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Learning from Near-death Choices

Saturday, December 01, 2012

I try to meditate each day with varying degrees of success. Today, instead of using my normal guided meditation, I decided to watch inspirational videos at TED.com. The collection today was titled "What We Can Learn from Near-death Choices," and featured five speakers, three of whom I listened to and took notes in between the tears and the laughter. Here are their lessons.

Ric Elias relates his brush with death as a passenger on US Airways Flight 1549 (Miracle on the Hudson). His most important lesson: Life can change in an instant, so get rid of negative energy, and don't waste time doing things that don't matter with people who do.

Candy Chang creates public art that people interact with (such as asking a question and inviting people to answer on a chalk board or post-it notes). When she asked, "Before I die, I want to ____," answers ranged from whimsical to heart-wrenching, and the concept has spread around the world, letting people have a voice through art.

The most inspirational to me was former Australian Olympian Janine Shepherd, who suffered a crippling cycling accident (struck by a speeding truck) that ended her Olympic career. The accident was so horrific with multiple broken bones (including broken neck and crushed back), massive blood loss, body ripped open and filled with gravel, that it's amazing she is alive and coherent, let alone that she can walk. Yet she is and she does (with limitations).

Her talk reflects on the impact of a broken body on one's dreams: the depression at the loss of everything previously valued and worked for; the uncertainty at how to move forward; the discovery of new dreams; the unbinding of creativity. She relates how, after she returned home from months in the hospital spinal ward, she looked at a passing plane, and, in a flash of inspiration, decided that if she couldn't walk, she would fly and made a booking for a lesson. Unable to walk at the time and in a body cast, she had to get someone to drive her to the airport. With humor, she describes how the instructors "drew straws" to see who had to go up with her. Then...they were in the air! She was unable to use the rudders, so the instructor took them up, passed hand control to her, and she was flying! The experience unleashed within her a dream, and she poured all her talent at planning into how to make the dream reality and all her pent-up determination into walking again. Within 18 months of that first flying experience, she was walking, and she earned her private pilot license, her instrument rating, her twin-engine rating, her commercial license, her flight instructor rating, and, unstoppable, her aerobatic instructor rating.

Her conclusion: The body may be limited, but the spirit is not, so shed the physical and embrace the virtues of the heart.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • KANOE10
    Great blog ! We need to appreciate our precious moments in life.

    2024 days ago
  • HFAYE81
    Amazing!!! I love TED talks. Another inspirational story is one I read in Runners World a few years ago. A firefighter named Matt Long nearly died when he was struck by a bus and dragged while on his bike...he came back and finished a marathon. Here's a link http://www.runnersworld.com/runners
    2029 days ago
    Definitely an inspirational blog! Thank you for posting this!
    2029 days ago
    What an inspirational blog. Thanks for sharing this. It's so easy to dwell on the small stuff and forget what's really important.
    2029 days ago
    I think the one about the cyclist is the most heart wrenching and inspirational TY for your Blog emoticon
    2031 days ago
    What a great inspirational blog. I love TED! I will have to watch this one. emoticon
    2031 days ago
  • X5X52000
    emoticon BLOG! TY for sharing!
    2032 days ago
    What a lovely way to spend some time...wow! The few times I have walked to death's door with people I love I have been so inspired and honored to be present. I learned so much about how I would like to die. One of my favorite stories is my father in law who was dying, but lucid, at 97. My husband said to him, "Dad, I think this might be it." And Dad said, "If it is, Rich, it's been a great ride." He was a man of great religious faith but I was so touched by how he acknowledged that life here was important to him and he had enjoyed it.
    2032 days ago
    Celia--thank you for this blog. Something for me to think about today!
    2032 days ago
    Wonderful blog Celia! It certainly makes one think.
    2032 days ago
    What a gift this blog is, Celia:) We have a "Before I die, I want to..." chalkboard in the shelter and one of my favorite things somebody wrote is "Be thankful for everyone I meet."
    I hope you have a wonderful weekend.
    2032 days ago
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