First of all, welcome, welcome, welcome!!! I am SO glad you have taken a moment out to visit me here! 😀😀😀
This blog post was written with the help of a wonderful group of young students with whom I have the pleasure of discussing all sorts of ideas with. Thank you!
Also, this post has been dedicated to the elevation of the soul of Chana Willis’s younger brother Aharon Yoseph ben Yisrael Moshe who died recently.
Ari’s Story And Other Similar Brushes With Death
So… Two years ago I met an amazing man called Ari Schonbrun. Ari worked for a financial services firm called Cantor-Fitzgerald which used to be located on the 101st-105th floors of one of the Twin Towers. At 8:46 am on the morning of September 11th 2001 when Ari had just reached the 78th floor of the North Tower (having left for work later that morning than usual) he felt an almighty …
… The building reverberated, electricity and fire sparked out of the elevator shafts and the lights went out. American Airlines Flight 11 had been flown straight into floors 93-99 at 790km/h, 15 floors above where Ari stood. Tragically all 658 of Ari’s Cantor-Fitzgerald co-workers who were already in their offices that morning lost their lives (altogether 2996 tragically lost their lives in the attack that day).
Ari not really knowing what had happened, but knowing that he had to get out, managed to help an injured co-worker with severe burns escape down 78 flights of stairs and then out of the building before it collapsed. His story is an incredibly story of ‘good fortune’ and amazing bravery… For me, however, the most illuminating part of Ari’s story was the end part where he described the changes that took place within himself after his horrific brush with death.
Ari said that until that terrible day he had put his job before his family and other important aspects of his life. From a character perspective he said he was often brash and disrespectful with people, for example swearing at people to get his point across. He was basically living out of sync with his higher self. On the other side of 9-11, however, all of that changed. Ari said he was able to see his life with new eyes, his relationships, his character, his attitude towards spiritual pursuits (I have written this about Ari with Ari’s permission). He knew that he hadn’t been investing appropriately in that which was most important in his life and that now he had been given a new chance, he was going to realign himself with what he could now see were the fundamentals.
Listening to Ari’s story I was inspired to do some research. I sent out many emails seeking to find people like Ari who had experienced a brush with death so I could interview them and listen to their experiences and particularly any changes that they had made in their lives afterwards. I received many responses and I managed to interview a whole list of incredible people. What did I find as I analysed their responses? …
A Brush With Death Helps One See What REALLY Is Important In Life
My interviewees told me that as they lay there bleeding in their crashed car or on the ground unable to move after a heart attack or in the back of an ambulance after being dragged out of a burning building or in their hospital bed, recovering from a knife attack (etc), they began to see their life in a way that they hadn’t been seeing it before when the hectic pace of their lives was cluttering their vision and wasn’t conducive to their standing back in perceptive contemplation…
Like Ari in the period directly following his horrific ordeal all but two of the people that I interviewed told me that their brush with death had given them a revelation into their life! It had enabled them to see past the ‘less important stuff’ that they often found themselves immersed in and to see and to realise with a new level of understanding what really was ‘primary’ in their lives and ‘fundamental’ for them to focus on.
What specifically did they say were their fundamentals? What were the regrets that people said they experienced as they lay on the threshold between this world and the next, or in their hospital beds contemplating their lives with new eyes?
Well, it was the simple things that they had realised were fundamental and had regretted neglecting… As I listened to each interviewee I began to see that there were 3 main areas, or categories, that those who had brushed with death now saw with a new clarity to be fundamentally important. These 3 areas are:
- Relationships – Some spoke about how they had not been committing themselves to certain relationships with the commitment that they now understood they should have been making. This including not scheduling enough time to spend with certain important people in their life, or not making the time that they were with those people ‘quality time’ by virtue of their not being present and not fully engaging when they were together. Some of my interviewees described how they regretted not having communicated the appreciation that they felt towards certain individuals and in some cases the regret that they felt for not having communicated the love that they felt.
- Character / Being a more decent person – A number of my interviewees described the regret they felt upon looking back on their lives and seeing the way they had been treating various people. Some said they had been treating others without proper decency and respect. Some they said they realised they had been living with an inflated ego or with the notion that the world was there to serve them. This had led them to look down at various people that they had labeled in their own minds as ‘not important’. Some regretted how they had acted without basic integrity in business matters and other matters. Some regretted prioritising a comfortable life for themselves far above the well being of, and the commitment to help, those around them.
- Truth and meaning and spirituality – For me, the most inspiring of my interviews were with the individuals who described how at the brink of death they had realised how they had been living their life with such a complete immersion in their career and their social life that they hadn’t stopped to think about or focus on the deeper meaning in their life – on spiritual truths – on the fact that they are not just a body and an ego but also a soul – on the fact that they had been ignoring their inner need to connect with life on a soul level, to live with purpose, to pursue and connect with something higher…
(And a forth category that was mentioned by one interviewee who survived a heart attack was health. After his brush with death he gave up smoking realising that without taking care of his health his time in this world to do everything else that was important would most probably be somewhat shorter).
Bucket Lists are not the main thing
Bottom line, the point that struck me during my interviews and I guess the point which I want to share with you in this blog post is that none of my interviewees said to me that as they lay there on the brink of death that they regretted not having had the chance to swim with dolphins or scuba dive in the Great Barrier Reef. As totally cool as these experiences are (the kind of stuff that good Bucket Lists are made of) the clarity that comes with bushing with death focuses a person to the fact that even Bucket List stuff, the really, really cool stuff, isn’t the main thing. It’s the simple fundamentals that give our life meaning and fulfillment.
- It’s love and connection – putting the time, appreciation and presence of being into each of the relationships that are important to us so we really can make the most out of our time with those we care about.
- It’s being the most decent person we can be – living with integrity and respect for all others, living in tune with our inner moral compass.
- It’s the meaning that we get from living in harmony with our soul – enjoying spiritual growth and development and connecting to that which is ‘higher’ …
(This seems so obvious, and yet, as I was told by my interviewees time and time again, it took a brush with death for them to truly see and realise that which was most important to them.)
I am going to end by sharing the 2 questions that I asked myself after writing up the results of my interviews:
- Is there anything in my relationships – in my personal character traits – in my spiritual life that I think I have been neglecting to some extent in some way? – What?(For each of these 3 categories I thought it would be good to look for at least 1 thing?)
- Which one thing that I identified am I ready, now in my life, to focus on and to commit to starting to upgrade? (What specifically am I going to do to make this upgrade?)
– If you want to ask yourself these 2 questions why don’t you pause now for 1 minute so you have time to think through your answers –
Thank you for reading this blog post. I hope you found it meaningful.
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