I have had a blog post written on this title for nearly two weeks, but I have not felt inspired to share what I had written. Instead, this morning a poetic lyric came back into my mind from a song I wrote many moons ago, around 1978:
Between the inflow and the outflow, the inspiration and the letting go, there are changes; there are changes in the Wind.
I do not know why these lyrics, which have been with me all day today, have resurfaced. If I am correct about when I wrote them initially, that song was written within a year of a huge change in my life, a Big Move from East to West that certainly redirected the trajectory of this lifetime ever since. So why now? I am not planning any major change and have been more in a settling in mode since my third move in as many years now, over a year ago already.
I feel the answer as to why these lyrics have resurfaced relates to the original title I have planned to write about here: the secret of freedom. This was a topic discussed in a spiritual MeetUp recently that I found motivating. I was going to share about how, for me, cultivating and relying on inner guidance (or inner counsel) is a key to freedom in my life; then I was going to ask you (and will) to reflect about what your own secret to freedom is. But these lyrics speak to the theme quite well, for me. Repeating:
Between the inflow and the outflow, the inspiration and the letting go…
So this is where true freedom arises: allowing information or external influences IN, yet then reflecting deeply, exploring the realm of possibilities before: choosing, acting, manifesting–whether that be manifesting change or stability. Right action flows from right discrimination or discernment. I realize for me this is not so much about being Mindful as being “Mind-less”! That is, transcending the mind’s habitual grooves by diving deeply before acting.
The more I contemplate this lyric–between the inflow and the outflow–the more centered I feel and my sense is this is where ‘higher awareness’ itself may be situated or accessible to my human senses. So, take a deep breath when considering a matter: breathe in, rest deeply before breathing out, expressing the next word or action.
****** Better Endings Story Seed: The Secret of Freedom
What is the secret, for you, of ‘true freedom?’ I invite you to remember and to reflect upon how you have been able to act or think freely in your life. Share with a loved one or write about your thoughts.
My purpose with this blog bas been, in part, to remind folks of your “creative license.” That is what the Principle of Better Endings is all about: your inherent, God-given freedom to Be or to become your own best version of who you ARE, Now! For remember, you are the Author, main protagonist, and Editor of your own unique Life Story. No one can ever take that away from you!
Day by day and overall, as humans we have the capacity to contemplate our life choices and situations and to act consciously to improve or to embellish our own (and related others’) lives. We are—or can be—change agents on our own behalf. We can decide upon significant changes of course or make mindful adjustments. Even when the most control we might feel we have in a given situation is how we may respond or react to events, our attitudes and choices can set in motion ‘better endings’ for ourselves and all rightfully concerned; or, not.
I am not advocating radical change just for the sake of demonstrating your freedom, unless you feel conditions truly warrant such a move; sometimes they do!. Usually we stand to gain most in terms of advancing in our quality of life by remaining mindful, attentive to where we are at and how situations appear to be unfolding, so we can act to wend our pathways forward rather than steer ourselves into a rut or setback.
So remember, you have the right—indeed the responsibility—to evaluate your life conditions and to stand up for your own needs or desires. Exercising your freedom to communicate or to make changes rather thanblaming anyone else for situations you are unhappy with empowers you to imagine and enact ‘better endings’!
Better Endings Story Seed:
Your Creative License
Listen to your Heart. What is it telling you, Now? Contemplate or journal about how exercising your creative license could bring about needed or desired changes.
I have always loved the question, and ask it a lot both of myself and of others: “Why Are You Here?” Recently I have come to a further understanding of how this is a potentially inspiring ‘better endings’ prompt as a journaling or contemplation seed.
“Why are you here?” carries the double entendre of referring either to the immediate moment or to the ultimate question of what your life purpose is, or your sense of mission.
Why are you here?
WHY ARE YOU HERE?
Either side of this double-faceted query is worth pondering, and it can be illuminating to observe as well how they might converge!
Recently I have accepted a part-time job working at an academic publishing company in my local home community. It has been quite an adjustment to be working four days a week (plus continuing online teaching mainly in the evenings for now), around 24 hours per week, after having settled into a rather comfortable semi-retirement lifestyle with a lot of daily flexibility. So, I ask myself, “Why am I here? (at the new job), from both an immediate and a more ultimate spiritual perspective.
Okay, so I am certainly on a learning curve at the new job, learning about the inner workings of a publishing business. I find myself in a service role there, aiming to help not only by doing the cataloguing work I am assigned to but also helping implement ideas to help the business grow there despite the transition from print to ebooks in the publishing world. While I also am earning some additional income toward my later years savings goals, the work is fulfilling as a growth opportunity. It requires me to draw on inner creative resources as well as to engage in positive co-workership with the small team that runs the daily operations of the Press.
Knowing how an experience such as a job carries value and contributes to my ultimate spiritual and social goals helps me to frame how this experience can be best integrated into the rest of my life. I do not want to allow this part-time job to prevent me from continuing with teaching—which I find ultimately fulfilling in itself—or to limit my own writing, creative, and spiritual practice activities, or to limit my time with my pets and family and friends! So, I need to monitor how things are going. I do not want to fit myself to the new job but rather intend to integrate the job into my deeper life as a whole.
Better Endings Story Seed:
Why Are You Here?
Ask yourself this question at two different levels: Why are you Here? in your job, social life or location; and WHY ARE YOU HERE? in terms of your spiritual or whole-life goals? Contemplate and/or discuss and journal about this question. I suggest it will take several passes at contemplation and journaling to really sort this out, but as it is a question of defining your life purpose or mission and how your life relates to those, it may be quite worth your while!
I’d like to bring this discussion back to the Principle of Better Endings as a tool you can apply to your everyday life. One practice I find useful that helps me to manifest ‘daily better endings’ is making a list of issues I am confronting and attending to each item on the list by identifying action steps I could take and then circling or identifying among these one Next Step I can and am ready to take. Then, of course, it helps to take that next step or set in motion activities that will result in actualizing that potential.
Making a list of current issues you face and then identifying and acting on one step you are able and ready to take Now can help psychologically as well as practically. I find that if too many issues or tasks pile up, I may end up spinning my wheels: tossing and turning instead of sleeping well or dreaming effectively; and falling further behind while new issues continue to accrue. Just writing a list itself helps me to release my jumbled thoughts around an issue. Spelling out dimensions of the situation or identifying action steps that could help resolve the matters at hand allows me to move on mentally, as I can return to the list to check in on my progress later.
The process of writing down and actively contemplating a situation allows the unconscious mind to get an overview of the issues involved. I find after I identify the situation and put focus on it in this way, I might dream of an effective approach or wake up with a clear understanding of what I need to do.
Better Endings Story Seed:
Making a List
Make a list of those circumstances or conditions in your life that you feel a need to address or that you hope to advance to ‘better endings’ scenarios. List these situations separately, and identify three or more action steps you can take that would help to advance each situation. For each situation, circle or highlight ONE NEXT STEP that you feel ready and able to take now or in the near foreseeable future to realize your greater potential. Act on these steps to set in motion a ‘better endings’ forward momentum in your life.
I have been fortunate to have learned from great input and research how to care as well as I can for dear Sophie, my Shorkie (Shitzu-Yorkie) girl who has a diabetic condition. It has not been easy but we have had a very good regime going in recent months; we are over four years in (she is eleven now) to managing the situation and she is doing well. I cook all of her food from scratch and give her all the necessary supplements (plus some!). Even so, in December she will need a dental cleaning, and such events can throw our balance off at least in the short run. Any extra stressors can require close monitoring and adjustments for weeks or months to follow.
Recently at my new PT job I have met a lady who has only recently learned her dog is diabetic, and so far she and her husband have not been having a lot of success in getting their friend’s glucose levels to balance out. I remember all too well the panic and fears that come with the enormous responsibility of providing the insulin and establishing a successful diet and exercise routine.
For any of you readers who might be dealing with a diabetic dog (principles are different with cats), here are the most basic elements to consider (I can email you my entire diet if you respond and ask me for that):
To lower glucose:
Use low glycemic veggies (I use ½ cup of a blended 10-veggie mix, 1/3 cup complex carb, and ¼ cup chicken or grass fed beef with each meal);
Use complex vs. simple carbs (e.g. barley, oatmeal)
Essential vitamins: incl. taurine, Provite Plus multivits, bromelaine, turmeric, pre/probiotic enzymes, pure d-mannose to prevent UTIs (no cranberry), bilberry, Ocuglo (see for eyes, below), ECO-Virome drops (also to prevent UTIs);
Daily, regular exercise
Routine (insulin 12 hrs apart; if any treats, a regular mid-day of same diet as breakfast 4 hours after breakfast);
For eyes (preventive of cataracts): OcuGlo (I give two sprinkled capsules per day), and pure Bilberry (1 per day, also sprinkled). Plus I use tacrolimus and ketorolac eye drops to keep her eyes moist.
One valuable life lesson working with Sophie’s condition has taught me is that health and wellness are moving targets, requiring constant mindfulness and fine tuning as life conditions and schedules change. I am truly grateful for the love and care we share every day. Walking with her about a half mile a day helps me get exercise too, and seeing how diet can help her has also helped me pay attention to my own dietary needs. We are true Soul companions, and being with her always lifts my own spirits just as she lifts others as we meet neighbors on our walks. She is a great giver of Divine Love to all, so I am blessed to be in her company!
Better Endings Story Seed:
Health and Wellness as Moving Targets
What about you? Have you found that health and wellness have at times been moving targets for you and your loved ones too? How have you managed to cope with these challenges? Contemplate and/or journal in your Better Endings Journal (or any journal notebook) about the lessons you have learned and the challenges you have faced or do now in the realm of health and healing. Feel free to comment here at the Better Endings blog, if you wish!
A ‘better endings’ approach to ‘live your dream, now!’ requires and rewards flexibility. Every positive, progressive or proactive step forward benefits from review and modification, or tweaking.
For example, I have relocated three times in as many years with my own experience of envisioning and manifesting better endings while aiming to fulfill my creative Dream. This has been progressively positive with every Big Move; new opportunities have opened which I have gratefully embraced. Then even greater potentials have become evident and unfolded from these, so that, now living in my original home town for just over a year, I have embarked upon a potentially long-term, part-time position in the publishing industry.
I am learning as I serve, enjoying the beginning of another new chapter in my life story. Still, tweaking can help me to move through this new opportunity better. I am finding it helpful to take stock, review the positive potentials alongside some possible risks, and proceed forward mindfully.
Stepping backwards one step to advance two or three times forward is better than the converse (one step forward, two or three back)! Maybe this is a lesson I have carried forward from when I was on a fencing team in college. To evaluate the opponent’s strategy while also fine tuning your own, it is very helpful to step back to establish distance while developing a plan of attack; then, execute…’et la’! I always felt that fencing was not against an opponent but simply challenging myself to exercise creative mindfulness, free thinking—literally ‘on your feet’, lol—and yes, constant flexibility and tweaking.
So, once you have taken a positive step forward in a new direction with your own pursuit of ‘better endings’, remember to step back, pause, evaluate, TWEAK, and then…forge onward in the direction of your Dream!
I am short, 5.1½” or so these days. I often felt I was the ‘runt of the family’ growing up with my taller and more attractive siblings. A middle child, I often took the brunt of my father’s quick temper, though mixed with his occasional respect and care. I grew up, altogether, as a rather introverted, self-conscious individual, harboring self-doubt even while I came to excel at most of what I set my heart to study or to accomplish.
In grad school, my PhD advisor, Betsy, once told me, “Don’t hide your light under a bushel.” She was referring to my writing style at the time: overly complicated and self-occluding. I saw in graduate school how female scholars and academics are too often undervalued or treated dismissively, especially by male academic journal editors, some administrators, and (only some) students. Male grad students were more encouraged to publish, women to teach.
I have been fortunate that, despite such systemic—and generally unconscious—discrimination, I have been successful in most of my endeavors, and I have gradually learned that it is okay to be me; that I can make a contribution even if I still feel somewhat shy about stepping up.
So, let your Light shine! No one else, ever, will have your particular outlook, your bright ideas, your spirit and character. Throw off that bushel, get rid of it! Be YOU, and step up to the joy and responsibility of making YOUR mark in the world.
Better Endings Story Seed:
Let Your Light Shine!
Have you sometimes felt like you had to hide your light under a bushel? Write in your Better Endings Journal (or any loose-leaf notebook) about your experiences when you felt muted versus when you have been allowed to shine. How can you step up in your life today to share your viewpoint and make your unique contribution to others?
Beached. En route to a Far Country, my small ship was caught in a storm and tossed to the shore, breaking under the wave that brought me to land on this remote island. Enough to subsist on—shellfish, nuts and fruit—but my voyage suspended, I long to proceed to my goal: the three mighty mountains, perpetually snow-capped, pouring forth with the light of a thousand suns and the sublime sounds of heavens rarely won.
On the horizon line where sky and water blend into foam, something bobbing. As I strain to hold the energy to keep this illusion in view, to manifest the ideal, gradually, wave by wave with the incoming tide, the form of a bottle washes to shore, with—yes—something like a rolled canvas inside.
I retrieve the bottle, offer up my gratitude to its Source and essence; uncork the weathered bottleneck, use a flexible green twig to coax the canvas, swelled too large without love, toward the aperture. With delicate care—I have all the time in the worlds—I hang the bottle from a low limb, wait for sun and wind to dry the canvas until it shrinks in upon itself, enough that with my twig I can finally, days later, extract the rolled canvas from its vessel.
It is tied with a leather thong. There is a gossamer seal, a fine golden stamp to hold the thong around the canvas. Do I break the seal? Would it be but hubris to presume the message so lovingly bound might be for me? Mayhap I should replace the canvas, cork this bottle, find some strength to thrust the vessel far beyond the horizon again with the outgoing tide, so it may reach its intended one? But it is here; my dreams have manifested this harbinger of truth, this message in a bottle.
Build a fire, toast nuts and cook the shellfish. Sit on a water pounded rock by the edge of reach of the incoming tide. Chant a mantra, purify my thoughts, quiet expectations, still the wayward hopes and fears. It is time, feels proper, in harmony with the emptiness without and within. Now to break the seal gingerly, loosen the thong, allow the canvas to unwrap itself, feeling its own freedom as it expands to breathe the warming air by the fire, mist from the tide falling lightly on the canvas and on the beach around the rock; the bottle on the sand, canvas unfolded in my open palms.
The message: “Be-long toward Being.”
That is it; I am that It IS. Close eyes, look more deeply Within. Open the Heart of Being: Here-Now! The mountainscape soaring; all IS Love.
Better Endings Story Seed:
Message in a Bottle
Imagine you are a castaway on a remote tropical island. A bottle washes in with the tide. There is a message inside, meant for you alone. Contemplate and journal about the meaning of your being a castaway in relation to your life right now. The message is for you. What does it say?
After last week’s post around the song lyric, “Don’t worry, be happy!”, I have been contemplating how music can relate to ‘better endings.’ Here is a list of ten more songs that come to mind as songs that foster ‘better endings”:
The Highland Journey Home (as sung by MiMi Faithwalker and Amazonah Elam)
Winter Into Spring (piano, George Winston)
On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (Barbara Streisand)
Bridge Over Troubled Waters (Simon and Garfunkle)
Michael, Row the Boat Ashore (Peter, Paul and Mary)
Every one of these songs has an alchemical quality that transforms the state of consciousness of the listener. When I reflect about what these sorts of songs have in common I realize they move me—often with motion themes, or they are emotionally moving—and they lift me, as a listener, to greater heights of vision, hope, healing, or love.
Music can be therapeutic, illuminating, supportive, freeing of our deepest heart’s desires. We listen when we want to gain a higher perspective or to reinforce unconditional love despite the hardships and troubles of the boxes we may feel ourselves bound to in our day-to-day life. In those boxes we may learn the lessons, gain the experience we need to pursue our dreams and develop our Soul; but the music is available always, to lift us up, to give respite, to remind us that we are so much more than whatever immediate circumstances we endure.
So, find a song or music that helps you to find your Shangri-La, your better endings. Even as I write I am listening to my favorite, Loreena McKennitt celtic music station on Pandora. The song I am listening to, “Into the West” by Annie Lennox (theme song for The Return of the King), transports me. Have a listen!
Music that Lifts the Soul
Make a list of songs or music that transports you to ‘higher ground.’ Write in your Better Endings Journal (any looseleaf journal) about how this music inspires you. Listen to a song or two, reflect on how it helps you to find greater calm, contentment, or wisdom.
We all know Bobby McFerrin’s iconic, even haunting lyrics of “Don’t Worry, Be Happy!” McFerrin’s song is a sarcastic and somewhat of a sardonic comment on social inequalities and the burdens they impose on those who are suffering from being economically or socially underprivileged. For those in poverty, suffering from evictions or addictions or worse, the glib remark “Don’t worry, be happy!” comes down from those higher up in the power structure as if to say, accept your lot, “be happy” with whatever you can eke out to survive even in deplorable conditions. I am not sure how many listeners realize this is the subtext message of the song lyrics, but listen again, especially to the painfully sarcastic tone:
After listening deeply to this song one day on the radio while driving about, a day or two later I started realizing a basic truth in my own life or personality. First, I realized one morning how in so many ways, I am right now, already, truly, deeply happy! I have much to be grateful for. I do not need to wait for achieving happiness as some lifelong, distant goal; which in some ways I have been doing, ‘working toward’ a greater, elusive ultimate happiness. Many people I have interviewed for the life mapping process I present in Your Life Path (2018, see side panel) have similarly expressed achieving happiness as their “Life Dream.” So, this realization that I do not need to wait for happiness if I can recognize it underlying the present moment was eye-opening. Then, I thought, I will blog about Happiness Now as this week’s theme.
Then, however, life happened (again, who knew?!). With some unfolding complications in my day-to-day life, over the next few days I had a second realization: I am a worrier. I live alone, semi-retired, with my dear dog Sophie who needs special care for diabetes and with my lovely cat Emily, and I feel a great responsibility to care for all of our wellbeing. I teach online and feel responsible to deliver a quality education to students. I rent a home and feel responsible for its upkeep. I also feel seriously about my responsibilities in my spiritual community, and to my writing projects. I take everything, in sum, “so seriously.”
When worries prevail, I am absorbed in problem-solving and fulfilling my responsibilities, caring for my pets, and communicating with my dear family, friends, and colleagues. Once I can work out a pathway through a particular cause for concern and at least begin to take actions to alleviate the weight of a particular worry, my intrinsic happiness finds its way bubbling up to the surface again. It is always here, beneath the burdens. Then I know I am as happy now, today, as I will ever be or could ever hope to be.
The worries many feel who are oppressed or beset by difficult health or social conditions are certainly real. But maybe McFerrin’s ironic words “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” are also a wise and compassionate call to the awareness that beyond one’s worries, happiness really does exist Now and can be found beneath (or, above?) the burdens and real obstacles one encounters.
Better Endings Story Seed
Here is a process you can use to excavate your present happiness:
List up to three (no more) current worries. Write about each of these in your Better Endings Journal (any loose-leaf notebook or journal will do).
For each of the worries you have identified, list 1-3 steps you can take now or that you can plan for doing in the near foreseeable future that will help you to address and alleviate key aspects of that concern. (Begin taking the first, most doable step. E.G.: Ask for help, create a budget, etc.)
Once you feel the burden of worrying about your most pressing responsibilities or concerns lift because you are taking actions to help address the concern, allow yourself to relax. Take a walk, get out of the home, maybe get together with a loved one.
Before sleep or when you rise in the morning, let yourself FEEL your deeper happiness, apart from your concerns. Contemplate what you are grateful for.
Usually we are told or conditioned to take active, even bold when needed, steps to realize our dreams or to claim our happiness. We value our sense of agency although sometimes this may lead to our feeling like it is me (or, you) against the world, like somehow we need to wrest happiness from a harsh and forbidding world. But this week I have had an experience that shows me the value of letting my next step in growth and development, I’ll call it my True North, find me!
Over a year ago I took action based on a sudden impulse; I wrote a letter addressing an agency in the hometown I was preparing to move back to. Without exposing details here on a dear opportunity still only in its infancy, this agency had helped me with some writing projects in the past, and I thanked them and let them know I was returning to town so that if there was anything I might be able to do that they might need (like PT work for them), I would welcome that. In truth an underlying reason for reaching out to this agency in my beloved home town was because I was looking for a way to give something back to the community (and this agency) that had given me so much and helped to launch my life career on many levels.
I heard back maybe a month or so later from staff at the agency. The director I had addressed was not in town due to COVID19 and no, they did not need any help. Okay, I thought, at least it had been worth the effort to reach out based on following my inner nudge.
I relocated and have now been back in my hometown for nearly a year. I love it here. It is the same quaint village yet more developed now around a performing arts center (that I ushered for during its first two seasons while I was finishing college as an undergraduate). The wider location is expansive and dynamic; there is no end of opportunities for adventures to explore. I continue to teach online, which I also love and am grateful for being able to do ‘remotely,’ now from my beloved hometown.
Then three days ago I get this call from a local phone number. It is the director of the agency I had written to over a year ago! He had returned from living in Canada through the worst of the pandemic and he found my letter while looking through some papers that had accumulated at his office. He is perfectly delightful; we talked quite awhile, realizing we share many points of intersection in our interests and experiences. In fact next week we are set to meet for coffee to continue the conversation and there are possibly some opportunities for me to be of service and also for some of my current writing projects to be reviewed in new ways.
All of this has been so unexpected, at least consciously. If you’ll remember I had a dream last week about moving into a more expansive or roomy (and more Rumi, I associated) state of consciousness. Then just two days later or so, this phone call from ‘out of the blue’ opens new possibilities for realizing some of my deepest life ambitions for service and for writing. These are two ways through which I aim to serve life, to embrace and give gratitude to all life with love, perhaps in the sort of vein of gold Rumi bespeaks in his remarkable poem I included last time (“Word Fog”).
So we shall see wherever this might lead, but I am grateful for the opening to greater possible connections!
Better Endings Story Seed
Let Your True North Find You!
How about you? Have there been moments in your life, or are you seeking such, whereby you relaxed and found that your next step reached out to YOU? I invite you to contemplate, dream, or journal about that as a Better Endings exercise.
Funny. I knew last week that I wanted to post the Rumi poem below, “Word Fog”, with this week’s blog, even if I did nothing but share this poem itself because I find Rumi’s words to be sublime, with such amazing depth of insight (as translated by Coleman Barks in Rumi—The Big Red Book). Then a few nights ago I had a dream about moving into a new apartment. The apartment was very spacious, room after room unfolding as I walked through it, so when I awoke I knew the dream was about moving into a more expansive state of consciousness. Then it hit me how this was a more “roomy” = Rumi consciousness! May it be so!
Should you stay or should you leave; accept an offer, or not; go in one direction that invites you forward, or another? We each stand at meaningful crossroads sometimes, needing to make difficult choices that could affect our Life Story either greatly or somewhat “ever after.”
You could start by listing some stories that include significant choices, especially if those choices are like yours.
Here’s the idea: find a story or list a set of stories in which a character is faced with a similar choice and consider what direction the character takes, whether it works out well or not, and how you feel about the character’s choice and its results. Would you have made the same decision in the character’s shoes, or not?
To model the approach, here are some stories I might currently list along with brief synopses of the choices involved in the story:
Siddhartha, by Hermann Hesse: Stay home in a pampered, sheltered environment with expectations of an easy, privileged existence, or leave his father’s safe and opulent world to experience humanity and the world in all its misery, and splendor.
Robert Frost’s poem, The Road Not Taken: that he took the less traveled path most others would not have chosen, “and that has made all the difference.”
Defending Your Life: The Mel Brooks character often chose the least risk or the safest course of action rather than the bravest, so he is judged harshly between lives; versus the Meryl Streep character, who always chose the riskier path in service to life and others. She will certainly be “moving on.”
Lost Horizon: Robert Conway must choose between life in the world as a well-known and respected public servant, or to follow his heart and forge a difficult passage to return to Shangri-La, where spiritual enlightenment, potential for solitary but global service, and love await his return.
The Razor’s Edge: Again, life in the familiar world of home and normative community values versus a more solitary life seeking to develop and share the fruits of spiritual exploration.
My story choices are much of a piece, I see, in that the characters face similar challenges contrasting normative community lives of ‘getting by’ in a respectable, easy fashion, or stepping off into an out of the ordinary life of more solitary spiritual adventure. On which path can they achieve deeper enlightenment pairs with which path will lead to greater opportunities for unique service though in less guaranteed or publicly acknowledged and sanctioned modes.
This exercise elevates, for me, the nature of a meaningful crossroads I am at personally, and that is helpful. The set of synopses are contemplation seeds that help to reveal many angles on some of my own current underlying questions. I have found over the last few days of contemplating these stories that I have gained a much greater clarity about my path forward, while also my understanding of the messages in these stories has deepened.
In some sense we are all of us always at a crossroads; which path stretching out before us shall we choose today? Sometimes these choices become more meaningful as we seek to advance in our lives overall.
So please, if you like, try this one on for yourself. The right panel Better Endings Story Seed prompt encourages you to contemplate or engage with this technique in your own journal.
What sorts of character arcs and storylines do you find most compelling? Can you identify with a particular story; does it mirror aspects of your own life goals and challenges? I like to say, myth is the stuff our lives our made of, because myth is made up from the stuff of our lives!
Our lives have the meaning that we give to them, and much of the meaning we bring to our life experiences derives from stories we have related to from childhood. “The Wizard of Oz,” for example, tells the tale of a young person seeking to find her own strength so she can save her beloved pet dog from being taken away after having disturbed a mean neighbor’s garden. This story propels the main character, Dorothy, into her own unconscious archetypal depths to find the courage, heart, and wisdom she will need to face the wicked neighbor with a more mature, integrated sense of Self.
Many of us have faced ogres or so-called witches in our worlds, needing to dig deeply into our unconscious reservoirs of archetypal personas to assemble and marshal the character traits we may need to confront the forces of negativity and emerge whole from either a physical and/or from a moral and spiritual perspective.
In my book Your Life Path (2018), I present a Parallel Myth technique that can help you identify a story that resonates closely with the Life Chapters, themes, and character arcs of your own Life Story. (You can see a template for this technique without buying the book by downloading for free the My Life Path Mapping Toolkit from the right margins of this blog.) So one way to find a parallel myth to understand the meaningful stuff of your own life story is to discover your Life Chapters and compare these with some story you identify with. A simpler approach would be: think of or write a short list of stories you have always loved because somehow you feel you can identify either with the plot of the story or with a character in that tale. Let’s take that approach here.
So, make a list of stories from novels, short stories, or movies that you have long felt you can identify with. Write a brief account for each of these as to how or why you might identify. I will give an example of some of my own most meaningful stories just to demonstrate the process:
The Wizard of Oz: In my youth I would often “run away” because I felt berated or tormented by my father’s harsh temper. I would hide in a closet or actually leave for a while (or sneak out) to gain a sense of independence or freedom.
Contact: I share Eleanor Arrowway’s drive to pursue uncommon truths via both scientific and spiritual pathways.
Harry Potter: In my childhood I often felt myself to be the ‘runt’ of the family (short, awkward, plain), but as I discovered spiritual truths and a sense of spiritual camaraderie from my early twenties on, I have gradually gained tools, and friends (including in my family), that have helped me recognize my own strengths to be of service to others.
Do you have your list? Write it out. What are some parallel mythic themes, characters, and messages from these stories that are mirrored in your own Life Story?
Next then, what messages might you take forward from your parallel myth(s) that can help you achieve the Better Endings you seek in your own storied life? Review your listed parallel myths and pay attention to the positive potentials of these stories’ resolutions. E.G.:
The Wizard of Oz: Dorothy unifies her sense of self by combining her archetypal qualities of courage, heart, and wisdom so she can stay ‘home’ and face the dark forces that had beset her there. Somehow I figure at the end of the movie that Toto is going to be okay, because Dorothy is strong enough in her own more mature Self to face the neighbor from a sense of responsibility and courage. (My message: Find the courage to stand my own ground when faced with negativity or obstacles.)
Contact: Ellie discovers a parallelism between science and religion (mirrored in her own relationship with Father Joss) when her ‘through-the-wormhole’ solo space adventure reveals new dimensions to reality. (My message: Continue to plunge the depths of science and spirituality, sharing as possible, but mainly to deepen my own understanding and awareness of incontrovertible realities beyond the ‘pale’ of common knowledge.)
Harry Potter: Teaming up with his own archetypally well matched ensemble cast of friends, Harry solves some of the mysteries of his lower self to gain courage and self-awareness that can defeat any negativity that may confront him or his world. (My message: Stay true to who you are and stand up for your highest values despite any efforts to alienate or undermine your and your friends’ finest qualities.)
What messages do you derive from comparing some of your favorite parallel myths and your own Life Story (to now)? What do the positive endings or potentials of these stories offer forth to you about achieving Better Endings in your own mythic-story?
We have been exploring Life Story narratives. We each have one; it is the dynamic, ever emerging story of your life! Life stories are as rich and full of meaning and drama as the most daring adventure tale or the most profound mythic Quest.
You are the author, editor, and the key protagonist, along with your significant relations, of your own epic tale. This week let’s add an authorial tip: find your Through Line. A through line is a simple statement that concisely encapsulates what your entire book or story is about. When editing a story, keeping your story’s through line in mind can guide you to remove extraneous material from your text. The rule of thumb is: if a passage does not advance the plot and reflect the through line, leave it out. This brings a more refined and compelling focus to your story, keeping it true to the storyline or plot structure you are meaning to convey.
What might a through line look like for a life story narrative; particularly, yours? To discover the through line of any story, you can ask, ‘What is this story all about, in a nutshell?’ A through line should be concise, no longer than a single clause or sentence.
For example, consider the movie Castaway (one of my favorite ‘transformational story’ tales). What is it all about, in a nutshell? I would say (and it could have a different meaning for you): “A man has a life altering experience from being stranded on a remote island as a ‘castaway’ for five years.” This through line makes sense of the entire Castaway story: what Chuck Noland’s life is like before the plane crash that strands him on a remote island; how his life experiences on the island challenge him and lead him to develop a capacity to be a resilient survivor who values life at all costs; and how his life has been altered by his castaway experience once he returns to ‘civilized’ life. This storyline also carries a universal message when you consider how ultimately we are each alone with our own deepest challenges.
So, what has your Life Story been about (up to now, at least), in a nutshell? You might revisit last week’s blog asking you to give a Title to your Life Story, and phrase your question around that title, or simply encapsulate how you think about your Life Story to date from your present perspective. You might also want to give yourself a heroic name to cast your through line in a third person format; this can help to bring you to a level of oversight or objective insight about your life AS story.
For example, the title I gave to my life story last week was A Merry (Carousel) Ride. My through line could be: Jeannne (cf. Joan of Arc) learns to ride the Ups and Downs of life, always seeking to find Balance and Meaning, linking Heaven and Earth as a spiritual adventure.
That is my quest, in a nutshell. How about YOU? You may use the Better Endings Story Seed prompt in the right panel to contemplate and/or journal about your own Life Story narrative. I welcome your feedback and comments on your own engagement with this tool.
How might you express the plot structure so far of your Life Story? Could you give it a title? What would that be? Based on where you have been, who you are now, and the direction your Life Story appears to be taking, give a title to your overall Life Story based on your present point of view.
It may help to use a Life Metaphor as a title. For example, one of my favorite life metaphors is Life is a Carousel Ride (hence the blog banner). So I could call my life story A Merry Ride. I like that!
Is your Life Story more like a Roller Coaster, a Grand Quest, or maybe an Open Path? Using a life metaphor or some other descriptive phrase, give a title to your Life Story to date.
Now then, what about adding a Better Ending? Make it epic! When you look ahead at the story board of your Life Story, what would you like to write in to express how you will follow your bliss, attain fulfillment of your life mission or purpose, and Live Your Dream? Remember, you are the author, editor and the key protagonist of your own epic tale!
Give a title then to a later (though not necessarily the final) Life Chapter for your personal life journey quest. As an example, mine might be: “Making a Difference.” (This is because for much of my life I have been asking of my own accomplishments, “What difference does it make?”)
Reviewing or telling your story AS a Life Story narrative can help you to recognize where you are at now in relation to where you are intending to arrive as you unravel the many colored threads of your amazing life experience. As Martha Graham is famous for having reminded us all (I used to have this pinned on my office bulletin board):
“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.”
So, Make it Epic!It is YOUR life to live, your story to tell!
A few posts back I called our species Homo Narrativus as we are inherently Storytellers. Most important as the center and ground that we build our worlds upon is our own Life Story. Embedded within the backdrop of the narrative intertwining of our cultural history and personal family heritage, the story we tell to ourselves and to others about our own epic (or cyclic, or meandering) journey through life is central to understanding the lessons and gifts of a lifetime of human experience.
As we each are unwinding our own Life Story, day by day, episode by episode, narrative thread by thread and character trait by relational dance, we build Life Chapters as we wend our way forth to pursue the meaningful goals and mission of our unique stories.
In my 2018 book Your Life Path (see side panel), I include a full self-discovery process for revealing the narrative structure of your own Life Story with its meaningful Life Chapter segments. [This full process is also available if you download-free-My Life Path Portfolio Toolkit, available by clicking on it also from the right panel.]
Would you like to have a look at your own Life Chapters as you have been writing/living your own Life Story? Here is the Life Path mapping process in a nutshell:
Make a list of some of the SHAPING EVENTS of your life. These are those significant life experiences that have shaped you as the person you are today. Include the age or date of the significant event or experience and write a brief description of the event or experience. A Shaping Event could be a single event and/or a significant period of time; if the latter, indicate the relative starting and ending dates or your ages through the situation.
Examples: Age 4: I fell from a child seat and knocked out my four front teeth.
7-12: childhood in PA: woods, horses, friendship with K
12: first sense of being a misfit (KJ)
13: We moved from PA to NY state (before 8th grade)
2. Review your list of Shaping Events from (1) above. Now identify (circle or bold highlight) just those significant experiences that have been your most CRITICAL Life Events: those before and after which you might feel as if you were a different person. (E.G. Ages 7 and 13 from my life experiences sampled above.)
3. Next, place your SHAPING EVENTS along a timeline based on either ages or years, starting with your Birth as the zero point.
1954(Birth) ——-4——-7-8-9-10-11-12—13 …………………Next, review in your mind the periods BETWEEN the most CRITICAL life events on your life map chart. Provide a TITLE that describes for you the meaningful content of that set of years from your life. For example, for me, the years between ages 7 and 13 I might title Growing Pains.
4. Write about each of the Life Chapters you have identified between the Critical Events of your Life Story to date. (E.g.: Growing Pains pretty well describes that period in my life as a child in Pennsylvania, as I developed colitis, literally ‘growing pains’, and had to come to terms with my beginning to feel like an outsider, which I consciously tried to change as I moved into my next Life Chapter in high school in New York state.)
Your final Life Chapter/ Life Path Chart, up to your current date or age, might look something like the following example (my chapters to age 36), though of course with your very own meaningful Life Chapter titles:
The periods of significant Shaping Events between the Critical Life Events that have punctuated your Life Story can be thought of as your Life Chapters. This approach allows you to discover and reflect upon your own meaningful time frames, rather than assuming they are given by some external model (like decades or stages identified by standardized psychosocial development models).
After you have identified a set of Life Chapters that have comprised your Life Story to date, notice the PLOTLINE of your Life Story. Often a Life Path map reveals times of innocence, hardship, lessons, and growth. What has your Story been about, so far? Or have you had several different story threads depending on which events or relationships you focus on?
Do not worry about identifying “all” of your significant life events on this one timeline. This map that you have charted today is from your current point of view and identifies meaningful TYPES of events. I have interviewed a seventy-five year-old who charted eleven events, and a 21 year-old who charted 122! As this is YOUR Life Story, there are no rules or expectations about what you may discover about the meaningful progression of your own Life Chapters to date.
Where have you Been? Who are you Now? Where are you Heading? How might you forecast your future Life Chapters in keeping with your highest sense of purpose and goals? What is your Life Dream?
images are from pixabay.com
Have fun with this and take your time with it in your Better Endings Journal (or otherwise). You can share this with your loved ones and help them reconstruct their own Life Chapters, too. Feel free to send me any Comments about your experience with this process of Self-discovery.
I will leave this post up for longer than usual, to give more people the opportunity and time to play in this Sandbox!
I shall cast this week’s blog in the form of a collage of images encountered over the last week or so as I have been transitioning from one creative cycle into another. I find it most useful to bring optimism to envisioning and planning for a new season of growth and opportunity. This week that has truly led to new potentials opening before me. With gratitude “for all good things received,” allow me to share from a series of waking dream images that have helped me navigate my transition.
Spirit leads the Way:
[I was riding on a carousel at the Buffalo Zoo. Notice the name of the horse in my lead.]
Then the next day:
“May you have clear skies and a following sea”
[On a sign posted aboard a Buffalo Harbor Cruise boat I was on, touring the Buffalo Canalside with my Goddaughter.]
Plus I had a literal wake-up call, from a vision upon waking. In the dream, just an image and a title inscribed within and around it:
And then the next day, from my book club reading for the month, The Book of Two Ways, by Jodi Picoult, a phrase from an Egyptian tomb that fortuitously echoes my dream image:
Time is a Circle,
Time is a Line.
I am grateful for the daily blessings of waking dreams that help me recognize the Path that opens before me, supporting my positive goals and deep intentions. Bottom line for this week is now I am in the forward moving process of editing the circulation proposal for my book ms., supported by my agent. Optimism carries me forward with renewed energy and focus. The dream visions and images along with inspiring ‘waking dreams’ indicate the path I am to follow.
I have been consulting Nordic runes lately. Just as I sat down to write on the topic of What Comes Next? I opened to Eihwaz, Rune 9, which translates Avertive Powers/ Yew Tree:
This Rune speaks to the difficulties that arise at the beginning of new life.
Often it announces a time of waiting: for a spring to fill up with water,
for fruit to ripen on the bough.
This is so true for where I find myself on many levels: at a transitional period in my new home, at a pregnant juncture between teaching semesters, and between productive work with writing projects.
I realize I am happiest when I can be of service in some capacity, and teaching/ learning or sharing ideas and writing in any form are my most personally satisfying forms of service. So, I continue with teaching and with writing as vocations (callings/ passions), hoping to be of service. I am reminded of a college English professor who taught from age 18 (no degree needed at that time) until his death when he was in the final allowable semester before retirement. On his tombstone was a line from his beloved Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, at the end of a portrait of the Clerk character:
And gladly wolde he lerne,
And gladly teche.
So as I ‘wait on the Will of Heaven’ for a new cycle of service roles and activity to begin, I breathe in and breathe out to receive and to give life and unconditional love. I look for opportunities to communicate.
As a linguistic anthropologist I suggest we could call the human species Homo Narrativus. We are Storytellers! What else? Not only do we tell the myths and legends of our peoples to teach our cultural values and heroic ideals to the next generations; we also cast and recall our personal life experiences in narrative form.
Creation stories. mythology, fiction, television and movie dramas, and history itself harbor narratives we tell about our collective past. As individuals, we each have our own Life Story, complete with Life Chapters, Themes, and our own internal ensemble cast of unconscious archetypal characters as well as our external dramatis personae of social relationships, that altogether comprise our ever-unfolding personal story from which we gather experience and learn and share meaningful lessons.
My interview research about how people conceptualize life events (Your Life Path, 2018: Skyhorse Publishers) revealed three primary genres of Life Story narratives: Epic Adventure (either comic or tragic), Cyclic, or Seamless. Which is yours? Epic adventurers tell stories of their heroic adventures (Departures, Fulfillment, and if ‘comic’, heroic Returns) cast in terms Joseph Campbell called the Soul’s High Adventure. Some prefer to think of their life as organized by cycles: 7-year, 10-year decades, or 12-years or more; the ending of one cycle opening to the beginning of the next, bringing flexibility and fresh opportunities. Still others would rather live their lives as picaresque adventures, welcoming randomity and enjoying life’s little surprises, ready to navigate crossroads as they arise and more focused on the journey than any destination points.
Images are from pixabay.com
The Principle of Better Endings, then, is a narrative device within our creative Homo Narrativus survival toolkit that we can use to reflect on where we are at in our Life Story and how we got here, so we can envision or shape our next steps in the direction of our highest desires.