During my 20’s, while I lived in California, I did some workshops that were all geared toward learning about oneself and how to deepen the relationship with yourself and others. One of the workshops was a 3.5 day event from morning until evening. It was held in Mill Valley and was super intense from an emotional perspective. My experience that weekend is still very fresh in my mind and I feel I am still learning from the teachings and the subsequent teachings with that particular group.
One of the scenarios/exercises we did has come into my memory recently and I remember it with a bittersweet feeling. Here’s what happened…
The large group of about 75 people were led on a guided meditation with a story. We had to imagine we were all on a plane and our plane had crashed. There was a small raft that could fit 10 people and those were the people who would able to escape the crash and save themselves. Each one of us had to decide if we wanted to be one of the 10 voted onto the raft or if we would be willing to give up our seat for someone else in the group. After the meditation, each one of us had to stand up in front of the group and in 30 seconds explain your choice. If you wanted a seat on raft, you had to explain why you felt you were worthy of it. You had to state your case as to why you should be one of the 10 chosen. And conversely, if you did not want a seat, if you were willing to give it up for someone else, you had to explain your reasoning.
Well, I was about the 10th individual to go and state my case. Basically everyone before me had said they didn’t want a spot…that they had lived a full life and it was ok for them to be off the raft…or they said they didn’t feel they were any more worthy than next person, so they basically opted out. I sat in my seat absolutely stunned that these people were basically killing themselves, unwilling to fight for their lives. Even though I was terrified to stand up and speak in front of 75 people, I was also bursting at the seams to jump out of my seat and explain to the group that HELL YES, I wanted a seat on the raft. I wanted to live!
And, so I did just that. I had 30 seconds and I only used about 10. I think I said something about being young and passionate about life And YES, I WANT TO BE ON THE BOAT. My voice was loud, steady and my words were said with conviction. When I was done talking, I just stood there for the remainder of my 30 seconds and then sat down. The rest of the group proceeded and more people gave up their seat rather than fight for it, although there were others who made strong cases for being on the raft. I continued to be baffled though by the sheer number of people who were sheepish and who were giving up so easily.
Next came decision time. Each person had to vote on paper the 10 people they felt were worthy of the seat on raft. Who would the survivors be? Who would be voted on to go and live and be a good parent, a good citizen, etc…

The voting was finalized and the names were announced. As each person was announced, they were to go stand at front of the room.

I was not chosen. I was not voted on the raft.

I was truly shocked and a bit angry and upset. I mean, crap, I was actually one of the few people who said they wanted to live and I wasn’t voted on? What hell?

We were then given an opportunity to hear feedback from the group and the leaders of workshop if we wanted. You could ask for feedback on why or why you were not chosen.
I asked for feedback. The person whose comments continue to stand out for me were those of one of the workshop leaders.

“Angie…yeah, you know, I DID vote for you to be on the raft. In addition to being one of the only people who didn’t kill themselves, in liked your presence up there and I GOT that you truly wanted a seat, that you really wanted to live. I wanted you on the boat with me. I got it, but there’s a way that your peers did not GET it…and that is where your work is.”

There was and is no right answer to being on the raft. The exercise was used as a way to really see yourself. A mirror. A tool. Pretty damn powerful. Even still…

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