Diana is an aspiring actress that I’ve been speaking with for a year. The other day she called and was very excited about the news that she got a callback for a role on a major network television series. She said “I have to get this! This is it – my one chance – and if I don’t get this I’ll never be a successful actress.” As happy as I was that she had this great opportunity, I became concerned that if she didn’t get the role she would be devastated and give up her dream. I thought about an experiment detailed in the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, by Sogyal Rinpoche, and decided now would be a good time to do it with Diana.
I asked Diana to pick up a coin. I asked her to imagine that it represented a career as a successful actress. I asked her to hold the coin tightly clutched in her fist and extend her arm, with the palm of her hand facing the ground. I then had her let go and relax her grip and the coin fell to the ground. This holding on so tightly and then losing the coin represented the belief that if she didn’t get this role, her dream of becoming an actress was over.
Then I said Maybe there is another possibility here: Maybe you can let go of the coin and yet keep hold of it. With her arm still outstretched, I asked her to turn her hand over so that the palm faced the sky. I then asked her to relax her hand and see if the coin still rested in her open palm. She let go and the coin was still hers resting in her hand, even with all this space around it. I reminded her that holding the coin this way represents her dream of being a successful actress regardless if she gets this role; she needn’t grasp it so tightly. This way of seeing her goal shows that life doesn’t have to unfold one way, but instead there is open space that can lead her in many different ways to joy and success.
Most of us grasp at the coin with our palm facing down when we believe something has to happen one way in our lives for us to find opportunity and achieve our goals. How often, for instance, do we believe that we need to get a particular job or promotion to be going in the right direction? Or that a stock must go up for us to be financially secure or that we need to land a particular client to further our careers? How often have we yearned for a certain person to like us so we can be happy? The problem is that sometimes we lose our grasp on that one thing we believed we needed to happen, and it then becomes very difficult to imagine recapturing our dreams.
Yet how could it be that our lives only work if this one thing we are grasping for happens? How can we continuously live with the pain believing that our lives can manifest only one way? That is why I love the idea of Maybe. Using Maybe, we can learn to hold the very thing we want but also leave space and room for other possibilities. If we are willing to look at life another way, opening up to letting go can be less scary or more inviting. It allows us to maintain our dreams and goals while experiencing the twists and turns that our journey in life may take us.
Diana did not get the role she was trying out for that day. However, she has chosen to see it not as her last chance but instead as a flip of her palm that keeps the dream safe. She has another audition next week for a guest spot on a well-known show. Who knows, Maybe!