I just came home from a three-day Three Principles coaching conference in Manhattan Beach, CA. It was a magical three days, spent soaking in the presence of some of the most grounded, loving and beautiful humans I have ever met.  On the first day of the event, I listened to a deeply moving description by Jack Pransky, a long-time Three Principles coach, of a profound experience he had where he saw that life as we experience it every day is simply an illusion, a game that we’re playing.  The experience had affected him very deeply and his account of it was truly moving.

The next day, I got up early, borrowed a bike from my hotel and set out to find my way to the beach. It was 2.5 miles away through congested CA neighborhoods, I had no helmet, and the bike had no gears and only foot brakes. But somehow, I managed to make it to the beach. And I was so glad I did. I rode down the bike path along the edge of the beach, taking in the ocean, the sound of the waves, the cool salty air. What a gorgeous place! This mountain girl was loving every minute of this ride. I was grinning from ear to ear.

For some reason, as I was enjoying the heck out of my beach experience, I started thinking about what Jack Pransky had shared the day before. I started thinking about the metaphor of life as a game we’re playing. What I thought next started to get a little fun.

I’ve never played video games, but for some reason it occurred to me that if life is a game, then it’s a really cool virtual reality game, the kind where you get to choose your avatar, choose who you want to be, and then build or create your world in whatever way you choose. I thought this was a pretty cool idea and I was enjoying my little mental game quite a bit.

Which is when I was hit with a huge wave of insight. I suddenly saw that whenever I thought about the physical world being an illusion, and life being a game, I had somehow imbued that thought with a slightly negative flavor. For some inexplicable reason, I thought of the physical world, of life, as “just” an illusion, or “just” a game. I had somehow been demoting it in my own head, making it less important or less desirable because it isn’t “real”.

But what I saw as I rode that clunky bike along Manhattan Beach is that this game we get to play is an unbelievable gift. “Illusion” or not, we get to be in this game where we get to feel alive, where we get to have a conscious experience of this wild and beautiful world. We get to taste ripe mangoes and hear ocean waves crashing onto the beach. We get to smell salty beach air and feel cool wind on our skin. We get to travel through breathtaking mountains and travel to faraway places. We get to listen to music that speaks to our soul and brings tears to our eyes.  We get to dance and move our bodies.  We get to fall in love! And we get to bear children that we love with an intensity that sometimes scares us. We get to touch and see and smell and taste and feel, and somehow magically we get to be conscious of the whole experience.

And yes, we also get to grieve and hurt, to have our hearts broken, over and over again. We get to feel depressed and discouraged, hopeless and overwhelmed. We get to feel pain and have our bodies be broken or sick, only to heal again and then break or be sick again.

We get to experience feeling alive, truly alive, with all that that means, every up and down and magical moment and heartbreak. We get to have this one wild and magical experience.

So who cares if it’s “just” a game? It’s the most breathtaking game imaginable and we’re ridiculously lucky that we get to play it. Not only do we get to play it, but we get to be the author of it as we go. 

That’s what hit me on that morning in Manhattan Beach.  And as I describe it many days later, I am hit with it all over again, with the indescribably feeling of awe and gratitude for simply being alive, whatever that might mean.