if they only have A YEAR TO LIVE. We're starting January 1st and I'd love to have you join our experiment. If you are interested, let me know.

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