Last week, I read these words from Marianne Williamson
One theory of death is that, upon our passing, we experience our lives again backwards. Whatever I gave or did not give to others, I will experience what they experienced — times ten. That would mean that for every laugh — either a small chuckle or outright guffaw — every smile that Robin Williams caused to occur in others, he is now experiencing tenfold. That would amount to bliss unending. May it be so.
I was so struck by the beauty of this idea. Whether it’s true or not, it’s a potent code for living. What if you lived knowing every experience you gave to another person would be experienced by you – times ten – at the end of your life?
I have been asking myself that as regularly as I can remember to this week and it changes every interaction I bring it into.
The first day after I read these words, an acquaintance was coming home from a friend’s funeral out of town, and mentioned her trip to me. Because of Marianne’s words, I was thinking not my usual thoughts (“What is the right thing to say to her? How can a person ever say something good enough in these moments? How much should I ask about it or not ask about it?)
Instead of all that mental chatter, I was highly attuned to the fact during our conversation, she was going to experience something – a feeling. Was I giving her an experience that I would want returned to me, times ten?
I quietly turned inward and tried to sense what would provide a feeling a comfort and love in that moment. The answer I sensed clearly within myself was to listen, with great attention. And so I mostly listened, but in a more inviting, spacious, focused way than I otherwise would have.
Instead of the five minute conversation we could have had, she talked about her experience a lot. She unfolded it before a present witness. I could tell that because I’d paused to try to to intuit my way to the most loving response – though we can never know for sure what that will be for another human being – I’d done something more helpful than if I’d spoken from my shoulds, or from my patterns of how to respond.
The news these past weeks has been so horrible. This morning I couldn’t stop thinking how we’ve been given the instructions. Do unto others as you would have them do to you.
May we begin to practice that simple task. A life’s worth of emotional growth, of spiritual development comes down to this. Do unto others as you would have them do to you. Do not give anyone an experience that you are not eager to receive, tenfold, at the end of your journey.