Through the Eye of the Needle

What do the following plot devices (or spiritual practices) have in common?

  • Alice stepping through the Looking Glass
  • Dorothy transported over the Rainbow, from B&W to the colorful Land of OZ
  • Star Wars rebels or the Star Trek Enterprise popping through Hyperspace
  • Robert Conway rounding a Himalayan mountain pass, to descend into the verdant Shangri-La
  • Rumi spinning as a whirling dervish to explore the heavens of his departed Teacher, Shams
  • Near Death and general Out of Body Experiences
  • Magic Eye art that transforms 2-D images into 3-D hidden objects
  • Transitioning from waking consciousness into your Dream world awareness

There is a common thread running through these devices listed above, which I will call traversing “through the eye of the Needle.”  The commonality of this theme occurring in fiction as well as in accounts and techniques of spiritual exploration speaks to the naturalness of the underlying phenomenon of seeking and achieving higher consciousness awareness. 

I call attention to this phenomenon of traversing through the Eye of the Needle because it is a central aim of most human experience to transcend the mundane, to elevate one’s experience of life to its highest potentials and to discover and explore what lies Beyond.   Meditation, centering prayer, contemplation, and even daydreaming—all of which rely on cultivating our imagination—allow us individually to transcend any life experience, to gain higher understanding and wisdom. 

When I first began to study spiritual topics and to practice contemplative techniques some 48 years ago, my goal was to eventually be able to shift between states of consciousness “at will.”   I now realize how this is a natural human capacity, but we do benefit from developing this capacity with conscious awareness.  For example, we gain much more from our dreams by focussing on utilizing our dreams to help understand daily life as well as to plomb the depths of spiritual understanding (e.g. see The Art of Spiritual Dreaming, by Harold Klemp, about which I am currently in a discussion group).

But the real reason this topic is important to me right now is because I have recently rediscovered—for me anyway—a wonderful “transport” device, at the local gym!  When I ride a rowing machine, I am able to close my eyes and enter into a contemplation activity that absolutely allows me to approach and traverse through ‘the eye of the needle’, to explore consciousness states at will!  I think this is similar to the whirling dervish activity of Rumi and the Sufis, who likewise use the spinning and internal prayer to transcend the physical body to higher states of spiritual awareness and exploration. Something about the regular physical activity as with the rocking of the back and forth motion of the rowing machine, I find frees my imagination to soar! 

images are from pixabay.com

The benefits of traversing through the Eye of the Needle, howsoever you choose to do this, are limitless. Being more mindful and aware of whatever we choose to focus our attention on allows us to consider our options and choose, or repair if need be, our course of action.

Better Endings to All!

Changing the Narrative

We are in a crisis of narrative schismogenesis in the sociopolitical climate of America (at least) today.   Gregory Bateson, in Steps To an Ecology of Mind (1981), described schismogenesis as an ever widening schism of viewpoints between opposing sides or persons in argument with one another.  An example Bateson gave was how an argument can escalate between spouses. The more each person “digs in” to their position as antithetical to their opponent, the further apart their viewpoints become until there is no way to bridge the chasm behind the barriers of which they are each entrenched.

Let’s say the husband asks where they would like to go to eat dinner, for instance, and the wife says Chinese, knowing that her husband is not particularly fond of Chinese cuisine.  He then declines and suggests a polar-opposite sort of cuisine, say Mexican for example, to which she declines and then they dig into why each of the choices they have proffered are not only the best solution but an absolute necessity for that evening’s meal.  In the end, perhaps the two spouses each go their separate ways for dinner that night, leading to hard feelings for days.

This is a trite example, especially given the deep gravity of the dangerous schismogenetic chasm so many are entrenched behind with today’s fractious tribalism of the Partisan Divide.  We harbor two tribes living within distinct reality fields, each accusing the other side of not only being wrong (using “fake news”) but even regarding each other as “evil” in their supposed intentions and actions.

I try to remain as neutral as possible, aware that truth is absolutely relative, after all, depending on one’s basis of evidence and their sources of information.  People dig in to the banks of the side they have chosen—or to which they have been conditioned—often unwilling to even listen to let alone to hear or comprehend statements from the enemy tribe.

Anthropologically (my professional field), it is clear that schismogenetic ruptures have often led tribal groups to divide or fission into distinct, rival factions, sometimes—where there is space enough available—resulting in the opposing factions actually moving away from each other to establish separate villages.  The Blues and the Reds do not have such luxury of spatial expanse to divide into.  North and South are no longer culturally divided in toto, so we live side by side with neighbors from rival factions every day.  We are thus divided within the same village, state, nation, and global society.

How can we overcome this Divide? We must somehow, locally and personally as well as collectively, find ways to change the narrative.  Couples psychotherapists–and Bateson himself in Steps to an Ecology of Mind–would suggest mediation is a key first step to confronting and dismantling a factional schismogenetic divide. Representatives from each tribe or faction need to convene and meet somewhere at the middle, in the company of an agreed upon mediating person or agency. 

Each side’s story needs to be aired—and heard, without opposition or resistance—with the mediator serving as a buffer.  After both narratives are fully expressed, the mediator might summarize each point of view succinctly, validating facets of both viewpoints and helping to delineate some commonalities that could begin to construct a narrative bridge, upon which both persons or sides might at least meet upon to acknowledge the availability of a middle ground.

After such an open hearing and mediation process, each representative returns to share with their members and then of course each tribe is free to do what they will with the knowledge gained. They carry the awareness of a willingness of the Other to have at least sought mediation with them. This can lead to a gradual rebuilding of trust and mutual acceptance, at least.

images are from pixabay.com

I speak from some experience about the therapeutic value of a mediation process.  I and a dear friend, she now being departed, once ran into a barrier with one another that grew into a painful schismogenetic chasm for many months.  We agreed to meet with a psychotherapist, which made all the difference in helping each of us to find a greater balance in understanding and mutual acceptance.  We came away remembering our ultimate friendship, which has remained vital ever on.

So when faced with an immoveable common barrier between opposing narratives, seek mediation.  

Give it a try!

Tomorrow Is a Parallel World

Though I have other posts to get to putting up, today I have had two influences that lead me to want to add a follow up to the post last week about The Value of Now.

The first nudge is based on a wonderful quote by C.S. Lewis from Soul Gatherings, a blog I follow and love to read daily like a fortune cookie, by Theresa:

You can’t go back and change the beginning,

but you can start where you are and change the ending.

~ C.S. Lewis ~

Obviously C. S. Lewis was advocating for a practice of Better Endings.

Then today I happened upon a movie about the implications of parallel realities: Yesterday. This is a fun story about a fairly unsuccessful but well-motivated musician in England named Jack Malik who, after a bus accident caused by a global blackout, wakes up to find he is living in a reality where, among some other odd glitches, nobody has ever heard of The Beatles! So, Mark reintroduces Beatles songs as if he were the original songwriter/ singer, and he attains great success and fame for his apparent genius. 

I will not spoil the ending to Yesterday for you; this is a film well worth seeing.  But it led me to think about how, since Time as we think we know it is an illusion according to modern physicists as well as many spiritual philosophies, then past and present Moments can rightly be considered parallel realities.

If we consider the future, such as Tomorrow, to be a parallel reality to Now, then what are some implications for, again, the value of Today?

A better endings visualization: Imagine that tomorrow is a parallel reality to today.  Many aspects remain stable across these parallel worlds: you are still where and how you are living though a day older, most routines are intact, etcetera.  But creatively envision adding one TWEAK to your parallel reality of tomorrow.  What element(s) might you change as you shift upon waking tomorrow morning into a slightly more ideal or satisfactory reality sphere?  To be effective with this technique, you might consider only tweaking tomorrow slightly, to a reality it is quite feasible and possible for you to realize without too shocking of a reality shift.

images are from pixabay.com

You can extend this thought experiment to a future a bit further out to add some more meaningful or life-changing, reality bending tweaks. Six months from today what might your future look like from an ideal standpoint? Write it down, describe yourself living in a parallel reality six months from now that contains the sorts of changes you wish were possible.  Then consider, what steps can you take now, and in the near foreseeable future, to bring this new reality about?

Since the future IS a parallel reality to the present Moment, we CAN tweak those elements we would like to change, then carry forth in that direction.

Better Endings to All!

The Value of NOW

In my early college years, I often mused over the thought that “Today is Yesterday’s Tomorrow.”  Now while exploring implications of the principle of Better Endings for creative re-visioning, this phrase has come back into the foreground for my understanding.

It is a truism that yesterday’s future is where you stand/ think/ act today.  As well though, consider:  When you have a memory of a “past” event, this memory is transpiring in your mind’s eye only NOW, filtered through your reflection and projection in the present moment.  As your consciousness changes, so does your view of the past, coloring a memory and recasting it in the present moment.

We rescript our life story and hence our personal reality moment by moment, day by day.

Likewise, when you conceive of or envision a “future” condition or action, this visualization is occurring in your mind’s eye right NOW, also as a projection from your immediate-present waking awareness (or in your dream awareness: when you dream of a future or a past event, the dream is still occurring NOW). 

The future has no reality apart from our projections about it, for as soon as the next day or another moment arrives, it is NOW.

As well, your anticipations or expectations about “future” events are multiplex; you may envision a wide array of possible or probable outcomes of present conditions, yet these can unfold only as a future-NOW event. 

The future, as a mere projection from our current outlook, exists as a potentially infinite array of possibilities limited primarily by the constraints we impose as determined by our present state of bias or beliefs.

The simple fact, then, that Tomorrow’s Yesterday is Today carries great value; this is the value, the amazing potential, of NOW.

images are from pixabay.com

Below is a Better Endings Seed, a visualization exercise that you may use for journaling or contemplation:

What’s Coming Up for you Tomorrow, and how may it be influenced by aspects of the thought world you inhabit Today? 

If you desire to improve your Tomorrow, how might you tweak your prospective outlook today?

An easy way to apply this Better Endings visualization technique is to make a list of some of what you expect to do or aim to accomplish tomorrow. THEN: ADD ONE NEW ELEMENT that will make your tomorrow more exciting or more creatively productive. Add ONE THING that will propel you forward Tomorrow in a different, more progressive direction.

Please feel free to Comment about the results of this thought experiment!

Pursue Your Dreams! (A Better Endings memoir)

Having moved back to my high-school hometown for over a year and a half already, I have had time to reflect on those formative years of my life, as this not-so-little village I live in now did indeed propel me into the adult life adventures and careers I have forged.  Adventure is the keyword here, as I was fortunate to have had a highly adventuresome life as a teen and through, well, the rest of my life and forth!

As a teenager, I had a best friend Barb, who is still but twenty minutes away today.  Barb and I claimed our own freedom, regularly.  For one type of frequent adventure, we snuck out!  We never did anything “wrong” or illegal; we just enjoyed the thrill of escaping into the night from her or my basement, to walk, talk, and be free. A few of our escapades were particularly memorable, and I realize now how they were a setup for me to learn about the creative principle of ‘better endings’.

It was sometime in January, 1971.  Barb and I were 17 yo each.  She was the best artist in our high-school class, and I was a would-be poet/dramatist/creative writer.  We entertained the goal of living in New York City, where our art and creative juices could be better harnessed and thrive.    Since our art was our ideal, we felt at 17 that we were ready; impatient to have to wait yet another year to graduate and launch into our ambitions. So one night, having met a pair of guys in Niagara Falls saying they were from New Jersey and would be returning there the next morning, we talked it over and decided it was time: we would sneak out and walk the seven miles or so to the Falls to meet up with these fellows who could take us to The City, where we would begin our artistic careers.

As it was winter with deep snow outside, we decided that rather than carrying suitcases—which would have been too obvious for anyone looking for us anyways—we would stay warm by wearing all the clothes we would need to get a new start. We wore three pairs of jeans each and several shirts and sweaters under our coats. And as we did not have watches (long before cell phones!), we would chain-smoke (yes) Virginia Slims to keep track of time, around seven minutes per light (In retrospect: yuck!).  We left letters for our families: we loved them but we were old enough and ready to launch our artistic careers.

Then we left. We got started probably around 2 o’clock am.  We silently maneuvered up the stairs from Barb’s basement and out the sliding doors to the back yard.  We were free!  We walked quickly along the road and through backyards until we reached the Escarpment (carved out by giant glaciers and defining the upper boundary of the village community we were leaving).  We started climbing through the woods and deep snow, straight up to the top of the escarpment, which took us a couple of hours or so, so we reached the top of the escarpment around 5 or 5:30 am.  From here we would need but to walk the six miles to the Falls by 8 or so to meet up with the fellows who had offered us a ride to NYC.

But then, I realized: my grandmother was visiting.  I could bear leaving the family with the letter we had written, but my grandmother would be very disappointed.  I could not do that to her! Okay, so we decided to go back to Barb’s, but now we had a short time before her mother would be up.  So, we literally SLID down the escarpment using our coats as sleds, surely in record time had there been any means for comparison!  Then we ran, again literally ran, the mile or so further, and slipped back into Barb’s basement by around 6:45am. Fifteen minutes later, Barb’s mother was up and soon came to the top of the basement stairs to announce that breakfast was ready! 

So here is the ‘better endings’ aspect of this memorable adventure: First, the experience itself contained a ‘better ending’ twist: we decided to turn back and not complete the journey as planned, but rather to complete high-school and then go after our creative dreams. 

Second, Barb did become a highly successful artist—a painter and a wax figure sculptor who has filled whole museums with her work in the US and Ireland.  And I have become an author in addition to being a professor of Anthropology, both of which I love dearly.  We pursued and have achieved our creative ambitions, and I feel that our teenage escapades were a big part of our later determination to follow our bliss, as Campbell would say, and Live Our Dreams, Now!

pictures are from pixabay.com

So, pursue your dreams! Allowing that you may find even better ‘better endings’ along the way, every step forward carves out the direction you choose to forge into the reality of the life you CHOOSE to live!

So, how about you? Were there formative experiences in your younger years that set the stage for your own self-realization through the years? Is there an escapade you could plan yet today to propel you even further, to fulfill your deepest ambitions? 

Better Endings for YOUR Life Story

Several years ago I stumbled onto a journaling practice of composing “better endings,” at first for films whose conclusions I had never liked, then for literature and historical events (e.g. what might have happened if the Titanic had never sunk?).   Then I realized I could apply this same principle of creative license to my own Life Story adventures, as could anyone.  I began a blog called Better Endings (betterendingsnow.com) to explore this principle of creative re-visioning and discovered it is a rich tool we can use to review and reflect upon any life situation or ambition—past, current or to come—to envision ‘better endings’ scenarios, and to bring those about in our lives.

As a cultural/psychological anthropologist and linguist, I understand how we humans live our lives as episodic and even as epic narratives; we each gradually build our own Life Story that bends and turns in many directions and we construe our own mythic Life Story in terms of Life Themes, Life Chapters, Lessons, Quests, and Purpose or Mission.  I like to say that we humans are Homo Narrativus: we experience and tell about our life events as structured narratives, full of meaning, lessons, and import. 


For several years I taught a university humanities course—co-taught with a Classical historian, at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs—called Myth, Reason, and Your Life Story. The History professor provided lectures on the history of mythology for 8 weeks, while for the other 8 weeks (students shifted mid-semester to receive both segments), I engaged the class in a Life Mapping process. The Life Path Mapping process (see my resulting book Your Life Path; Skyhorse, 2018) guided the students–in conjunction with lectures on rites of passage, Joseph Campbell’s Hero Cycle, Jungian and more recent archetypal psychology integration techniques, research findings from my own intensive life mapping interview research, and a history of theories of the life course—through a journaling and creative life mapping process that let them review and reflect upon their lives: past, present and to come. 

images are from pixabay.com

Better Endings: A Guidebook for Creative Re-Visioning (Central Park South Publishing, May 2022) is the next step in the life mapping process I developed in those humanities classes.  This book offers the opportunity to “refresh” your life course midstream!  I have included journaling pages in this book that allow you to play with the principle of Better Endings ‘re-visioning’: first (for Part One) with film endings, literature and historical events; and then (for Part Two) with critical events and situations of your own Life Story—past, current and to come! 

The fun, interesting journaling prompts in Better Endings can help you—as they have for me—to arrive at meaningful closure for some of your life situations and to become un-stuck (!) from considering your current and future possibilities.

“Live Your Dream, Now!” was the through line for my 2018 book, Your Life Path. This new book, Better Endings, (now available in softcover, hardcover and eBook formats from all major book retailers) lets you take the next step in your own Life Story to create the life of your dreams. Better endings…are new beginnings!

Say “No!” to the Nothing  

Recently my dear sister gifted me with a wonderful event we shared at the local performing arts center: the Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban film, accompanied by a live soundtrack and choral music by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. This was a truly sublime performance. However, just before the show was to begin, the conductor said something that alerted my attention.  He was encouraging the audience to be interactive with the film, which was fun.

                                      “Cheer for Harry; heck, cheer for Voldemort, if you want.”

This last part, an open invitation to cheer for evil incarnate, struck me as a sour chord. I have seen too much of this invitation to align with the Dark Side over the past fifteen years or so in popular media.  It was soon after the release of The Hunger Games (March 2012) on the big screen that the Sandy Hook massacre (December 2012) of children occurred. That was preceded five years earlier (May 2005) by the portrayal of Anakin Skywalker’s initiation into the Dark Side in the Star Wars saga by deliberately murdering Jedi ‘younglings’ in Revenge of the Sith (Episode III). Fast forward to the Disney version of The Force Awakens, where Darth Vader’s grandson Kaylo Ren murders his own father, the beloved Star Wars hero, Hans Solo. And I don’t even include here the many violent video games, some of which appear on main stream media ads, because I won’t go there to look.

The mass murder at the Aurora, CO theatre, near where I was living then, was during the opening of a dark Batman installation, and the murderer was dressed as The Joker.  At all Star Wars movies, some young people dress as Darth Vader or later, as Kaylo Ren, to attend the shows.

All of these images remind me also of the advancing of The Nothing as depicted in The Neverending Story (July 1984). Here the young hero learns he must resist and counter encroaching Negativity–of bullies in his life but more archetypally of the encroaching Darkness of materialism and narcissism in the world.

As well, I find a flaw in many of these blockbuster fantasy sci-fi stories in the salvation of Darth Vader and Kaylo Ren, for example, in the concluding episodes of their series.  After recklessly destroying whole planets and and maliciously murdering countless individuals with commands like “Kill them All!,” somehow we are yet encouraged to celebrate these same evil characters’ ascension into the Light for having acknowledged the evilness of their actions just before their deaths.  To me this plot element is unfortunate, unacceptable and just plain wrong.  Karma has yet to wield its ‘balance’ on the actions of these evil and fully culpable characters.

The true Balance of the Force, I would argue from a Better Endings perspective, is the Middle Path. As we wind through our Soul journeys we aim to find that balance by recognizing and accepting the full consequences of our harmful thoughts, words and deeds; eventually (over many lifetimes perhaps) coming to embrace and extend life affirming, generous actions, and overall developing unconditional, detached love for all life.  We need not be for nor against anything to Hold to the Center; we acknowledge responsibility for all of our thoughts, words and actions, knowing that to truly unfold spiritually we must balance our immature or evil tendencies with awareness and total acceptance of the consequences of our misdoings.

The cultural images of anti-heroic characters like Darth Vader, Kaylo Ren, or the Joker are expressions of shadowy archetypal potentials usually submerged and checked by more life affirming, positive human potentials. I recommend to not release the Kracken in ourselves, although to recognize such tendencies and seek therapy can be highly beneficial.

images are from pixabay.com

Better endings benefit the Whole… of humanity, and of our Selves. May we anchor to that solid core of Balance, to discover and celebrate the Light.

Inspiration



What Inspires Your Heart?

Lately I have been reminded about the importance of feeling inspired in our lives; about what it means to live a life full of vitality and purpose.  I feel sad for people who may too often feel they are “just getting by,” without a guiding star to light their journey, especially in their darker times or when the world itself seems cast in turmoil.

So, how does one find that guiding star that leads to their own True North? Purpose, meaning, service orientation, and mission come to mind as avenues to explore.  Inspiration is grounded in a clear sense of positive, life affirming potentials in these regards and in the confidence that it is possible to express and fulfill these potentials.

Now of course, a person’s sense of purpose, mission and potential may vary considerably from day to day and certainly shifts over the course of their lifetime.  For some, they may feel their primary purpose is to serve and share with family, coworkers, and community, giving unconditional love, generosity and support.  Being able to serve their loved ones and community in such capacity can bring deep fulfillment and fresh inspiration, day by day.

For others, it may be artistic talents or career activities that could even propel them to sacrifice normative relations like marriage and family to develop their capacity to serve their art or career or even life itself by expressing their wise thoughts, vision, hopes, and dreams that may inspire not only their own adventures but also others.

I take inspiration at its most basic definition to be the “in-dwelling of Spirit.”  However you might personally understand or define Spirit (i.e., life force, Divine Love, “the Universe”, etc.), It is life-giving and life affirming, bringing vitality and positive awareness into our hearts and minds and leading us ever further to explore  not only our own potentials but that of the cosmos at large.

I will share that honestly this renewed focus on inspiration is partly in response to an apparent recent upsurge in stark negativity in world affairs.  From wars to mass shootings to political polarization and rampant materialism, it can seem that a sense  of purpose or mission, meaning, service orientation, and inspiration itself may be lacking or on the wane in many sectors.

We—most of us anyway—cannot readily change the world, yet we each have the capacity to seek out and to find our own True North: guiding principles and values that bring joy and happiness, and acceptance of differences, into our own life journeys.

images are from pixabay.com

When I was young, going to college in my twenties, I rode around on a little Puch moped as that was all I could afford for transportation. I had this image of “Hitch(ing) My Moped to a Star” as I scooted about in my purposeful activities of going to school, sharing with my friends, attending spiritual classes, and the like.  I went to the first Star Wars film (A New Hope, episode IV) 12 times on my little moped, feeling like I was a rebel fighter in my individual speeder (that could reach 40 mph!).  I felt inspired and strengthened by hitching my path (metaphorically, my  little moped) to a Guiding Star, even practically as a moped can feel pretty small in relation to all the big trucks and cars whizzing past!

So I encourage you to reflect on what truly and deeply INSPIRES you! What is really worth focusing your energies upon, and what is not?

Better Endings to All!

Flexible Persistence: A Key to Better Endings

A major underlying principle for maintaining a ‘better endings’ mindset is FLEXIBILITY.   My personal analog for the sort of flexibility needed to foster better endings derives from fencing.  As a foil fencer on a successful intercollegiate tournament fencing team in the 1970’s, I learned quite viscerally how “movement” is all important for creating, recognizing, and acting upon opportunities to “score.”

ADVANCE – RETREAT – FEINT – ADVANCE – BEAT – RETREAT – DOUBLE RETREAT – DOUBLE BEAT – DOUBLE ADVANCE – PARRY- DOUBLE DISENGAGE — RIPOSTE-LUNGE! (Et Lá!)

The above choreography is an example of the sort of on-your-feet (LOL) maneuvering that might happen in the Moment of a fencing bout for one ‘touch’ sequence. (Dear Ro, my former Teammate: I hope you are reading!)

In fencing as in life, if you are too rigid with your plan of attack, for instance; or, if you freeze on the piste (fencing strip), you are quite likely to be hit (touché!) by your more fluid opponent.   But if you remain in constant motion, both physically with your footwork and mentally with your awareness, you stand a good chance of creating the opportunities, at least, for scoring. 

Better Endings shift as your awareness expands.  One day you might consider one hopeful new direction only to realize an even greater goal the next.  The process of moving in the direction of your goals helps you to understand the deeper reasons for seeking these ‘better endings.’  So, you benefit from remaining open and attentive to your own needs and the needs of those around you who might benefit from your actions as well.

I find myself working constantly on self-improvement, which I believe is true for most people, especially once one starts to see how the process of self-improvement really can produce positive results.  I like to try new approaches to situations in life that may not have worked out great by earlier means, then to learn from the new results.  

images are from pixabay.com

One quick example: rather than taking personally potentially hurtful statements someone might make in an online Zoom session, I am learning how to truly forgive and forget…well, if not to forget, at least to accept and move on without countering or reacting negatively myself. 

In fencing terms that is called fencing “with absence of the blade!”   Et lá! 

Better Endings Story Seed:

Flexibility: Your Key to Better Endings

How about you?  In what arenas of your life do you find that being flexible helps promote your higher awareness and illuminates your deeper goals? How might this lead for you to ‘better endings’ in a situation with which you are currently engaged?

Golden Spirals, or Pendulum Swings?

Consider two images: first, a golden spiral staircase winding gently upwards toward the heavens, signifying positive growth and increasing degrees of enlightenment.  The second image:  a monochrome, metallic pendulum swinging back and forth interminably, arriving nowhere.

Now then, which image do you prefer as a Life Metaphor: the Golden Spiral or the Pendulum?

As I grow older, witness to the play of history over nearly seven decades, I can recognize how sociopolitical changes—the so-called March of History—pattern more as a dualistic, polarizing pendulum swing, rather than as a spiral of real progress or advancement.

I prefer the Golden Spiral as a metaphor for personal growth in my own life.  Yet if I am reflecting objectively, I recognize both spirals and pendulum swings in my own life patterns.  With regard to diet, for instance:  While I aim for my eating to be well informed by health concerns so as to reflect a positive learning curve, it is so easy for me to ‘fall back’ into negative habits. After losing over 40 lbs. on a low carb diet and keeping to that discipline for over three years, for instance, gradually I have been allowing more sweets (and ten more lbs.).  Yesterday I threw out a whole (new) bag of candy and chocolate that my negative-pendulum ‘kid in a candy store’ self had procured at a rustic General Store the day before.  Throwing the candy away was my effort to shift back to the Spiral rather than succumbing to the ‘old,’ habit-oriented pendulum swing.

On the ‘other hand’ (hmm), I practice daily contemplation and dream study to focus on personal growth.  ‘Better endings’ has been a catchword, for me, for applying a positive, growth-oriented mindset based on my personal life goals.

Lately in all honesty I have found witnessing the pendulum swings of sociopolitical events to be disheartening, because it does not appear to bode well for our collective ‘better endings’ over time.  However, who’s to say what karmic currents need to play themselves out in this all-too-physical arena?

images are from pixabay.com

What we CAN do (what I CAN do) is to attend to our own individual choices and commitments, to actualize personal growth and awareness in our own lives.   This is  where a mindset of forging ‘better endings’ can help us to fulfill our personal destinies and live our own dreams, regardless of external conditions.

The Wizard of Oz: A Classic Tale of Better Endings

Like so many, I have loved the movie The Wizard of OZ since childhood.  I guess I like it even more than most, as I have written about Dorothy’s archetypal individuation process—which is what her adventure in Oz is about from an archetypal psychology perspective—in my book Your Life Path (2018, Skyhorse Publishers).   The Scarecrow (unfulfilled or wounded Teacher), Tin Man (unfulfilled Lover) and Cowardly Lion (unfulfilled Warrior), along with Dorothy’s dear animus Toto, are immature facets of Dorothy’s inner persona that she needs to strengthen and integrate in order to develop her own more mature, unified, individuated Self.

I watched it again this week.  Now I can see how the entire story, from the point that Dorothy and Toto are swept Over the Rainbow by the tornadic winds of her internal growing pains, is a ‘better endings’ narrative.  Dorothy’s adventure into the ‘forbidden zone’ of deep unconscious imagery is a chance for her to re-vision her life situation in Kansas (i.e., in the ‘conscious’ state—over the rainbow being her ‘unconscious’ dreamworld–, viz. Jean Houston’s reading) so that, ultimately, she will be able to stand up to the nasty neighbor with wisdom, compassion, and courage, and save her beloved companion Toto.

Me with my own Sophia
(I can identify with Dorothy!)

Significant dreams, as adventures in the realms of the deep ‘Unconscious’, provide an excellent canvas for re-visioning our life situations so we can achieve better endings in our ‘outer’ life. As a species that–at our best–constantly strives for self-transcendence in the form of personal growth and awareness, we are always aiming to forge better endings, every step of the way.

Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a heaven for?
– Robert Browning

Countering Dystopia, or A Call for Projecting Hope through ‘Better Endings’

[Note to readers: I have cancelled the former post offering an Authors’ book sales and review exchange, because after several days, while there were some “Likes” for the post, no one had submitted their works. So I realized maybe this was not an appropriate approach. If you still would like to avail of that offer you can still Contact me and I will reply to you individually-LW]

I watched a free film via On Demand a few days ago that so absolutely called out for a better endings re-visioning that I realized there is a dystopian science fantasy meme of presumably inevitable global extinction events that might be negatively affecting our collective consciousness.  Annihilation Earth, with Luke Goss, Colin Salmon, Velislov Pavlov, and Marina Sirtis, has appropriately received mainly rotten tomato reviews for a weakly developed plot and thin characters, but I think it is worth taking note of as a clear example of a potentially dangerous fault line in contemporary, secular collective reasoning.

The film opens on a grim disaster scene: much of France including Paris has been annihilated in a momentary conflagration due to, we soon learn, a terrorist’s sabotage of a super-collider being used to generate free and inexhaustible energy.  The rest of the movie flashes back from this scene, periodically announcing the “time to extinction” in hours until the final scene delivers on the forecast: planet Earth implodes from a black hole created by the interaction of a global network of interlinked, sabotaged supercolliders.

Of course, the plotline pits the West against all Middle Eastern nations who are not included in the otherwise global boon of free energy and the elimination of any need for fossil fuels.  But aside from basic story weaknesses including the notion that only two scientists would together have unique and total access to programming and safeguarding the supercolliders such that compromising them could allow a sole terrorist to hack and sabotage the entire supercollider infrastructure, the main problem I see is in the lack of any awareness of potential protective agency of a spiritual—or resilient human idealist—nature. 

We are given to believe, in this and similar dystopian visions that are growing in popularity these days, that we—all species in fact, because of our human frailities—are completely at the mercy and whim of all-powerful bad guys ‘out there’ (or, in here, in our home communities) who will godlessly inflict death and cataclysmic destruction if they either plan ahead maliciously or simply wake up on the wrong side of bed one day and decide to wreak havoc. We are helpless, this cultural meme or cognitive schema tells us, in combatting or surviving evil if we just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Now of course, yes, there are good grounds for this general malaise in light of the scourge of mass killing sprees and recently yet another brutal genocide playing out on our news media daily and horrifically on the ground in Ukraine.  And such chaotic killings do appear to be random and unavoidable by good people.  But I want to appeal to our deeper potentials for agency, spiritual awareness, and hope.  

There are always survivors, those who testify about following a nudge to stay home or take a different route on an otherwise fatal day.  Parents and loved ones who are bereaved find ways to make their lost loved ones’ lives meaningful by publicly advocating for change in the policies and laws that have fueled such horrendous acts as mass killing sprees.

 Yes, it is a battle so long as we are on this earth plane, between the forces of Light and of darkness. Yet we are more than our bodies and there is more to Life and to reality, that bullets can never silence.  Individually we have agency and collectively, too, so far as our elected officials are willing to serve the greater whole instead of their own seats of power or financial security.  Individually we can pay attention to our own inner guidance. Pay attention, and act according to your highest awareness. Even if it does not save your body, it provides a deeper connection with a greater good.

Just before the ‘fateful’ end of the B-movie Annihilation Earth, The scientist about to make a wrong decision to turn off the supercollider network despite his dying colleague telling him that doing such will result in a black hole event, his wife and two young children are standing behind him.  In my better endings re-visioning of the awful conclusion shown, his young daughter stops her father in the middle of his typing in the authorization code to turn off the colliders.

                “No, Dad! Stop, now!”

                “But Sarah, dear, this is the only way to fix this.”

                “No, you are wrong. Stop this, now!”

                “Why do you say this?”

                “There are three people with me inside, Daddy. A woman and two men from somewhere else. They are beautiful, full of light and love! They asked me to tell you, please Stop! This is not the right way!”

                David (the scientist-father, Luke Goss) pauses. He looks across at his superior, Paxton (Marina Sirtis), whose anger flashes:

                “Do it now, David!”

                David’s fingers on the computer keyboard press backspace several times, deleting the passcode he had been entering. It was like they had a mind of their own.  His friend Raja (Colin Salmon) would know best, he dimly realized. He was wrong to have ever doubted him. And Sarah, such a dear…

                After pausing, David could now discern on the screens that had been showing the growing global conflagration, that it was beginning to abate. Just as Raja had advised, the system had a self-correcting mechanism.  Earth would not be annihilated; after much damage, survival was imminent. Life would continue; people would rebuild, species survive! Perhaps, even, a lesson would finally be learned…

images are from pixabay.com

                So, there you have it.  There is always a ‘better endings’ scenario, if we will but turn our hearts and ears to Spirit; to the highest, not the lowest, in one another!

A Better Endings book review

From Goodreads, a review by Bridget Bruso:

Better Endings: A Guidebook For Creative Re-Visioning is a fun and informative way to create better endings for you. By using the prompt questions and space provided to record your answers you will begin to learn more about yourself. The book is divided into two parts: Part One deals with creating new endings for movies, books, history, and more, while Part 2 guides you to better understanding your choices and creating better endings for yourself.

I found this book entertaining as well as effective. The great thing about this book is the possibilities are endless as you can discover more about yourself by each better ending you decide to write and analyze. I related to the creative tactics of the prompts easily since I am a fan fiction blogger. I really went into a deep dive into myself as I discovered new things I never thought about before.

I would recommend this book for people who enjoy fanfiction. The creative writing aspect will appeal to anyone enjoying the arts. Movie fans and book lovers will enjoy certain sections and aspects to the exercises. This is ideal for anyone seeking to learn more about yourself in a creative and extremely personal way. This book would also be fun for an activity amongst friends, family, coworkers, or book club with members sharing their participation writings and what they learned about themselves and each other. Put on your creative writing cap and be ready to transform in a new direction in your own life with this wonderful read! 

(Thank You, Bridget!)

Toxic Conditions? Just Say ‘No, Please’

I have recently quit a part-time job that was engaging and interesting, but that required me to accept a toxic environment. I truly enjoyed what I was learning and being able to contribute as a service to the company as well as its clients.  But when I discovered the building had partially unmitigated asbestos in its old and somewhat cracked tile flooring, after some studying up on the subject online I knew I could not continue to work at that site.  I had recently vacuumed and the broken vacuum had spewed a cloud of dust into my face, before I had learned of the asbestos.

So I explained that I could not work in that environment. For a few weeks I tried to to see if perhaps there was a way I could do the work from home, while also teaching the role to the second in command at my home.  Ultimately I realized it it was not ideal for the company or for myself to try to conduct that role remotely.

So I finally uttered the words, “I quit.”  Immediately I felt the relief that comes with a positive, self-affirming decision, bringing—yes—a better ending to an unbalanced situation. It has felt very liberating and creatively productive to return to my more unscheduled life, with no more clocking in and out on company time schedules.

images are from pixabay.com

Better endings, remember, are not always happier ones, but when they bring clarity and closure to an unstable or lingering situation, they can lead to New Beginnings!

Better Endings Story Seed:  Toxic Conditions?

Have you had the experience of being able to free yourself from a toxic situation? Or, are you currently engaged in a situation with toxic elements to it?  Journal about how you found your way free from a toxic situation from the past, or about the toxic elements you have been dealing with.  In what ways might the principle of Better Endings potentially relate to your experiences?

With New Eyes, or Look Again!  The Value of Creative Re-Visioning

[First this week, THANK YOU to all of you who have been following and especially for those registering your ‘Likes’ for recent posts.-Linda]

Writing and particularly for me, journal writing, has been a lifelong refuge and treasure.  I kept as many as four journals going at a time through my college years, and I have kept a dream journal as well as a writing journal active for over 50 years.  Early on, I addressed my journal Itself as a Friend (Dear Friend would start my entries).  It is this long practice of journaling that has sustained my lifelong interest in writing and has led to several academic journal articles and to date, four published books (the first two academic and the last two, mainstream).  


My just released Better Endings: A Guidebook for Creative Re-Visioning (Central Park South Publishing) includes journaling pages so that you, too, as the reader can engage with the magical art of journaling that can open new doors of self-discovery, insight, and future envisioning.  The journaling prompts, included blank journaling pages,  and chapter topics presented in Better Endings truly can guide you to explore and reflect upon key values and events of your own Life Story: past, current and to come.

I have personally ‘beta tested’ every theme and journaling excursion offered with the Better Endings chapters.  Part One introduces topics that let you have fun practicing creative re-visioning with movies, fiction, and historical events.  You will get to write your own ‘better endings’ for movies or stories whose endings you have always disliked and to reflect upon what it is about these stories that lead you personally to want to rewrite these conclusions.  This is not at all about improving upon the screenplay or writing but about developing your own sense of ‘creative license’ to re-envision (or re-view) any story to explore its open possibilities.  If you can practice re-visioning a fictional story or an historical event, so too can you look at your own life story events (past, current and to come) with this same creative license, allowing you to imagine and mindfully explore your own open possibilities! After all, you are the composer, editor and key actor in your own Life Story.  In fact, that is what Part Two is all about.

Part Two gives you, the reader/ journal writer of Better Endings, the freedom to reclaim your own creative license; to re-vision and flexibly reflect upon the ‘shaping events’ or Turning Points of your own Life Path. Topics include:  What If?, Second Chances,  Silver Linings, Loss and Recovery, Big Moves, and Your Best is Yet to Come.

The value of creative re-visioning and journaling your reflections is that it opens your intuitive awareness. It can help you arrive at a sense of more meaningful closure and purpose with regard to your significant life events, situations or relationships, so you may approach new choices with greater understanding and clarity of intention.

Better endings are not necessarily happier ones, but they can lead to New Beginnings!

images are from pixapbay.com

If you would like to explore these themes in your own life, pick up a copy of Better Endings: A Guidebook for Creative Re-Visioning.  (You can click on the embedded links here or on the right panel cover image to be routed to Amazon, or you could order through Barnes & Noble or any other major retailer site.) It is available as an eBook (but if you choose this, please do create your own Better Endings Journal and do the journaling), or as a softbound or hardcover version. I welcome all reviews, comments, and questions!

Better Endings: A Guidebook for Creative Re-Visioning–Book Release!

Better Endings:  A Guidebook for Creative Re-Visioning, by Linda K. Watts, has been released and is now available to order from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kindle, Nook, Kobo and several other other retail book sites. It is available as a paperback (17.85), hardcover (28.95), or as an ebook (9.95).  Its direct url at Amazon is (or click on book image on right panel):

https://www.amazon.com/s?k=better+endings+a+guidebook+for+creative+re-visioning+linda+k.+watts&i=stripbooks&crid=3TEMQT36PW3H7&sprefix=better+end%2Cstripbooks%2C92&ref=nb_sb_ss_mission-aware-v1_2_10

A direct link for adding a review at Amazon for Better Endings, as of May 6, 2022 is: http://www.amazon.com/review/create-review?&asin=978-1-956452-09-9   

Better endings are New Beginnings! (image from pixabay.com)

Please if you procure this book, in any format, I invite you as the author to please, do the journaling, at least for the topics you are most drawn to personally. This book can help you to envision and bring about your own Better Endings.

These days, aren’t we all ready for some better endings?

Positive Reinforcement

Over the last two months I have found some success with practicing positive reinforcement, mainly with my beloved dog companion Sophie, but also as a life lesson more generally.

It started one day when, while I was in the bathroom, my dear Sophie–11+years young and generally excellent about utilizing piddle pads in her own rather opulent bathroom setup with tarps and liners and four pads at a time to prevent misses!–, sat right outside the bathroom door and relieved herself on the area-rug carpet!  This happened two times more in the next couple of days despite my arduous use of enzymatic cleanups and strong admonishment and reinforcement of the litter pads.

The fourth day in, I decided to get rid of the rug, rolled it up and moved it to the basement, leaving a wood floor such as she has never made mistakes on. But I wondered inwardly, what was going on? Sophie seemed pleased with herself when she had used the carpet in my view, so I knew somehow she thought I would be equally pleased and was confused when I was not!

Here’s who I’m talking about!

I realized the carpet area Sophie had used was near the water cooler (Culligan dispenser). Sometimes water might drip from the dispenser while I am filling a glass or a coffee carafe. So I figured out that Sophie might have interpreted this slight moisture on the rug as an invitation. With this awareness, I changed my approach.

After still strongly reinforcing the use of her litter pads (she is a small dog and while she loves to relieve herself out of doors, I want her to have a way to do so overnight or when I am away for several hours), I started rewarding her with diabetic-friendly Sci-Di W/D morsels, calling them “piddle treats.”  Every time she uses the pads during the day and every morning when I check her pads out, I congratulate and praise her for being such a good girl!

She has not made any mistakes since this change in approach to positive reinforcement instead of admonishment.

Good girl!

I have been reflecting on the practice of positive reinforcement more generally.  I realize it is important to use positive reinforcement with others I interact with day to day, and with myself! This has led to a more relaxed attitude altogether, and I find I am finding ways to have more fun and to celebrate happiness.

In retrospect I remember how, when I was growing up, I loved the book Irish Red.  As I recall, this story directly champions using positive reinforcement and demonstrating unconditional love in bonding with a dog, and I remember from then committing to use that approach with my own pets, always.  

images (other than of Sophie!) are from pixabay.com

My cat and dog life companions (plus a parakeet, a pigeon, and mice when I was young!) have always been among my closest friends and they are my home family as I have generally lived humanly alone or with a roommate.

My better endings suggestion here is simple: Be Kind to Others and to Yourself to Be Happy! Reward your loved ones and yourself with positive vibes and attitudes.

*****
Better Endings Story Seed

How can you practice positive reinforcement with a relationship situation you are currently facing, and with yourself? Journal also about a time when you used positive reinforcement and it led to an improvement in your life happiness.

Better Endings are New Beginnings

My apologies for a two-week aperture. My new book, Better Endings: A Guidebook for Creative Re-Visioning (click link for url) is now available for pre-order at a discounted rate at all major retailers (Amazon, Barnes & Noble) and it will soon be available as an ebook at Kindle, Nook and several other sites. I have been on a daily learning curve, aiming to announce this book in as many ways as possible; if you are an author you know what I mean! While the publishers have announced the book to retailers and independent bookstores through Ingram at a good trade book discount rate, still it is up to me to let people know about the book, and that is a heady, onerous and daunting opportunity. The official release date is May 6 for retailers. There will be a book launch at my local Lewiston, NY Library on May 13, thankfully. I have set up a Goodreads Author Page and print book giveaway (6 free books chosen randomly, so you can find it there if you like), from April 26-May 8. Otherwise “pounding the pavement”: sending out postcards to selected bookstores, visiting local stores, submitting info to Barnes & Noble store placement, and basically learning something new every day about possible ways to get the word out.

This blog site has been the rich source of the concept that developed into Better Endings: A Guidebook for Creative Re-Visioning. Over the past 9 years or so we have explored herein the multifaceted jewel that is our own inherent creative license to envision and to flexibly re-vision a Story: everything from composing actual ‘better endings’ to movies, fiction, or historical events whose conclusions might leave you personally dissatisfied or yearning for a twist of fate, to journaling about ‘shaping events’ or Turning Points in our own life stories: Past, current or to come.


I have come to realize how fundamentally empowering it can be to creatively re-vision a situation from the past, any current situation, or a future aspiration or prospect. Doing so has guided me through three Big Moves just over the past four years, and has brought many new opportunities and vistas into clearer view. Re-visioning a past event helps me see it with new (more mature) eyes, and prospecting a desirable future through ‘alternate futurescape’ journaling has helped me zero in on what values I aim to establish in my home setting and in all my relations. Better Endings lead to New Beginnings! Sometimes this can mean simply bringing closure to a long contemplated worry from the past, or setting out in a new direction based on realizing the path you choose to follow!

Better Endings: A Guidebook for Creative Re-Visioning is the fruit of these many years of applying the creative principle of creative re-visioning not only in this blog but in my life. Central Park South Publishing has helped me to produce honestly a very well designed book. I am especially grateful that this book provides ample journaling space for readers to explore this faculty of creative re-visioning for yourselves.

Below is the Table of Contents. With each chapter, I introduce the chapter’s theme, share a sample ‘better endings’ story and some personal reflections about the topic, and then turn the theme over to you as the reader, to reflect on and to journal about with respect to your own life experience. The final of four lined journaling pages ask you to add your Reflections after you have personally explored your own ‘better endings’ perspective.

images are from pixabay.com

I guess you can tell, I really like how Better Endings: A Guidebook for Creative Re-Visioning has emerged as a book of true potential benefit for those who wish to reflect on life’s lessons and golden opportunities for transformational growth and fulfillment.

If you get the book, please do the journaling! That is the heart of its gift. Feel free to reach out to share with me about your experience with the themes in the book; I would gladly post your own ‘better endings’ stories here to share with others. And if you would, please do leave a review somewhere, at Amazon, B&N, Goodreads or on your own blog if you like. I understand reviews can be most helpful for letting more people know about a book.

Thank You for visiting and especially to those of you who have been Following this blog site; the fact that people actually do read what we write and share in a blog is what keeps them going and growing!

May You Find Your Better Endings!

Better Endings–the Book!

This week I will share the back story of how this blog developed and has morphed into my new book, Better Endings: A Guidebook for Creative Re-Visioning–to be released May 13 and available later this week (I will post the url here as soon as it is pre-released for ordering through Amazon)!  This is the story of my encounter with someone described in Thrive Global as a “Super Agent” –and, she is!–, Linda Langton, president of Langton International Literary Agency and Central Park South Publishing.  

After several years of interview-based research and presenting a series of papers about life mapping later published in book form as The ‘Life Map’ as an Implicit Cognitive Structure Underlying Behavior (Edwin Mellen Press, 2011), I developed and co-taught a Humanities course in Colorado with a History professor, Dr. Duvick, called Myth, Reason and Your Life History.  This led to the One Thing moment I wrote about last week, a summer writing retreat in Steamboat Springs, CO, during which I created the nub of the book, Your Life Path (Skyhorse, 2018).  I continued to write and teach about life mapping for another few years as I attended a series of writing conferences, one near San Francisco; another in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; and finally in Newport Beach sometime around 2013.  Each conference was worthwhile as it helped me understand what agents and editors were looking for and helped me improve my manuscript proposal.  Of course, I was also seeking an agent willing to take on a new author.

The morning I met Linda Langton, I was at breakfast at the conference hotel. I had set up three agent meetings for that day, for which I had sent chapters and a book proposal in advance.  As I was leaving the restaurant, this striking lady professional who was standing nearby turned and called out to me: “Colorado?” (she had read from my nametag).  Are you Linda Watts?

“Yes,” I stammered, grateful to be acknowledged at all at this large conference event.

“Life mapping?”

“Yes!”

“How inspiring!”

She introduced herself and I gratefully thanked her and said I would be seeing her shortly after lunch later that day.  I had another agent session set up in the morning.

At the first agent meeting, that lady let me know that she liked my book concept, but she said since I did not have a strong public “platform,” I should establish one and maybe get back to her in six months. I returned to my hotel room, discouraged. 

Was this to be yet another conference at which I was to learn more about what I yet needed to do, but no more?

I arrived twenty minutes early for my meeting with L. Langton.  Guess what, though?  She was already there too, outside the large meeting conference room which was closed during lunchtime.  We greeted each other, and she asked an attendant to let us into the room, early!

We sat at her agent table to talk.  I started:

“I am really not here just to learn more about what I need to do to make my book better.  I am here to find an agent!”

LL smiled and extended her hand across the small table to shake mine.  “Oh, I will represent you,” she beamed. (I was struck silent then, absorbing the impact of what this NYC agent had just said, and to me!)  Then she continued: “But I can only publish your book if you have a platform.  If you have a platform, I can publish your book; if not, I cannot.”

We talked for the rest of our session about how I could go about building a public platform.  As a university professor who had published two academic books and several peer reviewed academic articles, I was certainly not a public figure much beyond my small world of students and faculty.  Yet, that very morning before coming to the agent sessions, I had been thinking in bed about how I could take another idea forward that I had begun to journal about, the idea of “better endings.”  So, when Ms. Langton suggested I could write a blog and join Twitter to help increase my public platform, I told her about the “better endings” concept and suggested I could blog about that!  My new agent liked the idea.  I left the conference (after cancelling my third agent appointment since I was very happy to be working with LL), boosted and thrilled to have this golden opportunity to further develop the manuscript for Your Life Path, and to start a blog.

That next week, a colleague’s husband who is a scifi writer with his own blog helped me to set up and create my new blog, this one:  Better Endings.  The ideas here have ranged widely from concepts associated with Your Life Path that connect with living your best life and “living your dream,” to journaling tools for reflecting on the basic theme of “better endings.”

After Your Life Path was eventually published in 2018, a new idea formed: I would write a simpler, narrative plus journaling-based book presenting the creative principle of Better Endings to the public.  As a Guidebook for Creative Re-Visioning, this new book includes ample lined journaling pages for you to explore and create your own better endings

images are from pixabay.com

What I have discovered through nearly a decade of applying this creative principle in my own life and blogging and then writing about it is, One Thing:

Better Endings are New Beginnings!