Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Your Life Review

Have you ever heard of the "life review?" This can be seen as anything from a minute of serious reflection, to our lives flashing before our eyes during a frightening moment, to what occurs when a patient is pronounced dead and then returns to life, to what hypnosis clients report as happening in that space between lives, to a full blown fundamentalist "judgment day." The life review may come in many forms, purposes, and implications, but in essence it is a powerful opportunity to review and evaluate one's life.

The great thing about life reviews, especially those done before one's physical death, is that they allow us to step back from our daily lives and our habitual patterns or attitudes, and see the bigger picture of who we are, what effect we're having on the world, and whether we're achieving what we came into these bodies to achieve. For instance, some people get caught up in material pursuits and neglect their loved ones, only to end up lonely and full of regrets later in life.

You may have heard of Dr. Raymond Moody. He's the researcher who coined the term NDE, or Near Death Experience. His research uncovered patterns in the experiences of thousands of people who had clinically died, left their bodies, and then returned to life after moments or even several minutes. Often, these patients reported that during this time out of body, they relived every moment of their life, in chronological order, from birth until the present, and that it was alive, in 3-D, and contained every thought and feeling they had ever experienced, as well as what others experienced. They say this all occurred at lightning speed.

Typically, patients who had this experience went on to change their lives for the better. They got their priorities in order, became better people, sometimes even experienced major personality or life changes. This reminds me of a recent episode of American Pickers in which a man who owned a barn full of collectibles wanted to sell it all. When asked why he was doing this, he told Mike and Frank that he and his wife had suffered a very serious car accident the year before, and that the experience changed them forever. He said that they no longer saw the value in owning all that stuff, and that they wanted to sell it and use the money for the good of humanity. 

Have you ever had what you would call a life review? If so, what effect did it have on you? Personally, I've never had a Near Death Experience, but I've certainly had other dramatic "wake up calls" that made me sit back and review where I'd been, where I was going, and what changes I needed to make in my life. These experiences, although humbling and sometimes unpleasant, are gifts from the universe, golden moments that we can only benefit from if we're willing to take them seriously.

This week, I ask you to review your life or perhaps a period of your life that seems particularly relevant. Where have you been on your path? What have you learned? Are you satisfied with your relationships, work life, values, conscience, bodily habits, self esteem? Does anything stand out as incomplete? Do you need to forgive someone, or ask for another for their forgiveness? Do you see any patterns that need to be addressed? Is addiction, compulsion, guilt, dishonesty, etc., controlling your life?

This is a time to see the bigger picture, and not engage in the usual litany of gripes ("I need to lose weight, stop smoking, get a better job, declutter my house.") Certainly any nagging issues matter, but the life review is bigger than that. Think of it as a "deathbed" experience. If you were in your last moments of life, what would you be pleased about and what would bring you sorrow? This is an opportunity to save yourself from regrets, and create the best, most fulfilling life you can have. Ultimately I think we all deserve that.