My Friend Michael and the Power of Acknowledgement

Michael Wyman was my best friend. One of our favorite pastimes together was to meet for breakfast in a coffee shop not far from Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village. And I wish I had as many dollars as the times Michael said to me, leaning forward and looking deeply into my eyes, "Michael -- did you know that you are God?"

For a while this question bugged the heck out of me, because I certainly did not believe I was God -- and then after some time passed, I "got" it. Michael was saying "God lives in you, and that makes you extraordinary." The paradox was that while Michael did believe I was special and unique, he felt the same about everyone he met. God lives in everyone, and each person is consequently special and unique... in their own special and unique ways. Michael deeply believed that if we can accept this about ourselves and others, and others can do the same, we will have helped bring Heaven to Earth.

Sometimes I would be walking through Washington Square Park (Michael lived just across the street) and I would catch him talking to someone on a park bench. Occasionally I would eavesdrop and hear something like, "Do you know how extraordinary you are? Do you know that when I look at you, I see God?" The last time I saw and heard Michael doing this, he was talking to a lonely young homeless man. Oh Michael, my dear friend Michael, I think what some said about you was true, you WERE Saint Michael!

I once attended one of Michael's wonderful "Power of Acknowledgement" workshops. He would have people paired off in chairs opposite to one another. Each person's partner would first listen carefully to what the person in the opposing chair would share about him or herself. Then that partner would "play" back statements that were just heard. The only add-on to each playback would be that it was framed with a superlative. The playback would go something like, "Tom -- I want to acknowledge you for being a kind and loving father." Or "Tom, I want to acknowledge you for being the best YOU the Universe ever created!" Or "Tom, I want to acknowledge you for being such a good friend to people." Or "Tom, I want to acknowledge you for your dreams and for wanting to making a difference in the world. You are so doing."

As these acknowledgements were uttered, the person listening would be told to listen carefully and to take in each acknowledgement with gratitude and sincerity -- and then to acknowledge him or herself out loud with these same self-affirmations.

Then the roles were reversed, and the partner who had just shared and heard back these profound acknowledgements would then listen to the other person sharing, and feed the acknowledgements back to that person, who would subsequently acknowledge him or herself in this reverential way.

Something extraordinary happened in that room. In the midst of the roomful of people acknowledging each other for their best qualities, one could palpably feel the energy in the room spiraling up and rising. Until a moment came when the energy had lifted to a place of unification. There were no longer egos in the room. There was something more, and higher. At which point Michael, as the facilitator, would encourage every person to acknowledge the presence of God in his or her partner, and God in him or herself... and God in the room.

This was not a sacrilegious moment -- this was a truly sacred moment. Something of the truth had just been found by each participant -- the truth that God lives in each of us and among us and all Life.

Michael Wyman -- my dear friend Michael -- died suddenly of asthma at his home in the middle of the night. His funeral service was packed with the people who loved him -- an overflowing crowd.

I was one of the people who gave a eulogy for Michael that day. And in my eulogy, I recounted the day, outside Michael's apartment near Washington Square Park, where we were about to say goodbye after having spent some quality time with each other, a day where we each felt vulnerable in our personal struggles, when suddenly, Michael, who wore a beard and had a somewhat protruding belly -- suddenly started laughing joyously and began to hug me, as I did him. Here we were, each with arms trying to get around each other and that belly, laughing hysterically -- for no reason other than the happiness we felt in our affection for each other and the exuberance we felt about simply feeling our aliveness and gratitude for being alive. It was like hugging Santa Claus.

Michael, my deep, dear friend -- thank you for having come into my life. Thank you for having seen me and for acknowledging that you saw me. Thank you for YOU and for being my teacher and friend. Thank you for having shown me that acknowledging self and others is the key to Heaven on Earth. I love you. I will always miss you. And whenever I think about you, I will always smile.

Mike Schwager is a speech writer, publicist, media interview coach and reputation repair consultant (www.mediamavens (dot) com, and www.TVtraining (dot) tv).

He is also host of "The Enrichment Hour," a spiritual, humanitarian radio show on WSRadio (dot) com. His blog is www.EnrichOurWorld (dot) net.

This blog is a part of the launch series for our new Love Matters section. To find out more, click here.