Masked Messages

This summer semester as I have been teaching Anthropology remotely online, I have held Microsoft Teams (like Zoom) weekly sessions with students. This past 8 weeks we have been developing a discussion about the emerging cultural messages associated with masking and not masking in the U.S.. The following is my final week announcement to the students about the results of their observations over the semester. Then I have added some of their specific observations below that.

Man, Mask, Blue Eyes, Hand, Mystery

Some of your (students’) key findings:

that women are tending to mask more than men; that masking matters (e.g. spikes have occurred after the Tulsa campaign rally and other mass gatherings); in Colorado Springs students observed more people 30’s to 50’s not masking; that not masking can be a rebellious statement (claiming civil liberties); that whether or not to mask can be confusing due to mixed messages and ambivalent leadership; and that masking is generally perceived as caring and protective as versus not.

I observe that masking has quickly developed a cultural patterning: it adheres to partisan and other divides and becomes a marker of identity when used to draw attention to itself (either to a specific kind of mask–e.g. a fishnet mask observed at a gym, and Black Lives Matter masks) or to not wearing in situations where it is clearly mandated.  WHY has masking, a basic public health measure, become such a cultural phenomenon in America? It mirrors social segmentation and masking behavior may also reveal subtle issues around FACE: e.g. ‘losing face’ or feeling emasculated–nice pun!–when masking  esp. for men; losing a display of individual identity; concern with being perceived as criminal or threatening; though masking can also be associated with superheroes, e.g. caregivers!

Some specific observations:

  • A woman repeatedly attending a gym that has a sign requiring masks, wearing a fishnet mask as a form of defiance.
  • A Chase bank in Seattle with a sign outside stating Blacks do not need to wear a mask (purportedly to defray profiling but isn’t it actually profiling so that security cameras can see Black clients’ faces?)
  • A bus driver bludgeoned with a baseball bat in San Diego, CA for being asked to wear a mask
  • Parents rewarding their 6 yo child for always masking
  • More women masking than men (do men have issues around ‘demasculating’—pun intended?)
  • More 30’s to 50’s year old not masking
  • A student of color sharing that his friends and he are afraid to mask because they fear white people might perceive them as not smiling and therefore threatening
  • Political partisanship showing in degree of masking compliance (more democrats) or not (more republicans)
  • Confusion generally about the effectiveness or need to mask due to ambivalent media statements and ineffective national or state level leadership (versus e.g. in New York state, with strong science based leadership and effective response).
  • Art, Mask, Head, Human, Psyche

 images are from pixabay.com

In a diverse, complex society like the U.S. today, the covid19 pandemic has struck at a vital weakness in the divisive political and social climate here.

We can use masking to declare our CARE for ourselves and for one another.  Not masking can be a dangerous form of protest and may be perceived as a selfish lack of concern for others’ wellbeing.

To build bridges for Better Endings, it helps to talk with one another and to stand up for positive messaging.

A Smile to Bridge Troubled Waters

Bridging The Racial Divide

Black And White, Baby, Boy, Kid, Child

When I was in tenth grade in high school in 1970, my progressive English teacher engaged all of his “lily white” suburban area students with a half a year of Black Renaissance literature. I loved it! This material opened me to a new world of awareness, especially about racial inequalities and diverse voices.  Our book Black Voices  included the following poem that I have never forgotten:

The Incident
by Countee Cullen (1903-1946)

Once riding in old Baltimore,
    Heart-filled, head-filled with glee,
I saw a Baltimorean
    Keep looking straight at me.

Now I was eight and very small,
    And he was no whit bigger,
And so I smiled, but he poked out
    His tongue, and called me, “Nigger.”

I saw the whole of Baltimore
    From May until December:
Of all the things that happened there
    That’s all that I remember.

 

This poem by Countee Cullen has been with me since tenth grade and now, with the Black Lives Matter movement still needing to draw attention to persistent racial inequalities in America, it has resurfaced in my own, shall I say, racial memory.  I have had a counter sort of experience I like to share.

Bus Stop, Waiting, Bus, Public Transport

Around 1978 I was living in Buffalo, New York while in graduate school.  I used the bus system to get around in the city, and one night I was in inner city Buffalo near midnight, waiting for a bus connection at around 11:30 PM, the last bus of the night. I was returning to my apartment across town from an activity at the spiritual center I was involved with.

The bus stop was just outside from a bar. While I stood waiting for what would be around 20 minutes there at the bus stop, a man wobbled out from the bar and approached me. I could smell from his breath that he was quite tipsy. He happened to be black, maybe in his mid-thirties or so.

grayscale photography of jacket

“My name is Freddy,” the man said as he approached. “That is my car right there at the curb.” He continued: “I bet you think I’m gonna grab you by the arm ‘n drag you over there to my car and take you away and rape you.”

“No, I do not think that, Freddy,” was the answer that emerged from my mouth, much more calm and confident than I actually was beginning to feel about the situation.

“Well I could, you know. All I need to do is grab you and take you over there,” Freddy continued.

“My name is Linda. Do you live around here?” I asked (or something of this nature). I started asking about Freddy’s family, if he was married and how many kids he had.  He reciprocated and asked me about my life. I told him I was a college student waiting for the last bus home and that I had just come from my spiritual center across town.

We talked for a few minutes. Then Freddy said:

“I’m gonna stand right here and wait with you until the bus comes ‘n I’ll make sure nobody does anything to harm you.”

Freddy and I continued to talk for another fifteen minutes or so, then the bus arrived. I thanked him and we shook hands, then I boarded the bus and went home to my apartment across town.

Architecture, Building, Infrastructure

images are from pixabay.com

This encounter with Freddy has shaped a lot of my understanding about race relations.  I feel that so long as we see one another through the lens of stereotypes—helpless white female, drunk inner city Black man—we are likely to interact according to these stereotypes. But as soon as we connect with each other as individuals, as Soul=Soul, the stereotypes dissolve and we can see and hear one another for who we are.

So here is a Better Endings slight revision of the same Countee Cullen poem, The Incident:

Once riding in old Baltimore,
    Heart-filled, head-filled with glee,
I saw a Baltimorean
    Keep looking straight at me.

Now I was eight and very small,
    And he was no whit bigger,
And so I smiled, and he looked twice,
   and smiled back just as nice.

I saw the whole of Baltimore
    From May until December:
Of all the things that happened there
    That’s all that I remember.

 

Such a small shift in wording, a smile returned for a smile.

Is that so very much to ask of ourselves?

The Out-of-Doors Time, A Retrospective

There was a time, so long ago that by now many of our greatest scientists question if it was ever more than a parallel reality, when we did not live entirely indoors.  Our social fabric included “stores”: places people walked through to shop for their food and supplies; and physical spaces called “classrooms” and large university campuses where our chidren learned from actual people called “teachers” and where young ones interacted with one another in actual physical locations and events called “playgrounds,”  “summer camps,” and “Spring breaks.”

Back then there were many social ills, such as “racism” and “gender-based sexism.” That is way back in our primitive history, when we did not communicate wholly through our neutrally assigned avatars.

We had families resulting from the random vagaries of biological sexual reproduction rather than from our well controlled allocation of techno-genetic offspring we so value today.

Can you imagine?  We walked unruly pets in outdoor settings called “woods” and “neighborhoods.”  We risked all sorts of debilitating physical ailments: sunburns, aching joints,germs and viruses, and aging. That is before, of course, when we were a fully biological species.

girl's black and white collared shirt

Such absurd sounding history–and this is but a glimmering–is still preserved in nano-implants you can purchase only if you are eligible to harbor such restricted knowledge.

images are from pixabay.com

Such an alternate reality which we are so grateful to have transcended streches back to a time when our ancestors eked out their survival on a fragile little blue planet called “Earth.”

When You Smile–Not Lost in Translation

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Hi everyone. I apologize for slowing down on blog frequency lately. I am teaching three classes online and trying to complete my next book manuscript (Better Endings!), so I have just been preoccupied.

This month’s theme continues our focus this year on “building bridges” and the theme (same as the title of this post) comes from an experience I had in high school that I have never forgotten. At a drama workshop I took part in an exercise.  One at a time, each student in a group of around ten was put in the center of a circle, with the rest of the group making the circle. The one in the center was to make a statement that they would keep making no matter how much those in the circle tried to override or interrupt the person.

The statement I used when it was my turn in the center was from Crosby, Stills and Nash:

When you smile at me I will understand,

because that is one thing everybody everywhere does

in the same language.

I persisted with this phrase for about ten minutes and gradually the rest of the group relented; they liked what I was saying! So did I.  This statement does carry a universal truth and maybe these days, with so much divisiveness and “tribalism,” we could certainly stand to remember this notion and remeber to SMILE with one another, regardless of anyone’s opinion or angle on ‘truth’ or reality.

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images are from pixabay.com

So that’s enough. This month, I aim to practice smiling more. Next time we can apply this to the conclusion of the story of Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha, which follows the life of the Buddha. Good reading if you are looking for a respite!

Sometimes the Magic Works–If We Let It!

After writing about finding common ground for my last post, I was musing about how that approach could be applied to the political quagmire surrounding the impeachment trial in America. It was the evening before the final vote in the senate. My insight was that if only both sides could agree on some common point at issue, maybe common ground could be forged and progress toward working better together might ensue. Just as I was musing so, I turned on the TV to breaking news: one moderate democrat senator was offering a compromise. He called for a vote of censure rather than removal of the president who has already been impeached by the congress.

Sometimes, the magic works!, was my thought as a common ground solution was at least being proposed. Whatever the result of such a measure would be, at least there was an attempt to move the debate process to a more centrist position.

The measure did not move forward to a vote,  and the final vote of senate for ‘acquittal’ was lodged almost entirely along “party lines.”   As such, a lack of achieving a common grounds discussion perpetuates diametrically opposed parties rather than an obvious (at least publically) dialectical, dynamic interaction.

Ah well. In order for polarized altercations to resolve, where common ground exists it can be helpful to meet there, but such ‘magic’ can only work when we allow it.

images are from pixabay.com

This principle is available to all!

 

 

Confronting Schismogenesis: A Case in Point

And the world

Will be a better place

For you, and me,

Just wait and see!

Put a little love in your heart!

Week 2/3 of this first month of our annual theme of “Building Bridges.” This month I am focussing on Schismogenesis—Going for the Win-Win. Schismogenesis is when an argument becomes more and more schismatic or divided as people dig into their ‘side’ of a disagreement.  Well of course when I choose a topic, life always provides plenty of grain for the mill.

So, I have accepted a role as a member at large for my neighborhood Homeowners Association, standing in for someone who is relocating. As I step on board, the HOA is working on a policy to shift our neighborhood to a no rental policy over time.  My own input has led to a change in how that policy was being formulated, from a ‘quota’ system (a certain number of houses being allowed to be rented based on the current number) to a grandfathering approach, so that current homeowners can state their intent to rent now or potentially in the future and others can opt out immediately, then after the cutoff date (now passed), no new owners will be permitted to rent out their homes or rooms.

A couple of the owners are up in arms about the new policy, verbally haranguing the president of our board to the point of attacking her online in public neighborhood forums. It isn’t pretty. Most of the board members themselves and the majority of owners on the street filed their option to reserve their right to rent though they do not intend to do so. I find myself a bit bemused at how we can establish strict rules for new owners if we do not find those rules amenable to our own rights, although they did take an earlier survey that determined the majority favor a no rental community over time, so I continue to support a grandfathering approach. The opponents are trying to undermine the legality of the new policy and accuse the board president personally of lying or otherwise abusing her role.

So, here we stand, smack in the middle of the microcosm of a divisive society. My challenge, to myself alone anyway, is how to facilitate building a bridge to help resolve the growing feud?

What comes to mind are:

  • Honesty; and
  • Communication

Honest communication, “across the Board.” I do aim to stand up for a fair process for all, though I generally side with the board’s approach and find the president to be honest, forthcoming, diligent, and also aiming for fairness. I have made it clear to those engaged in verbal attacks online that I find their negative campaign distasteful and unethical, but I do want to understand their points of argument.

Sometimes I do not like my own tendency to sound too direct or assertive about my own ideas. I had a dream the other night wherein the president told me she refused to act if I were telling her what to do. So the next day, I walked over and told her about the dream. She laughed and said no, my ideas are welcome to her and she does not feel I have been too assertive. But that was one way to build a bridge anyway, one small step involving honest communication.

One of the opponents who has been canvassing me with his ideas claims he sees me as bringing a degree of ‘balance’ to the process. I believe that is because he simply has not targeted me with a negative bias as he appears to have done with the president. It feels like a power or control struggle on his part. The board president, for her part, has reached a point of stating her terms directly then standing back rather than continuing to react to the personal attack.

 

images are from pixabay.com

This little glimpse into the inner workings of one small neighborhood process has illuminated dynamics present in the much of the whole of modern society. For myself I find I need to be careful to remain as neutral and as attentive as possible while still supporting the organizational process going forward. If I cannot fulfill this role properly, I may need to walk away–down the road as the phrase goes–, to remain a detached though supportive neighbor.

A New Year of Better Endings: “Overcoming Schismogenesis–Go for the Win-Win.”

In America and the world today, I can think of no more helpful Better Endings topic than “Building Bridges,” so that will be the theme for the blog this whole year. Please see the Monthly Topics tab for our list of topics we will address.  Generally I will  introduce a topic on week one, then the next two weeks I will share my own and others’ stories pertaining to the topic, and week four I will present a Better Endings approach to the topic based om insights gained throughout the  month.

For January, let’s get started with the topic of: “Overcoming Schismogenesis–Go for the Win-Win.”

The insightful psychological anthropologist Gregory Bateson, in his book Steps To an Ecology of Mind, wrote about the psychological dynamic principle of schismogenesis. He explained this as being in effect when two people or two opposed groups of people get into an argument that becomes more and more heated, each side “digging in” more and more deeply to diametrically opposed or binary points of view. Each party in the argument holds to their truth as if it were absolute, insisting that the other’s point of view is patently false and unfounded.

“Fake news!” each might proclaim about their opponent’s ‘facts.’ The wedge widens with each new round of the argument. It is as if both parties or groups are inhabiting distinct ‘thought worlds’ that exist at polar-opposite or perhaps in parallel worlds of Reality.

Does this sound familiar? Try watching a left-leaning newscast then switch the channel to a right-leaning rendition of the same ‘news’ story. This polarizing of worldviews creates what is tantamount to a civil war of ideas, each side certain they are right because their side of the argument has become established over a long period of time and is reinforced by like-minded, equally entrenched folks.

It is probably nearly impossible to overcome schismogenesis by continuing to mount opposing arguments. Bateson suggests that the two parties, such as a husband and wife caught in such a headlock, should back off, separate for a time and agree to revisit the situation at a later date without holding to either of their original positions. They need to find a win-win solution that involves each side giving ground and compromising for the sake of preserving the deeper relationship.

images are from pixabay.com

What can we agree on? What do we both want apart from our differences? Is there a way we can build a bridge to arrive at a new, fusional sort of solution that meets the common goal even if we must sacrifice more partisan objectives?

Let’s construct a hyptothetical.  Spouses argue over whether to stay in and cook (one party to do the cooking) or going out (the cook wanting that option instead). Cost is involved; but the cook is tired from working all week too. Perhaps the solution is EITHER that they go out but to a less costly than usual restaurant and share the expense, or they have fun making a meal together, sharing the load.

So, try it out! Let me know if you are able to build a bridge in your own relationships. Go for the Win-Win and everyone gains!

Building Bridges through Service: Introducing A New Year of Better Endings for Your Life Path

 

Every year in December or January since 2016 I have introduced a new, yearly Theme for this blog about how I or you might develop Better Endings in our lives. This new year, bridging over to it this month, I would like to focus this next year’s monthly topics around the theme of “Building Bridges.”

When I look at the society I live in today and our global experience as well, it appears that to achieve both our individual and collective Better Endings we could all benefit from exploring and putting into practice ways to address or build bridges between highly polarized viewpoints. Some say we are living in a “tribal” sort of culture in America today, and in many other countries as well. Whether this is a result of polarization in our access to social media and news perspectives or primarily through the increasing gulf between political party outlooks, allegiances and goals, we are exposed to conflicting viewpoints daily. I feel that this extrinsic polarity and factionalism can reflect and/or could threaten our internal psychological and spiritual sense of integration or harmony.  Our very selves, let alone our families and communities too, may be subject to a greater sense of inner conflict or fragmentation to the extent we allow this, because of the challenging times we inhabit.

So every month this year I will set forth to explore a topic relevant to the overall theme and goal of “building bridges,” aiming to develop some positive outlooks and practices that might help me or any of us to heal or to improve upon tensions that might arise because of a polarization of viewpoints.

Let’s get started. This month I would like to both close this last year’s quest for manifesting happiness and to open this new year’s probe of “building bridges,” via exploring the topic of “service.”

I find that service is one of the best ways for me to be immersed in being happy in the moment. The expression “In service is my reward” feels exactly true for me. Whether through teaching or writing or listening to a friend or even walking my dog, the aspect of giving love through any form of service lifts my spirits.

Isn’t it interesting how service builds bridges? In providing a service, all are served equally (or should be, of course).  Political divides nearly dissolve when I interact with students, even when we know each other to hold different positions outside of that connection.  Why?  I feel it’ s my responsibility to be respectful of all points of view with students, so I may be better able to listen to points of view I might otherwise react strongly to when it is a student voicing the viewpoint. Of course, if there is a radical or extreme viewpoint I am likely going to say something to make it clear I cannot agree, with a clear focus on facts from the topic I am teaching about, but even so I do aim to be respectful and to encourage the student to explain their position clearly.

In giving service it is perhaps more natural to assume an equality-based connection, what I like to call “Soul Equals Soul.” So the question becomes, how can I be of greater service to the whole even while I am a consumer by choice of biased news or charged information? This shall be my December focus in preparation for a year of Building Bridges as a Better Endings theme.

In the Balance: Building Bridges

In this eleventh month of my yearly quest to comprehend and achieve happiness, I realize how in many ways now, I am happy. Despite losses and coming to terms with leaving my friends to relocate/ semi-retire, and with two good friends having recently departed this earthly sphere, both from complications due to breast cancers, nevertheless I am happy to be where I am and to be living the “life of my dreams,” to date.

My November sub-quest is about Balance, another major necessity for achieving a lasting happiness, in my own life and I would say in the world at large too. There is so much polarization of values and beliefs today. It is easy to take a side and hold to a one-sided perspective even to the point of reviling other persons, opposite political parties or policies. Certainly we are not in a condition of societal or widely shared happiness these days, at least not in the U.S.. Avoiding communication with those with whom we expect to disagree becomes disengagement and expands the rifts between us that further divide the whole.

images are from pixabay.com

Where is the balance, how is it to be achieved? This week I am personally contemplating how to build bridges rather than perpetuating the Divide. I believe that approaching communications by looking for ways to bridge conflicting viewpoints or attitudes externally will bring healthful benefits internally as well.  Impersonal, unconditional love can be the foundation of such bridges.

Love unites, it does not seek to divide; it heals wounds and gives ground, even when it may be necessary for people or groups to separate or to agree to disagree for the sake of serving the higher interests of all concerned.

I am reminded of the well known passage from Corinthians (13:4-8), so let me start my own probe this month by putting forth this contemplation seed (from Gatescorer.com):

 

Why Are You Here?

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June is my birth month, this year I’ll be 65. I find myself living my dream, now, as I have discovered, purchased, and moved into my dream retirement home in a beautiful natural setting, with a dynamic community, and with excellent regional resources and opportunities. I must admit, this scares me! Will it all come crashing down, too good to be  true? This trepidation reveals to me a self-limiting postulate that I need to confront and resolve in order to go forward with this fresh set of life conditions. My monthly question becomes:

Why Am I Here?

I have always recognized the double entendre of this age-old question, ‘Why are you here?’ Why here, at this physical place and time; or also why Here, in a spiritual sense. These two are connected from the perspective of Purpose. What am I here to do, be, and see? This also relates for me to a search for greater clarity regarding an even deeper concern:

How Can I Serve?

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Wednesday night last week I happened upon a sci-fi movie on TV that I had not heard of before, called “Passengers.” It was about two people on an interstellar spaceship traveling some 88 years to reach a habitable planet. Some 5000 passengers had been cryogenetically suspended for the duration of the voyage, but a malfunction caused one man, Jim, to resuscitate early, and after over a year alone, he revived a woman, Aurora, whom he had developed a fondness toward from watching her autobiographical video records. This was an atrocious act of selfishness as it meant Aurora, too, would die in transit before the ship could arrive at its destination.

(Spoiler alert): After an initial phase of believing Jim’s story that she had awakened accidentally, Aurora becomes enraged after a robotic bartender informs her of Jim’s actions to assuage his own loneliness. But my interest in this story piqued when the ship developed further malfunctions that required Aurora and Jim to work together to repair the vessel if the ship were to reach its destination at all, and for all its passengers to survive as well as themselves. It became a matter of Purpose then; I could surmise from a spiritual perspective that there had been no accidents at all in the revival of this man and this woman, with their particular skillsets and their survivalist personality dispositions. They were needed to save the ship and its passengers, a purpose of collective, not just personal, good. Their lives then took on a heightened significance; they had a purpose, a reason to be who/ what/ where and when they were in their own sojourns of discovery and service.

Already I have had a waking dream about this question, from a conversation with my sister who is a pastor in New England soon to be retiring after more than 40 years of serving as interim pastor in many churches. We arrived at the awareness:

Love Is All There Is.

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images are from pixabay.com

For all of our human questioning as members of an often overly self-conscious species (my dog Sophie and cat Emily do not have this problem!), I do feel that at the foundation of everything–of all sentient experience–is Love: unconditional, untaintable. I sense if I can connect these principles of service and love I can accept that I, like everyone, am indeed here for a greater purpose than personal satisfaction or material success. Therefore I have a right to be Here-Now and am willing to step forward to fulfill whatever service opportunities I can. Already here and now, I am writing!

I welcome YOUR Story and Comments!

Stephen Hawking from the Other Side (or, What’s Love Got to Do With It?)

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This year we are exploring and pursuing our dreams here at Better Endings. Each month I invite you to put forth a deep personal question that relates to your high spiritual quest, let’s say, for it pertains to your greatest sense of mission or life purpose, in this life or beyond.

After posing your question (week 1) I encourage you to pay attention to and record your nightly dreams (week 2), then to contemplate your waking dreams and emerging insights about your question (week 3), so by the end of the month (week 4) you can compose/ write a Better Endings story or scenario about how best to incorporate what you have learned into your future Life Path.

I am excited this week from a dream I had yesterday morning (4/9) and to reflect on how it pertains to my own monthly personal question (but, please use your own): What’s Love Got to Do With It? (or, Does/ How Can Love Matter?)

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In my dream I am at a campus of—truly—Higher Learning (n.b., always use present tense in recalling your dream). First I am visiting a sports field where teams dressed in white and azure blue are playing a game akin to soccer except they use thought impulses to propel or to counter the ‘ball’ along the field a to goal area. A middle-aged appearing man approaches the field to observe the game with us from the right. I think to myself, ‘Is that Stephen Hawking?’—from his shock of hair though it is reddish here, and from his lithe step…until I realize this man is not in a wheelchair, which throws me at first.

Then I wheel/ drive a wheeled chair vehicle to carry a friend (woman, semitic appearing) to a special meal event. (This part was so important in my dreaming that it had an instant replay so I would be sure to recall it on waking.) The guest of honor at this honorary meal was indeed Stephen Hawking! This time he appeared more like I would envision him though he was seated upright and without any wheelchair or speech problems.

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The people who had organized and were hosting this special event are two of the greatest spiritual leaders I have been fortunate to know: Luisa and Gordon (last names not used here for their privacy), who are superb leaders with a spiritual group I have been associated with in Colorado. Several other guests at the table include a couple of other folks from that group and some special, once famous bright thinkers who have ‘passed on.’

Hawking shares a new insight he has gained since translating his form into the higher planes with the death of his physical form. Luisa observes that the principle he is describing could help ‘the Poor’ (though she qualifies that she is not yet sure if she would support such use for the sake of wanting people to strengthen rather than being dependent on quick solutions). Hawking agrees. He says that ‘students’ can, ‘even now’ (i.e. in the Physical, I surmise) use this principle to create abundance to meet their immediate needs, by manifesting through some sort of feedback loop effect, “reflecting (thought? spirit?) back on itself.” This statement is so astounding and exciting to me in the ‘dream’ that I wake up immediately on hearing this (btw, a good way to remember an important lucid dream message is to train yourself to wake up right then).

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So, “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” Everything. My bigger question about Love this month is ‘(How) Can Love Matter?’ which itself more deeply asks: Is there (after all) a meaning and purpose or positive results from living this (i.e. a particular) lifetime? As Love Is All, the basic fabric of the Universe and all things and Spirit Itself that fills such universe (my view), What/How Can Love Matter (“in the End”)?

In this dream of Stephen Hawking continuing to grow and share his uniquely gifted insight from Beyond in an after this lifetime context, well then, Wow!

Love/ Life/ It CAN and often DOES Matter, Very Much!

A lifetime of experience is not wasted and provides spacetime for developing or honing awareness and, hopefully, wisdom. We are unfolding this individualized awareness and character not just in a single lifetime (my belief includes the assumption of reincarnation to the point of eventually transcending even that); and not only in our current bodies that carry us along for a life cycle, but beyond that as well.

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images are from pixabay.com

It comes down to what we can do with the love we have expressed and the awareness gained in a lifetime of focused experience. The old adage, “you can’t take it with you” does not abide here. True enough, we do not take or physical body nor our material acquisitions with us as we translate from this lifetime into the next/ other dimensions. But we do retain our individualized consciousness as a facet of our higher Soul awareness, a spark of divine wisdom, a molecule in the creative fountainhead, from the Ocean of love/life force Itself (my limited view, of course).

So, goodbye to Despair! This has been my deeper concern over the past few monthly themes. (This) lifetime can/ does/ shall matter, for Love is All, the source and basis of all transcendent awareness. This reminds me of a useful insight:

“Soul is a happy entity.

IT cannot be any other way.”

(Paul Twitchell)

I welcome YOUR Story and Comments

Ehwaz—A Better Endings Answer to ‘What Then?’

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Week Four of each month this year I am inviting you to write your own Better Endings story or scenario relating to going forward in your life based on insights you have gained from contemplating a monthly question pertaining to your personal life Quest.

For me through February I have been contemplating the personally meaningful question of ‘What Then?’  I have arrived at some valuable insights from dreams and ‘waking dreams’ about this question.  One amazing dream showed a woman (a spiritual Guide and/or my realtor) ceremoniously carrying a large spruce branch as she approaches the new home I am in process of moving into as my new writing and retirement home. This was a wonderful image as I associate a spruce branch with cleansing and with new growth, so this dream vision portends great new potentials for a fresh, creatively productive life in my new home and location.

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Just this past Tuesday I received another very relevant waking dream: a photographic slide made into a pin that was among a set of these the Art History department where I am teaching left out for people to take as a gift. The ‘art pin’ slide image I selected is a sculpture called “Horse and Rider” (by Maria Marini, 1945-1950). The abstractionist metal sculpture depicts—to me, though at closer inspection online the rider is nude (see below)– a Medieval knight wearing a helmet astride a horse whose head juts forward while the rider has his arms fully extended outward to both sides.

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I have always found the symbol of horse-and-rider significant personally. The Nordic runes I have sometimes consulted have a Horse and Rider “partnership” rune called Ehwaz.

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images are from pixabay.com

This rune draws attention to a partnership or friendship relationship of any sort (with another person, animal companions, or a creative project).  Here is an interpretation:

How to Interpret “Ehwaz”  (https://www.ifate.com/rune-meanings/what-does-the-ehwaz-rune-mean.html) :

Most simply put, Ehwaz symbolizes ‘forward energy and movement’. Ehwaz may represent general travel and steady progress– or it may literally represent a car, plane or another method of transportation. Ehwaz also symbolizes communication over long distances, and can refer to an important message that one will give or receive. Harmonious concord and pulling together as a team is also referenced here. When Ehwaz appears in a spread, it empowers the runes around it and augments their meanings simply by virtue of its directional energy and forward movement. Teamwork, forward-motion, communication, and consistent drive will win the day when this rune turns up.

So, let me try my hand at a Better Endings story based on this image of Ehwaz along with other insights arrived at this month from asking ‘What Then?’:

‘What Then? sang Plato’s ghost;

What Then? W.B. Yeats

            My partial retirement and relocation to the Godsend of my new home are about riding forward, not settling back into any less active or less creatively or spiritually productive way of life. This gift I have gratefully accepted of retiring a bit earlier than most while still continuing to teach online from a remote location allows me to step up, not down; to continue to develop book sales and offer life mapping services related to my new book, Your Life Path (see side panel to order!) while writing forward to complete the next 2-3 books in my Life Paths series.

 Your Life Path

Horse-and-Rider is an image meant not only for myself alone; it betokens what the Life Path Mapping Process provided within my book can offer to anyone: a creative, practical toolkit for integrating and aligning the Self with Life Itself; i.e. with Spirit or the Universal Life Force. Life Path Mapping can help anyone to reflect upon and envision or even re-model their life course according to their highest, deepest sense of purpose, their Life Dream.

I ride forth from Here, arms outstretched and open to new potentials, to fulfill the life purpose that has brought me to this space. I ride my Spirit Horse with trust and loving gratitude, whatever the future might bring.

The horse-and-rider partnership also reminds me of one of my favorite Irish film stories, Into the West. A set of brothers have lost their mother and have been separated by their despondent father from their spiritual heartland and heritage as Travelers. A white horse depicting the mythic Tir na nOg arrives and transports them, propels them, back to the Western seas where they will metaphorically reunite with their Mother, with their very Soul.

Funny that my current relocation process propels me Westward from where I have temporarily paused en route to re-engaging my deeper Purpose. I accept! Thank You, my Spirit Horse, my family, friends and pet companions all, and my spiritual Guides. May the Blessings Be!

So what about you? I encourage you to journal or to write a Better Endings story about your recent insights regarding a deeply meaningful question you have been pondering. Writing can help you to exteriorize your process and keeps open the channels of communication between your Mind, Heart, and Spirit!

 

 

 

Reading the Tea Leaves (Pay Attention to Your Signs)

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“Not everything has meaning!”
(my college fencing coach Roxanne, en route to a competition in NYC)

Later, to myself: “No, but anything can!”

I am a huge believer in using outer signs for listening to and following inner guidance. I have found through long experience that so long as I reflect deeply and act in a balanced way in response to ‘waking dreams’ that catch my attention while I am mulling over some question or pursuing some meaningful goal, good things follow.

Responding to outer signs can help to keep the flow of communication open between Spirit or the Universe, Inner Guides or whatever you prefer to acknowledge, and your own higher awareness. The more you can progress in tandem with your inner nudges or guidance, the easier it becomes over time to wend your way through challenging situations and key decisions; and, life is more fun!

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So what are your ‘tea leaves’ telling you this month about some meaningful question you are pondering? Pay attention to the slightest waking dreams or outer signs: random seeming thoughts or insights you may have; statements that stand out to you from a passerby or on tv or in your reading; roadside messages on signs that you pass, or even bumper stickers that catch your eye… Any of these or several taken together could offer you a breakthrough insight on your problem or query.

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Some people like to set up an image or a specific object that they will see if their potential decision is correct.

If you want to try this, you can set up a sign of affirmation for your question that would not be common or likely for you to see, and you can set a time frame as well for encountering your sign. When I was working on my final book proposal for Your Life Path (see right panel), I set up the sign of a blue butterfly if I was going to be able to find a publisher. Right around the time my wonderful literary agent began circulating the book proposal, I started seeing blue butterflies everywhere. This encouraged me with every step of the proposal and publishing process. Now I have several items in my home with blue butterflies on them to remind me that this book process has initiated a longterm project, with much yet to come for me to fully realize its potentials in terms of writing and service.

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images are from pixabay.com

What are you asking to better understand or what decision are you weighing? Pay attention to YOUR outer signs; they are all around!

What Then? (Week Two: the Dreaming)

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For Week Two of our monthly Better Endings process this year, I ask you to reflect on your dreams or inner guidance with respect to a monthly personal question or quest.

I have been dreaming a lot this past two weeks since posing the question, “What Then?” In one dream a friend standing behind me introduces me to a couple of potential new friends in a new location. As I am in transition already, moving gradually to my new home in a new town for me, this seems quite likely! I took note of the appearance of the two potential new friends so I might recognize them when or if this comes about outwardly.

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Another dream shows me (from my dream journal): “approaching a space, like a hole on a white membrane, that if I were to enter, it ‘would go on forever… like a wormhole’.” It felt like a purification portal of some sort–I woke up wondering what it would mean to enter into that space and sensed it would be “transformative” and that it indicates a passage to embracing or becoming/ joining with “all that IS.”

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images are from pixabay.com

These two dreams taken together both are positive indicators that the new direction I have already embarked upon is a forward motion, advancing into new potentials. A step into an apparent void, perhaps, yet clearly full of positive potentials. The wormhole-like image felt as though to enter would be like a death or a near-death experience. Yet it was placed before me as what is next, something I must enter into, a natural passage of spiritual development even though it is a mysterious movement into a void or the Unknown.

Ready, Set, I Accept!

What are YOUR dreams telling you this week or month about some deep personal question you are contemplating? I encourage you to keep a dream journal and to review it at least once a week. I had forgotten the “wormhole” dream until reviewing my dream journal. (Interesting, though, how I used a wormhole picture in last week’s blog post when I first established my monthly quest for understanding.)

Dream On!

What Then?

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“They went from world to world,

and each time they lost the world they left, 

lost it in time dilation, their friends

getting old and dying while they were in NAFAL flight.

If there were a way to live in their own time,

and yet move among the worlds,

they wanted to try it. …

(Ursula LeGuin, “The Shubies’ Story”)

I envisioned. Wrote, edited,published, prepared for the Big Move, left… to live my dream, Now! Arrived at one place, then searched for the next. Found it. A refuge for me and my pet family. Moving, again.

But, why all this? Or as W. B. Yeats once asked:

“What Then?”

His chosen comrades thought at school
He must grow a famous man;
He thought the same and lived by rule,
All his twenties crammed with toil;
What then?’ sang Plato’s ghost.  ‘What then?’

Everything he wrote was read,
After certain years he won
Sufficient money for his need,
Friends that have been friends indeed;
What then?’ sang Plato’s ghost.  ‘ What then?’

All his happier dreams came true –
A small old house, wife, daughter, son,
Grounds where plum and cabbage grew,
poets and Wits about him drew;
What then.?’ sang Plato’s ghost.  ‘What then?’

The work is done,’ grown old he thought,
‘According to my boyish plan;
Let the fools rage, I swerved in naught,
Something to perfection brought’;
But louder sang that ghost, ‘What then?’

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I once posed a similar or perhaps it was the same question to a Philosopher, my college mentor, Dr Antoinette Patterson in Buffalo, NY.  I was glum that day.

“So, what?”

I asked Toni in her office, there for an independent study session on a topic we had agreed to, the ‘philosophy of Silence’. 

“Take out a pencil and a piece of paper, and write down

two words and a question mark:

So   What ?   Your assignment by next week

is to answer that question.”

Bemused by my mentor’s response to what I thought was a futile question, I went off to seek for answers.  I read an essay by Emerson called “The Transparent Eyeball” and many poems and essays about silence, thinking somehow that must connect. Who was I beyond my embodied personality; what was Life beyond the day to day back and forth of conversations and classes?

When I went back to Toni’s office for our session that next Wednesday, she was waiting for me. After I shared about what I had been reading and journaling about, having not really answered the question at all, she took me to a far corner of her office where she had set up a card table with a large, empty sheet of sketch paper she had laid across it. She had me write “WH-” words on every corner of the page:

What? 

Why?                                            Where?

When?

Dr. P. then used a pencil to draw connections between these WH- words, allowing the  lines of connection to intersect at the center of the page where she drew a blank circle and wrote in that space one word:

W  H  A  N

There before us on the page was our answer to the proverbial question.

So What?

Whan.

In that moment in that office on that one day, nothing seemed clearer than that one discovery: the answer to every question about meaning or purpose, about Why/ Where/ When/ What resolves to a singular unity: WHAN!

As we discussed what is WHAN, I realized it meant not to worry about Why? or what Matters. Life IS, therefore life is meaningful of Itself alone; and no amount of thinking or wishing or proving or disproving would ever have any effect upon that which simply IS. Whan! and so Life flows forth and I must with it, wherever It may lead.

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images are from pixabay.com

So this is my monthly Better Endings life question to answer for myself this February:

What Then?

I sense this is the natural follow-up question to the discovery of Whan!

I welcome YOUR Story and Comments. I encourage you to form a personal monthly question to explore with your dreams and contemplation this month.

Better Endings Stories/ Month One

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The process I am encouraging you to engage with this year is a Better Endings approach. Week One for each month you may pose a personal question involving a deep personal life goal or pursuit. Week Two: record and reflect on your nightly dreams for insights about your question. Week Three: look for Waking Dreams that could further help you to understand and resolve your question. Then Week Four (this week for January), I invite you to compose or creatively envision a Better Endings Story about how you CAN manifest a positive future scenario with regard to your personal quest.

Creative visualization via active imagination or contemplation is a fun, helpful Tool that lets us exercise our Higher Self imagination.

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So, let’s have at! It can help to give a title to your Better Endings future scenario. Use the insights you have been gathering about your question throughout the month. My own BE Story for January, by way of example, is:

Writing Forth

The path is being cleared even now for me to go forth, to finally settle into my writing future at my new home. It is amazing how swiftly the universe of Spirit has opened this new space which is exactly what I need for moving ahead.

Now is a time for doing what I can to prepare the ground and nourish the roots for future growth. Interesting how my sister gave me a spruce/ evergreen tree which is sprouting new growth wildly now and that my strongest dream was of a woman in white clearing the path ahead with a spruce branch. 

I will design my new home, which I am closing on this Friday, as a constant writing retreat. There is a writers group that meets Fridays 10-12 at the nearby library from there. And it is closer to a wider community interested in body-mind-spirit topics with which my writing projects connect.  I can finally settle down to publish the first of my science fiction/ fantasy books while also offering life mapping services re. Your Life Path (see right panel to order) and completing the second manuscript on the Life Paths series.

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images are from pixabay.com

So, I invite you to reflect on a question you have been pondering this month (or you can establish one now). What insights have you gained this month as you contemplate your question? It is part of your greater Life Quest. Once you have assembled some of your insights around your question, write a Better Endings Story!

I welcome Your Story or Comments.

The Waking Dream

 

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Am I a man, dreaming I am a butterfly?
or a butterfly, dreaming I am a man?

-Lao Tzu

Life is like a dream, truly! Waking and sleeping are simply different states of consciousness. When you think of the outer or waking life as like a dream, this can help you to recognize that the same principles that operate in the dream state are also happening ‘out here.’  The dreamlike images or symbols you see in your day to day life can offer guidance for some action or direction to take. (Btw the best book I have found about this is The Art of Spiritual Dreaming, by Harold Klemp.)  So when you are pondering a meaningful question, look around you to recognize serendipitous outer signs and guidance. These are waking dreams.

I remember once, long ago in Arizona when I was a grad student there, I got angry one day. Almost immediately after fuming for a bit, I sat on and broke my eyeglasses. Immediately I saw that was a waking dream showing me how my anger was distorting my vision or perspective. This was a wake-up call. I corrected my viewpoint, quickly!

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So for this second week of the monthly process for this blog this year, I invite you to pay attention to outer signs or waking dreams to help you understand and find answers to one deep question you are considering this month.

My question this month is about how I can revitalize my writing activity. My waking dream is a quote I saw in a recent horoscope: “There is a part of you that isn’t your body, your words, your thoughts, or your feelings. This part of you is doing something mysterious and exciting!”

Reflection:

I usually have been so driven with regards to my writing. Lately I am in a cocoon-realizing that publishing my recent book (see right panel to order YOUR LIFE PATH!) was only a first step and does not of itself accomplish my purpose without more effort on my part to “get it out there.” When I move again (beginning in February and completing by June) I will resettle into the process for continuing this process and completing the second book in the Life Path series. For now I must be content to fulfill my current responsibilities with teaching and preparing for the move.

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How about you? What are you pondering this month? Look around you for waking dreams that can bring solutions, guidance and understanding.

I welcome YOUR STORY and Comments!

Dreamin’

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Last week I invited you to state a personal question for the month to explore by reflecting on your dreams, your inner guidance, and outer ‘signs’ or synchronicity (waking dreams). Please review your question again or develop one now. This week, I invite you to reflect on your question by posing your question inwardly to invoke nighttime dreams about your topic, and/or to review and reflect upon your recent dreams that are relevant to your question.

For my part, second week posts will include some dream tips as well as modeling from my own process and experiences.

Dream Tip:  A.C.T. on your dreams! To me this means: 1) ASK for (and then ACCESS or record) dreams that are relevant to your personal question. Then 2) CONSIDER or CONTEMPLATE the messages from the relevant dreams you receive. And 3) TAKE ACTION based on the dream’s message as you understand it, to manifest positive personal growth and development.

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Dreams are our personal inner laboratory for exploring any question, principle, or choice we may have as well as being a fertile, unlimited field for exploring the inner landscape of the Cosmos!

Example: My own question for this month is about how I can revitalize my writing activity and move forward with that creative and service oriented process despite being overburdened with responsibilities and necessary new home mortgage procedures (I will be moving again, gradually from Feb 1 til July, and meanwhile moving back and forth between two residences as of Feb 1.) This week I am asking for dreams and reviewing my dream journal (Tip 2: Always keep a dream journal and review it often.)

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I have kept a dream journal (within a larger journal usually) since I was twenty.  I know that when I do have a pressing personal question, reviewing my dream journal will always throw light upon that question because I know we mull over our deep questions inwardly sometimes even before we are consciously aware of the importance of a challenge or issue we are pondering.

Some dream journal entries relevant to my question:

8/12/18 [just after relocation]: Dreamed of worry over future employment and service potentials after graduating from grad school [as though I just had left college]. I know this represents my lifelong concern over making a difference: ‘What difference does it make?’ or settling into a life with a lack of creative productivity.

8/18/18: An adventure dream –in story form– Russell Crowe as the older and me as the younger Self. We stop by a room with xmas decorations we have set up, en route to some upcoming activity. I see someone else, a friend from from my past, will be involved with that upcoming activity.

8/27/18: Dream of presenting a partially completed manuscript to  an advisor–thinking it was in good form but open it and it is like a seafood gumbo: a miasma! So, it is back to work.

1/6/2019: See a lady in white going before me and to left along a trail going upwards, carrying a large pine branch. I follow humbly and am grateful.

This morning (1/9/19): Mulling over a question about how to proceed forward and am shown this  “hole” on a white field, that sucks in like a whirlpool drain in a sink…maybe a wormhole! But as I contemplate whether to dive into it (as being proposed inwardly for me to do), I have a fear because I am told the “It goes on forever!” My fear is that everything I have ever been, known, or done will be dissolved, and if it goes on forever, how will I ever emerge to have any solid reality ever again? (on waking, think the message is that this positive, needed leap of faith is to be very deeply TRANSFORMATIVE!)

REFLECTION/ INTERPRETATIONS : 

Two of the dreams show a higher (or elder) and a younger (or outer) Self, or a Guide I am learning from or following. That Higher Self/ Guide is blazing a trail or helping me with my creative and spiritual ambitions. The pine branch means clearing a pathway forward (and now I see the lady in white possibly as my current realtor who has found my next location, a great space for writing!) The future is about transformation and will require dropping the past…plunging into the void of new experience!

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images are from pixabay.com

So, dear Better Endings reader, go forth! Review or start a new dream journal for this year’s process and ask/ write out your question inwardly, then review your Dreams.

I welcome YOUR Story, Questions, and Comments!

Personal Growth

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Welcome to the new year at Better Endings! Each month I shall be inviting you to explore and contemplate a question related to your own personal growth. Week One you can pose the question. Week Two I invite you to work with your dreams to find messages relating to your query. Week Three you can further pursue outer signs and ideas to arrive at some solutions and practices you can use, and Week Four I will invite you to journal about or write a Better Endings envisioning that reveals your movement forward with regard to your question that month (see Monthly Topics page).

I will be modeling the process week by week with excerpts from my own experience/ questions, and I invite you to keep a journal of your own self-exploration process. I welcome any stories you might wish to share either in the Comments area or you can send me pieces to post between the weekly sessions (see Share Your Story page).

For myself I will be pursuing a general question for the whole year, with individual monthly questions that are part of the overall inquiry for personal growth and development. I am asking: How can I establish true Happiness, outwardly as well as inwardly, from my present  and developing circumstances after having recently retired and relocated across country ‘alone’ though with my dear pet companions Emily (cat) and Sophie (Shorkie dog).

For January, I pose for myself a more specific question: How am I to revitalize my writing and related public service activities despite the busy life I have taken on in my new location?

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When I first arrived at the idea for this yearly process for the blog this year (last week), I was at a restaurant having breakfast. The waitress seated me in a half-booth directly facing a painting on the back wall that captured my attention. The picture was a colorful carnival scene. A young woman riding in the air on an airplane carousel ride was waving down to a younger, nondescript figure of a younger person who was riding on a merry-go-round and waving up at the woman from below.

I recognized this picture as a waking dream about the very process of personal growth  I hope we can achieve with the blog this year for all who partake of the weekly journaling and contemplation approach. The picture represents communication between Soul or one’s Higher Self and Self (one’s outward, temporal personhood).

While the younger Self rides along with the ups and downs of the carousel ride of life, s/he can take heart to know that their Higher Self looks on!

I realized how the Ups and Downs of life are both equally important, both balanced by an overview perspective of inner guidance and personal reflection and growth. One dips and then resurfaces; rises and then returns to balance along the learning curve of a life of challenging experience and joy.

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images are from pixabay.com

So with regard to my personal first question for this month, I see an initial clue in this painting. I have been in the doldrums for the past six weeks about my writing goals, allowing myself to be so busy outwardly with other activities that my writing process has been put to the side. This picture tells me to keep looking UP, to communicate with my Higher Self and inner guidance in order to see more of the Bigger Picture. Outer activities are preparing the way for further unfoldment to come.

I welcome YOUR Story or Comments!

 

A NEW YEAR of Better Endings

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This new year at Better Endings for Your Life Path let’s explore Tools for Better

Endings. I will introduce and model the Tools each week and I invite YOU to

practice Better-Endering on your own! You are welcome to send me your story

(lkwatts@uccs.edu) if you would like me to share it on the blog (I will give you an

author’s byline if you’d like for your Better Endings reflections or story). 

We will practice FOUR Tools for Better Endings relating to a personal Question or Goal you can set in Week One of every month: 

Week One (of each month):  I invite you to set a personal Question related to a Goal you are contemplating in your life.

Week Two:  Consider any DREAM events, dream messages or dream images relating to your Question or Goal. You may reflect on current dreams or on earlier dreams you still can recall that relate to you Question or Goal.

Week Three:  You can explore your inner guidance that relates to your Question or Goal. For instance, what waking dreams, mindful insights, synchronicity, or Golden Tongued Wisdom are you aware of that relates to your Question or Goal?

Week Four:  I invite you to journal about or write out a Better Endings Story. With this story or journal entry you can envision a Better Ending solution and implementation of that solution and insights you have gained with regard to your monthly personal Question or Goal.