Mapping Your Spiritual Life Path

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Each Life Theme that threads through our lives, interweaving with other Themes to form the fabric of a life creates its own warp and weft; its own pattern. Some Life Themes are uplifting while others might hold you down in the doldrums or could oscillate between highs and lows like a roller coaster ride.

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You can map any Life Theme to discover its pattern in your life.  Start simply by making a list of “shaping events” relevant to that Theme. Shaping events are events or situations that “have shaped the person you have become.”

After listing events for a Theme you can assign an impact score from -5 to +5 to rate the retrospective negative to positive shaping impact of that event, including binary or dual impact scores (e.g. +3/-2 or +5/-5) to indicate events with both positive and negative impacts.

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So I invite you to make a list of events you associate with Spirituality in your life.  Note the age you were at when each event occurred and assign retrospective impact scores. After composing this list then I invite you to PLOT these events on a chronological Life Path grid, as shown above. Plot the impact scores on the positive and/or negative spaces above and below the Age Line. You can connect binary or dual impact events with a vertical line crossing the neutral Age Line.

Now you can simply connect the dots–the relative highs and lows of adjacent events on your chart–to reveal the pattern of influence of Spiritual events on your life over time.

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images are from pixabay.com

When I map my own Life Theme of Spirituality (privately), I realize how spirituality has been the buttress  of my life always. After a time of seeking which had its ups and downs, once I found a path that works for me it has continuously provided an upward drift to my life. It is the wind beneath my wings and helps me understand any and every event as meaningful and positive.

What is YOUR Story? I invite your comments or questions.

The Force of Spirit

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Spirituality is one of my core Life Themes. All of my life it has been a motivating force to my thoughts, questioning, and adventures.

Spirituality brings depth to any experience. It frames experience as gifts and as lessons to grow by.  It provides guidance and protection as a source of inner guidance. It illuminates the meaning and purpose of life events and relationships. It nourishes and supports one, always.

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To map the Theme of Spirituality over the life course can be revealing. One of my earliest “shaping events” based on what I would come to understand as Spiritual was that when I was around 7 or 8 I recognized a “blue man” in my conscious awareness. Somewhat like an invisible friend, the Blue Man was with me always, in my thoughts as well as my actions. I could pose questions to him and he would help me understand things generally. Because of him, I for awhile believed that all adults, not just him, could read my thoughts and knew everything about me; I even thought animals, though choosing not to speak, could do the same.

I remember as well when I was around twelve I stayed home from school one day. I was shy and for some reason wanted to avoid going in that day, though really I was only “faking” being ill. For some reason that day my mother was angry with me; I do not remember why but I do recall feeling guilty, perhaps for malingering. I went to my room an wrote in my diary. I remember writing a lot, painfully confronting that maybe the Devil had sent me to this world, but even so I chose instead to be a vehicle for God! When I discovered this little diary several decades later and found that diary entry I was surprised; the entire entry was about one sentence long! But that was a Turning Point for me. From then forth I have always sought to be a positive agent to be of spiritual value in the world.

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images are from pixabay.com

What about YOU? What are some early ‘shaping events’ involving spirituality in your life? How have these affected your sojourn through life to Now? What lessons do you take forward from these?

I welcome your story and comments!

 

 

Live and Learn

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To live is to learn and to learn is to live, nest-ce pas?  That appears to me to be what life is all about, along with developing our capacity to give and receive unconditional love, and to survive.

I am grateful for being on a definite learning curve, having recently relocated just with my beloved cat and dog, across country from Colorado to central New York.

With a major relocation comes tremendous opportunity to ‘create the life of your dreams.’  At the same time it is rife with challenges: how to make the right choices so as not to recreate patterns or habits of thought or behavior you aim not to continue while establishing conditions for true growth and spiritual prosperity.

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So, here’s a thought.  When you set out to make a major move or a significant change of any sort, for instance either geographically or with work or a relationship, ask yourself what Life Lessons from earlier experiences do you intend to apply to establish new conditions rather than having to relearn these same Life Lessons yet again? There is a spiritual principle that says, once you have truly learned a significant lesson from some experience which has repeated in your life, you can finally move on. After crashing or butting into the same wall many times, psychologists would tell us, finally we might choose to walk AROUND that same wall when it shows up—and it likely will—yet again!

I invite you to reflect on some key Life Lesson that feels appropriate with respect to some new life adjustment upon which you are or soon will be embarking.  Is there one Life Lesson in particular that you would like to avoid having to re-learn this time around, once and for all?

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For me one of my core Life Lessons is to ASK and to LISTEN for (and then to ACT upon) inner guidance, before making major choices.  I aim to avoid acting primarily by ‘trial and error.’ This definitely applies to my search over this next year for a retirement home that will allow for me to fulfill my full life potentials and ambitions from here forward. This includes a goal I have set for myself with this relocation: To Be Happy! Not just to fulfill responsibilities and be ‘safe,’ I mean—though those will always matter—but to find a range of happiness, stable and complete, that I have perhaps always been seeking in this lifetime.

This goal reminds me of Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha (the Buddha), whose smile to his friend Govinda at the end of the story is a message of how to attain enlightenment:

As Govinda thought like this, and there was a conflict in his heart, he
once again bowed to Siddhartha, drawn by love. Deeply he bowed to him
who was calmly sitting.

“Siddhartha,” he spoke, “we have become old men. It is unlikely for
one of us to see the other again in this incarnation. I see, beloved,
that you have found peace. I confess that I haven’t found it. Tell me,
oh honourable one, one more word, give my something on my way which I
can grasp, which I can understand! Give me something to be with me on
my path. It it often hard, my path, often dark, Siddhartha.”

Siddhartha said nothing and looked at him with the ever unchanged,
quiet smile. Govinda stared at his face, with fear, with yearning,
suffering, and the eternal search was visible in his look, eternal
not-finding.

Siddhartha saw it and smiled.

“Bent down to me!” he whispered quietly in Govinda’s ear. “Bend down to
me! Like this, even closer! Very close! Kiss my forehead, Govinda!”

But while Govinda with astonishment, and yet drawn by great love and
expectation, obeyed his words, bent down closely to him and touched his
forehead with his lips, something miraculous happened to him. While his
thoughts were still dwelling on Siddhartha’s wondrous words, while he
was still struggling in vain and with reluctance to think away time, to
imagine Nirvana and Sansara as one, while even a certain contempt for
the words of his friend was fighting in him against an immense love and
veneration, this happened to him:

He no longer saw the face of his friend Siddhartha, instead he saw
other faces, many, a long sequence, a flowing river of faces, of
hundreds, of thousands, which all came and disappeared, and yet all
seemed to be there simultaneously, which all constantly changed and
renewed themselves, and which were still all Siddhartha. He saw the
face of a fish, a carp, with an infinitely painfully opened mouth, the
face of a dying fish, with fading eyes–he saw the face of a new-born
child, red and full of wrinkles, distorted from crying–he saw the face
of a murderer, he saw him plunging a knife into the body of another
person–he saw, in the same second, this criminal in bondage, kneeling
and his head being chopped off by the executioner with one blow of his
sword–he saw the bodies of men and women, naked in positions and cramps
of frenzied love–he saw corpses stretched out, motionless, cold, void–
he saw the heads of animals, of boars, of crocodiles, of elephants, of
bulls, of birds–he saw gods, saw Krishna, saw Agni–he saw all of these
figures and faces in a thousand relationships with one another, each one
helping the other, loving it, hating it, destroying it, giving re-birth
to it, each one was a will to die, a passionately painful confession of
transitoriness, and yet none of then died, each one only transformed,
was always re-born, received evermore a new face, without any time
having passed between the one and the other face–and all of these
figures and faces rested, flowed, generated themselves, floated along
and merged with each other, and they were all constantly covered by
something thin, without individuality of its own, but yet existing, like
a thin glass or ice, like a transparent skin, a shell or mold or mask of
water, and this mask was smiling, and this mask was Siddhartha’s smiling
face, which he, Govinda, in this very same moment touched with his lips.
And, Govinda saw it like this, this smile of the mask, this smile of
oneness above the flowing forms, this smile of simultaneousness above
the thousand births and deaths, this smile of Siddhartha was precisely
the same, was precisely of the same kind as the quiet, delicate,
impenetrable, perhaps benevolent, perhaps mocking, wise, thousand-fold
smile of Gotama, the Buddha, as he had seen it himself with great
respect a hundred times. Like this, Govinda knew, the perfected ones
are smiling.

Not knowing any more whether time existed, whether the vision had lasted
a second or a hundred years, not knowing any more whether there existed
a Siddhartha, a Gotama, a me and a you, feeling in his innermost self
as if he had been wounded by a divine arrow, the injury of which tasted
sweet, being enchanted and dissolved in his innermost self, Govinda
still stood for a little while bent over Siddhartha’s quiet face, which
he had just kissed, which had just been the scene of all manifestations,
all transformations, all existence. The face was unchanged, after under
its surface the depth of the thousandfoldness had closed up again, he
smiled silently, smiled quietly and softly, perhaps very benevolently,
perhaps very mockingly, precisely as he used to smile, the exalted one.

Deeply, Govinda bowed; tears, he knew nothing of, ran down his old face;
like a fire burnt the feeling of the most intimate love, the humblest
veneration in his heart. Deeply, he bowed, touching the ground, before
him who was sitting motionlessly, whose smile reminded him of everything
he had ever loved in his life, what had ever been valuable and holy to
him in his life.

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images are from pixabay.com

I invite YOUR Story and Comments!

Yes I say, Say YES with Relocation

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So I have relocated, to a Dream Life sort of scenario in Ithaca, NY.  And it really is spectacular, a lovely community nestled in an idyllic environment of lakes and forests, birds and abundant cultural opportunities. And as Relocation always offers new possibilities to create the life of your Dream, I am practicing a basic principle of Relocation as I begin this new adventure:

Say YES!

Of course you will sometimes want to practice right discrimination to also say No (to repeating pathways to bad habits from the past, e.g.), but all in all I am saying YES to opportunities as they arise. The Universe/ Spirit, I find, is meeting me at the precipice of this new adventure, presenting opportunities.  I have met a small community of Eckists (my spiritual group) at a class last week, which led to lunch with two of these new friends yesterday and my agreement to transport a new friend to a weekly meetup group, and to travelling with new friends to a spiritual service in Syracuse tomorrow. I responded to discovery that a local college (one of my favorites: Ithaca College!) might have adjunct teaching positions available, so I applied a couple of months ago and–long story short–I will be teaching there as well as in Colorado via online teaching, come this Fall semester! Another online lead has led to the chance to meet a potential new friend who has welcomed me to the area.  And people here are NICE, so far everywhere.

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Say YES is I believe an important principle when working in tandem with Spirit/ the Universe (however you wish to construe this), always. It can lead you forward so long as you trust (and exercise) your ‘instinct’ and WELCOME new directions, new connections, a new life.

Of course old friends will always be on my mind as I move forward here. It does seem impossible that my friends and colleagues of the past 25 years are now as remote from here as my family was while I was living in Colorado. I aim to continue to nurture these connections. But I am ready and willing to step forth with this new Life Chapter, too. As much or more lies ahead as in the rear view mirror.

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images are from pixabay.com

Life is ephemeral, as a remembered W.B. Yeats poem (click here) states. Friends, family and this life as a whole is on loan to us from Divine Love/ the Universe. It is what we do with our associations that matters. Separation is only a temporary illusion, one might also say. New friends may be Souls we meet again.

I welcome YOUR Comments and Story!

Life Mapping Your FRIENDSHIP Theme

 

After assembling a list of Shaping Events, situations or events that have “shaped the person you have become,” a life mapper looks at how these events group into kinds of events, or Life Themes. Then the mapper charts these events, color coded according to the Life Themes they have identified, plotting them as points on a graph to indicate the relative positive and/or negative impact each of these events has had upon their life overall. This life mapping process, presented fully equipped with tools for you in my new book, Your Life Path, reveals the PATTERNS by which your Life Themes have interwoven to create the very fabric and texture of your life experience.

images are from pixabay.com

FRIENDSHIP is a very common Life Theme people identify in their Life Maps. To create a thematic mapping of just this one Theme, you can simply make a list of Shaping Events or situations you associate with Friends or Friendship in your life history. Next to each event include the age you were at when the Shaping Event occurred, and rate the event +5 to -5 in terms of its retrospective impact on “the person you have become.”  Then you can use a Life Map Chart as shown below to plot the relative impact scores of your Friendship Theme using the Age Line as a timeline for the events. Where adjacent events feel connected subjectively (e.g. a -2 event of a loss of a friend followed by a +4 event of regaining that friendship), you can draw a line on the chart connecting those event points.  The resulting chart will reveal patterns in your Friendship Theme. You could also subdivide your events by individual friendships or by types of friendships, then use color coding for the events and for the lines connecting these sub-theme events to reveal deeper subtleties in the patterning of your Friendship Theme over time.

Friendship has been bedrock in my own life story, right up there with Family and Pets. My Friendship Theme has been an uplifting factor overall, with primarily strong positive impacts throughout my life, though there have been troughs (sharp dips) due to loss either from moving away from a friend or needing to separate from a friend either temporarily or permanently due to a personality clash.

So, have at! I welcome YOUR Comments or Story!

 

Family–Where Our Lives Begin

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For May, our Life Theme topic is Family. In the over 550 life maps I have helped people create, I would estimate over 95% contain Family or an aspect of that (e.g. Parents, Mother, Father, Sister, Brother, Grandparents, etc.) as a primary theme that has been a fundamental ‘shaping’ factor in their lives.

Of course, for most Westerners at least, Family is most often the dominant Life Theme in one’s early, formative years, then after a person ‘leaves the nest’ for school or a job or marriage, the original family may be less of a direct, daily influence. Yet because it was THE primary influence throughout childhood, our family is with us ALWAYS, unconsciously if not physically.

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pictures are from pixabay.com

So, reflect about how influential your family has been in shaping the person you have become. For this opening week I invite you simply to journal or tell a story about the role your Family has had in your life. I may add my example next time.

I welcome YOUR Comments and Story!

Your Archetype Allies

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The Wheel above depicts twelve primordial, universal persona Archetypes developed by Dr. Charles and Nin Beabeau and Debra Breazzano MA, LPT, as they have taught about at the erst Avalon Archetype Institute, Boulder, CO. I am honored to be able to represent and utilize this pantheon of archetypes in my new book, Your Life Path (YLP; also see right panel).

In YLP, I invite the reader/ life mapper to associate several of these universal archetype characters with the reader’s own Life Themes, which are those recurring situations or types of events in their lives in which they have developed distinctive ROLE IDENTITIES.

As this month here we are exploring your Life Theme of Work or Career, I invite you, first, to consider which one or more of the archetypes in the wheel above you might associate with your Work related role identity. Circle those in the wheel, and you might wish to journal about how these archetypes are active in your work persona.

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Next, in the center of the circle state a situation you have been ‘mulling over’ lately. Perhaps it is a decision you are needing to make, a choice of some sort, or just a general topic you have been wanting to take some action on but have been feeling ‘divided’ or ‘torn’ about.

Look through the rest of the Archetype character modes on the Wheel to consider if some of these other facets of your Total Self System might also be appropriate to include in considering this central situation or decision. Circle or underline those as well on the Wheel.

In the blank spaces of the spokes (feel free to print out this blog and enlarge the wheel on a copy machine), ASK each of these archetype sub-identities that you have marked on the Wheel what is their individual viewpoint pertaining to the situation you are contemplating.  You can write in bullet points or actual dialogue statements about the situation from the distinct, differing POINTS OF VIEW of each of these role-Archetype perspectives. Also, ask each of them (and note their responses on the Wheel) what they recommend as a solution to the decision you face.

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Does this help to throw some light on your issues pertaining to the situation you are considering? What solutions or compromises might this suggest? Remember, your Archetypal sub-identities are your Allies. Combining them rather than acting on the basis of only one of these role personas or guises at a time can be an integrative process that allows you to go forth with greater holism and internal harmony.

I welcome YOUR Comments and Story.

Life Lessons from Your Work

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In today’s world most of us engage not just one job throughout our adult lives but several, from early jobs as a youth gaining some experience or training to later career work that might be better attuned to our interests and sense of purpose.

As a self-discovery exploration I invite you to make a list of your workaday jobs.  Note your age when you started and (if) finished each job, and write a brief job description. Then consider for each job:

What LIFE LESSON(s) did I take away from this activity?

To pilot this Tool, allow me to briefly engage with this myself to see where it may lead:

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  • Horse drawings (around 6-7 YO): I loved to draw horses (always wanted my own horse and never had one, though I did get to help with horses at local stables in Pennsylvania with my sisters and friends). After feeling I had mastered a basic horse drawing design, one day I went around the neighborhood door-to-door, offering my artwork for a dime per drawing. Neighbors were supportive and I felt a sense of accomplishment. LIFE LESSON:  It is okay to share with others your creative products.
  • Ice picking at the community Peach Festival in Lewiston, NY (15 YO): First paid job, and I didn’t stay with it long enough to be paid.  Terrible work without any safety gear. I still have scars on my hands from inexpertly hacking away at a block of ice for some stall owner who did not care.  LIFE LESSON: Use proper discrimination before accepting a responsibility; be sure you will be capable and safe.talkeetna-1624101__480
  • Crab and salmon cannery, Yakutat Alaska (19 YO summer) LIFE LESSON: Life is a Great Adventure!fruit-3215625__480
  • Grape vineyard and peach orchard, solo farm hand (20 and 21 YO, summer work to help pay for college spending): This was my first real job, a job of choice. I knew I needed to work but did not want a “normal” job such as waitressing or secretarial labor. This was outdoors and I worked mainly alone in the fields or driving a tractor. The farmer gave me many responsibilities, which I loved! (…Until the day he became inappropriate with me; I left shortly after that, not to return.) LIFE LESSON: Follow the beat of your own Heart; Enjoy responsibility and work hard to excel.   I learned how I dearly love to work hard and produce positive results.
  • Ushering and parking booth attendant at a new performing arts center (22 – 24 YO) : I enjoyed every aspect of this and was promoted to Head Usher. LIFE LESSON: Exciting opportunities abound (I almost accepted a job in NYC becoming a nanny for a world class symphony conductor’s family; loved the variety of shows and the elan of performance.)architecture-3111558__480
  • Tutoring English at my undergraduate college (21-22 YO): Fell in love with teaching. LIFE LESSON: I can be of positive service through sharing knowledge by helping facilitate learning in others.
  • Research Associate and Teaching Assistant, and Faculty adjunct at community colleges, while in  graduate school (14 yrs in grad school). LIFE LESSONS: Many. professor-1993129__480
  • University teaching (pre-tenured and then tenured faculty, and Chair two terms), 25 years. LIFE LESSONS: The importance of following my own inner guidance and developing detachment from academic politics or personality clashes; enjoyment of working with wonderful students; also the value of maintaining my spiritual focus and creative activities separately from the academic setting.fantasy-3313964__480images are from pixabay.com
  • Spiritual services roles (44 yrs, many different roles and opportunities). LIFE LESSONS: How to be a spiritual co-worker with others in voluntary roles; and how to stand back to help facilitate spiritual seeking and growth in others.
  • Writing for publication (many years): LIFE LESSONS: Persistence, commitment, dedication, willingness to work and rework; editing; then eventually morphing the project to team-based efforts and ultimately being able to release and share the work with as broad a readership as the book may reach. (Joy and the desire to produce more in service to Life!)

So, what might your history of Life Lessons from Working reveal? I see in mine a widening arc of responsibilities and a growing love of creative expression and Service. I love the feeling of independence that comes with varying responsibilities along with the expansion of knowledge and the capacity to grow from working with others as well as alone. I can hardly separate work from life as a whole, as the lessons have abounded holistically.

As I now prepare for a fast approaching retirement from my main academic position, this exercise has helped me to understand that this process will never dissipate but will only continue to expand!

So, what is YOUR story? I invite you to engage your own reflections about your Life Lessons from Work!

Your History of Work

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Life Mapping allows us to retrace our meaningful life events and glean lessons from key moments and trends from our life experience. Life Path Mapping (see my new book, Your Life Path; info on right panel or click to order) asks you to identify significant kinds of recurring events or situations in your life as Life Themes. Certainly one of the most common Life Themes life mappers identify is WORK (or CAREER, or some particular work-related activity).

Every distinctive Life Theme may be mapped, and in that sense every Life Theme can be “mined” to discover its importance over time in your cumulative life history that comprises—when you reflect upon its meaningful qualities—your Life Story. So this week let’s explore your History of Work, your Work Story.

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Life Mapping of itself is quite easy and natural. The chart below is a plotting flowchart. Make a list for yourself of a representative sample of Work and/or Career related meaningful events from your life. Next to each event, you can record the age or age span you associate with the event and write a brief narrative record of what happened with that event (so you can easily recall it when you read back through the list later).

Next to each event record, take a moment to reflect about the relative positive and/or negative IMPACT of that event on “shaping the person you have become.” That means, from a retrospective perspective, reflecting back on the influence of that event or situation, was it mainly positive, mainly negative, or both?

(You may print out this post and enlarge the Life Map Chart, below, to use as a worksheet, or create your own.):

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On the life map chart, first list your events chronologically along the central/ neutral Age Line. You can place the ages when your events occurred below the Age Line to create a timeline. Then use a pencil at first anyway to place a dot or an X above and/or below the age marker for each event, charting by how positive and/or negative that event was to you. If an event feels to have been simultaneously positive and negative, you can rate it as such; for example: +5/-5, or +2/-4. If you rate an event as having been both positive and negative at the same time, also write in a vertical dotted line connecting the positive and negative polar points on your chart to represent this as what we can call a “binary” event. If you are representing a series or phase of events, you can mark the rating for the beginning point and the ending point relative to the timeline and put the ages for these below the Age line, then below the age markers you can draw horizontal vertical braces to show the span of that situation or phase in your life.

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images are from pixabay.com

Now then, looking at your chart of Work/Career related events and their relative positive and/or negative impacts as Shaping Events in your life, you can also connect the dots: draw lines on your Map connecting event points IF they feel to be related in a patterned way to one another.  For instance, if you had a negative early Work activity or event followed shortly after that by a more positive event, then if that feels like it was a meaningful transition in your History of Work, go ahead and draw an upward trending line connecting those two points on your Map. You can also color code your event points to group them in a meaningful way; such as using a different color for each different job or to show a career shift.

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Have at! Once you have completed your History of Work life map, reflect on your Work Story: what story does this Map tell? What meaningful periods (or chapters or stages, so to speak) have you engaged with in your Work Story? What meaningful Life Lessons have you gleaned from the phases of your Work/Career process over time? What TRENDS do you observe? I invite you to contemplate, journal about, and share about your Work Story with a loved one.

I welcome YOUR Comments and Story!

BOOK LAUNCH! (My Vocation: Live Your Dream, Now!)

Just Released March 6 by Skyhorse Publishing:

Your Life Path

Naturally I am thrilled and excited about the release of my book, Your Life Path: Life Mapping Tools to Help You Follow Your Heart and Live Your Dream, Now! It is available from Amazon (including hardback, Kindle and ebook), Barnes & Noble, and Indies; and I see there are now several other suppliers online as well (ISBN-10:1-63144-078-0). This book has been my life passion-in-process for the last 15 plus years, folks. It is the culmination of my entire career as a cognitive/ linguistic and cultural anthropologist yet it is a mainstream self-discovery, personal growth and development book that provides a comprehensive Life Path Mapping process and Toolkit.

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I have developed and taught from the fun, creative techniques provided with the book with large scale classes, individual coaching programs, and workshops (which I will continue to offer).  This is a potentially life changing, “rites of process” approach that lets the reader/ life mapper review your Life Story to Now; reflect on where you are at currently in relation to your values, life interests and goals; and then (re)claim, envision, and plan a practical yet energizing pathway to set a course and go (Live Your Dream, Now!).

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I really do highly recommend this approach to anyone facing any sort of life decision or transition or who simply wants to discover and reflect upon the amazing potentials of your own Life Story.  I have witnessed many individuals who have achieved transformational insights from life mapping. The very process of reviewing your Life Story AS A STORY to now, with meaningful Shaping Events, Life Themes, Life Chapters bounded by key Turning Points as chapter turners, and an awareness of the parallels of YOUR story with classic myths and popular epics brings the life mapper to an overview Joseph Campbell called being a Dweller at the Threshold, able to look back and also forward.  Then the Life Path Mapping Process guides you to effectively CROSS THE THRESHOLD to truly manifest the vitalizing yet flexible life of your dreams.

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As well, with this book’s Tools you will be able to Meet & Greet (truly) your very own “ensemble cast of mythic/archetype characters.” Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, you too have an inner unconscious cast of often submerged but always influential “inner” parts of Self that each needs your help to strengthen and to integrate/ come together with your greater Self to help you manifest your highest potentials for this lifetime.

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Envisioning and realizing this book as a Personal Growth and Development book and life mapping handbook has been my VOCATION over the past fifteen years. I published a scholarly book (The Life Map as an Implicit Cognitive Structure Underlying Behavior, Mellen Press, 2010) with articles about my research studies that led to the development then of the self-discovery Tools presented for the first time to the general public with Your Life Path. So of course this is very exciting for me but more than that I really do recommend this book highly to any reader!

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Your Life Path will be in indy consignment stores around the country and I will be doing signings in several local stores (yay) to try to get the word out. If you know of friends (and yourself of course) who might benefit from a fun and innovative approach to learning more about your Self and how to go forward to live your best life… please check this book out and share this post or the ISBN number with others in your blog or Facebook or email groups. I honestly don’t mean to sound boasting or overly “selling” of anything…that really is not who I am (an introvert in general, and not prone to self promotion). But I do want this book that I have nurtured and developed for so long find Its own deserving audience so others can benefit from the approach I myself have been blessed to pilot every step of the way. It is in fact my own Life Dream coming into full fruition, Now!

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images are from pixabay.com

I am grateful for the opportunity to serve Life and thank YOU for reading!

Re-Vision a Relationship (Past, Present or Future)

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For our final February weekly post about the Life Theme of RELATIONSHIPS, I invite you to consider how you might wish to have changed or to currently ‘tweak’ some aspect of a meaningful relationship in your life. With the divine gift of imagination, you are capable of effectively “re-visioning” your relationship events; past, present or future.

It may help first to consider if there is a PATTERN about some of your relationships that you would choose to alter if you could.  This is an active exercise; it is about what YOU CAN/ COULD have done differently–or would do differently today–that might have lead to some different results.  Re-visioning a past event or situation can have a profound influence on your current disposition when it comes to actions or decisions you could be contemplating now, so that you can avoid pitfalls of the past.

The strength of this exercise is that it brings your present awareness to bear either on a past situation or more mindfully upon a present set of circumstances.

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So do this with full exercise of your (re-)constructive imagination. Once you have identified a pattern you would wish to change and you have remembered a particular moment in a particular relationship which itself you feel you might/’should’ have enacted differently in retrospect, imagine yourself IN THAT MOMENT again. This time, change  the conversation or the action knowingly, with the awareness you have since gained. Journal or internally dialogue with the other person in this relationship moment. Let him or her speak, and respond or initiate your own conversation as it could have been rather than as it was.  Listen to the other person and see that they listen to and hear you deeply.  Continue the scenario in your imagination until you bring it to a new level of resolution. As you emerge from your reverie, give yourself time to reflect on how the future might have been altered from this re-visioned exchange.

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I find that when I do this re-vision the past technique–and I have often as a life mapping tool (see right panel)–it really feels as if not just the memory of the event but the actual event itself HAS CHANGED. I feel less attachment afterwards to the initial triggering moment and better equipped to approach any similar situation in the present or future.

I welcome YOUR Comments and Story!

How to Mend a Broken Heart

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So it’s Valentines month and we are exploring the RELATIONSHIPS Life Theme here at Better Endings. I had a post for Valentine’s Day but was sick with the stomach flu so am just going to let that one go by the wayside. Now that Valentine’s is over this current topic may be more appropriate: How to Mend a Broken Heart. Not that everyone needs this but Valentines Day (or week) allows us to reflect back on both the good and lasting loves of our life as well as the more difficult relationships that need our attention too. Life mapping involves a holistic embracing of your total Self and of your total Life Story, and we can learn often as much or more from past challenges as from  our current success stories.

Troubled relationships from our past (or present) can trouble us for a lifetime, if we let them. It is helpful to nurture yourself with regard to your pain and loss, to help heal these effectively so you can go forward with a more open heart.

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The Better Ending sort of story that comes up for me around this theme is a scene from the wonderful movie Steel Magnolias. When I first saw this film I cried for hours, starting in the theatre and continuing after it was over. It touched a deep chord for me about family and friends, along with pets my own closest relations. At the time I was (still am til this August) living far from my family, and this film reignited my love and sense of loss for being so far away.

The scene–I will bet you will have guessed it–that I think can be helpful for anyone to help mend a broken heart is with Sally Field as M’Lynn Eatenton, after the funeral for her daughter Shelby, a diabetic who has died in childbirth. M’Lynn asks “why?!” (click below to view on YouTube.)

This is an amazing scene, beautifully acted of course by the amazing Sally Field along with Olivia Dukakis and Shirley MacClain.  What I love about it is how expressive she is of her feelings. She doesn’t hold anything back! It is wonderful to purge ourselves when we feel grief. Let it out! Release your true feelings. Allow your pain to surface and flow forth into the universe.  Scream out at God if you need to. Why DID this have to happen?  What is left now?

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images are from pixabay.com

Healing requires Letting Go, as Elizabeth Kubler-Ross has written of so beautifully in her many books about Death and Dying. And you cannot Let Go until you come to terms with your loss and allow yourself to grieve.

I welcome YOUR Comments and Story!

Map Your Relationships

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Life Mapping lets you review the trends and potentialities of each of your Life Themes within the epic adventure of your lifetime! This year at Better Endings for Your Life Path we are exploring one Life Theme per month (see monthly topics) by using and reflecting on life mapping techniques; for February we are focusing on Relationships.

Many life mappers identify Relationships as a primary Life Theme, either directly or according to sub-themes like Family, Romance, Pets, and/or Friends.  I would like to invite you to choose one or more of these topics to map across your life course. If you choose more than one, then I would ask you to color code the events you will map for each Theme you are exploring.

The basic technique of life mapping which I will be presenting fully with my upcoming book, YOUR LIFE PATH (see right panel!), invites you to first make a list of Significant Life Events pertaining to your Theme(s), then plot their relative impact on shaping “the person you have become.”

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First then, make a list of events or situations involving key relationships in your life. You can make separate lists if you are exploring more than one Relationship theme, like one list for Romantic relationships and a separate list for Family or for Friends events (or do one at a time). Keep a wide left margin on your page. Let this be a list of events or situations that have influenced you in significant ways. You can start with the earliest or with the most impactful life experience involving this Theme, then feel free to recall earlier or later events freely (you will order these chronologically later).

After you have a list of key events, in the wide left margin next to each event, note the age you were when this occurred (either a single date or a time frame). Then ask yourself, “How has this event or situation impacted the person I have become?” RATE the event or situation relative to the time frame when it occurred, from -5 to +5, where -5 is extremely negative and +5 is extremely positive. Note that you could rate the same event as both Plus and Minus in its impact, such as -3/+5 if you recognize the event has had both a negative as well as a distinctively positive impact on your life for one reason or another.

Now then, you can use the Life Map chart below to simply PLOT the impact scores you have used to rate the relative positive and/or negative influence of each event in your list. Use a pencil (you can copy this post and enlarge the chart or make your own separately) to put a dot or an x along the time line , marking onto the 0 to +5 or 0 to -5 lines to represent your events. Plot these impacts according to the relative age you were when they occurred. You can write your Age for each event along the center, neutral Age Line.

You can “connect the dots” of your plotted events on the chart to reveal trends or PATTERNS of how this Theme has unfolded in your life.  Connect two plotted events especially if they seem somehow connected to you as forming a trend, like if you went from a negative experience to a positive one, or if a series of events were all negative or all positive (or neutral = ) on the chart).

It can help to draw a vertical hash-marked or dotted line where the event you have plotted is so significant that you may feel you were “a different person” before and after this event occurred. (These are your Critical Life Events or Turning Points.)

If you want to map more than one relationship sub-theme, repeat the above steps for each Theme you are interested in exploring.

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images are from pixabay.com

After plotting your Map, review it. Journal or contemplate (or both) or talk with a loved one about the PATTERNS you observe in this Theme. If you have mapped multiple Themes, do you notice differences in the patterning of each of these as they have interwoven within the fabric of your Life Story?

I welcome YOUR Comments and Story!

Relationships as a Life Theme

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As we are exploring monthly topics around LIFE THEMES, threads of experience that carry a pattern of content, February seems a good time of year to focus on Romance or, more generally, Relationships. Certainly RELATIONSHIPS is a primary Life Theme for most people in one form or another (e.g. Family, Romance, Friends). Like all Life Themes, RELATIONSHIP threads that weave through one’s Life Chapters and Life Story can be uplifting, inhibiting, or even like a Roller Coaster ride when it comes to their pattern of influence and impact on our lives overall.

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Since Relationships are so ubiquitous in most of our lives, let’s take some time this month to focus on various sorts of relations. For myself at 63 and single some 15 years after a long string of romantic adventures, romance is honestly no longer an interest after too many strains of Ups and Downs in that arena. I would rather focus my own Relationships Theme around the wonderful connections I now enjoy with family, friends, and my dearly beloved pet companions, just two days ago reduced by one as I had to send on his Soul journey after 16 years with me my dear companion cat Loki, due to kidney disease.

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images above from pixabay.com

If I were to map my Relationship Theme (which I will invite you to do in the next post), just in recent weeks of my current Life Chapter it would reveal quite a ‘wild ride,’ mostly very positive despite dips or deep troughs of sadness and loss. My mother’s passing just two weeks ago tomorrow brought our whole family together for a blessedly very positive time of sharing and remembrances. We are strengthened by our unconditional love for one another, which brings great joy and gratitude.

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photo by Jeff Watts

My relationship with my mother herself I feel is actually strengthened as I have been recalling to memory all of the wonderful ways she skillfully and lovingly parented me and imparted positive values in all five of her children and grandchildren.

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Elizabeth Anne Rugh Watts

May 25, 1927 – January 23, 2018

We gain so much from our close relations. We learn so much in a family of diverse Souls as in a community of friends and cross-species families, too!

I welcome YOUR Comments and Story!

Map Your Life Theme of HEALTH

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This  year as we focus on Life Themes for our main topic, each month I will give you the opportunity to “Map” the monthly Theme as it has patterned in your own Life Story.  Let’s begin with HEALTH as a Life Theme.

Mapping a Life Theme is a very simple self-discovery process.  First, list a series of significant health related events in your life. Make a note about each event so you will be able to read through these sequentially. Order these Health events chronologically just by numbering them from earlier to later, and it can help to place a relative date after each one on your list.

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Now then, rate the relative positive and/or negative impact of each event as it has influenced you in your life. Use a scale from -5 to +5, with a zero score representing a neutral impact score.

Use the chart shown below to PLOT the positive and/or negative impacts of each event along the five grid lines above or the five grid lines below the central line. This chart represents a time or Age line from left (earlier) to right (Later). You can mark your age or the relative date of each event along (just below) the timeline. If you rated an event with both a positive AND a negative impact (which is common and fine, e.g. +3/-2 or +5/-5), then plot both the positive and negative values for that single event vertically at the same date along the time line and connect the positive and negative values with a vertical line.

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After you have plotted the relative impacts of your Health events using the Life Mapping grid above, you can also CONNECT the dots (events) to reveal the overall PATTERN of this Life Theme in your life.  Especially when some of the events that are adjacent to each other on your chart reflect a CHANGE or a STABILITY of some health factors, connecting the plotted points can reveal TRENDS in your Health Theme over time.

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images are from pixabay.com

After you have plotted the Ups and Downs of your own Health related Life Theme, I invite you to contemplate and journal about what you discover from reviewing how this Theme has operated in your life over time. Has it primarily been positive/ uplifting? Or a deterring factor, or very steady? How has Health been an influential factor in your life? Would you wish to change anything about it? How might you do that?

I invite your Comments and Story!

What are Your LIFE THEMES?

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Here is a very simple and effective way to identify your Life Themes, those recurring situation and relationship types that form the “stuff” of much of your life activity within the Life Chapters of your Life Story:

  • Reflect and write a LIST of 10-15 significant events that have “shaped you as the person you have become.” This does not have to be an exhaustive list, and the events or situations on your list do not have to have been earth shattering, just significant.
  • After you have composed your list of significant “shaping” events or situations, read back through this list several times and SORT your events into KINDS of events. Assign personally meaningful NAMES to these Kinds of Events. These are your LIFE THEMES.

You may list your LIFE THEMES below and you can print out this post to remember them:

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Now if you like, you can compare your list of LIFE THEMES with the twelve monthly Themes I have selected for us to focus on this year at Better Endings for Your Life Path. (You can also find these by clicking on the Monthly Topics menu tab.)

January –     Health

February –   Romance/ Relationships

March –       Vocation

April –          Work

May –           Family

June –          Adventure/ Travel

July –           Friends

August –      Relocation/ Moves   

September– Education

October –     Spirituality

November – Pets

December – Life Lessons

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images are from pixabay.com

Are some of your LIFE THEMES similar to the monthly Themes listed above? You might benefit from associating your LIFE THEMES with some of these monthly topics, then I encourage you to focus on YOUR Life Theme issues and lessons as we focus on these topics this year. I will provide active imagination and journaling prompts to help you to reflect on your own experiences.

I welcome your Comments and Stories!

Resurrection / Rebirth!

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The final stage of the Hero Cycle that we are exploring with this year’s themes is that of Resurrection / Rebirth. ‘The End’ is always a New Beginning!  Whether or not you believe in reincarnation (I do), we live out our lives in epic proportions, undergoing many cycles within greater Cycles as we spiral through our life experiences to reach the heights of our aspirations and fulfillment.

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With my research into life path mapping that I have conducted over the last fifteen years, I have discovered there are three primary types of Life Course Schemas or cultural models of a lifetime that are overlapping in our cultural outlook today. I call these Linear, Cyclic, and Seamless Life Course Models. I want to describe the Linear and Cyclic Life Course Models for you here.

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Linear Models are predicated on a long held view of the life course emphasized in developmental psychology and proposed primarily by Erik Erikson in 1950 (Childhood and Society). This model postulates eight developmental stages everyone passes though as they mature. (You can read about this also in Gail Sheehy’s book Passages and in her later, updated New Passages book). Many of us have been conditioned according to this Linear-stages or step-by-step model of a lifetime, but in today’s “post-modern” reality, this Linear model really does not hold up so well for most people. Instead of ‘one education, one job or career, one relationship,’nowadays most of us find ourselves needing to be flexible and to adapt to major interruptions of our plans as we go along.

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The Cyclic Life Course Model accounts for our need to adjust to life’s changes. I have found in my interview research that people who have experienced major, early life disruptions as a child such as from their parents’ divorce tend to have developed a Cyclic Life Course model on their own. Some will say life occurs in cycles like decades, seven year cycles, twelve year cycles or some other periodic cycle. These folks also say they do not experience or worry about “mid-life crises,” because as one cycle ends and another begins, they always have the opportunity to refresh and renew!

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images are from pixabay.com

So how about you? Do you hold to more of a LINEAR model of life, with set stages of development you aim to achieve? Or do you hold a CYCLIC view of life instead, remaining flexible and open to start anew when a cycle ends for another to begin? (BTW, You might hold instead to a SEAMLESS model, believing that life just happens and you can adjust to whatever comes your way.)

I invite you to contemplate and journal about a CYCLIC approach to your life. Make a timeline of major life events to see if you discover any sort of cyclical pattern there. If so, where are you at in your current cycle? Are you ending a minor or major cycle? Starting a new one? Or are you right in the middle of one cycle, giving your all as you develop your talents and relationships?

I welcome YOUR Comments and Story!

Happily Ever After

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Certainly one of the greatest elixirs is Happiness. After attaining our worthy goal, we achieve a degree of happiness which we can carry forward with us into the next ordeal and adventure. Probably most people would claim greater happiness—for themselves and for others—as a measure of success, whatever their endeavor.

What makes you happy in the deepest sense? I mean, not only in the moment but long-term? A child (or a pet’s) smiling face (or their playfully wagging tail or purr), a beautiful mountainscape or an Oceanside sunset: these bring a valuable though transitory happiness. They warm the heart and bring a smile. They reveal, I would say, a deeper state of intrinsic happiness. They reveal a harmony of Nature, an innocence of Spirit; breaths of fresh air, a tonic to the Soul!

Still, how can you expand your condition of happiness beyond the fleeting moment?

So I ask again, what could make you Happy in the grandest sense? Is it your job? (Stay then! Take it as far as you can!) Or your relationship(s)? Then Bravo/a to you! Or maybe it is your chosen environment, where you experience At Oneness with the All One? (More cosmic, loving power to you!!!)

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For many people, enduring happiness is yet an elusive goal. Achieving their ultimate happiness shall be a result of fulfilling their most ardent endeavors (or, it may be found in the very practice of those endeavors themselves). Many will gain their enduring happiness by serving others and/or producing good works; by fulfilling, that is, their sense of Purpose and their Mission for this life.

So now, what is your Purpose; what can you claim as your Life Mission?

As a personal example, my life mission inflects on several levels. I have a spiritual Mission, which I do not feel the need to share. On a practical level, I have always sought, in one form or another, to serve the Whole…that is, to embrace and express my own inherent wholeness as well as to serve however I can the greater Whole of the community, family, fencing team (e.g.), and the world in which I live. Like many, I have always strived to make a positive contribution—whether through teaching, sharing in general, through responsible service, or through writing/publishing.

“What difference does it make?”

“It doesn’t matter!”

These were my calls in the wilderness to God, my deep laments through at least the first five decades of this life. So then, I would try harder, work more.

Until, gradually, as on cats’ feet, the Process itself—e.g. of communicating, teaching, contemplating, writing, living—has become fruitful in itself, in the moment of Doing, Being, or Knowing.  I find that I am still very goal-oriented, yet now my goal and the process I engage with to fulfill the goal have merged as one focus; see?

With this transformational shift from a ‘product/goal’ to a ‘process’-oriented mindset, now that I check in with my Self, Happiness has set in!

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images are from pixabay.com

This is not to presume that I am always “happy” in the glib/ surface sense. That has never been my goal. Actually I can sometimes let things bother me now just as much if not more than ever before. This comes from my passion for advancing what is in process. Disruptions or interruptions of this forward arching flow can set me back, but only long enough overall now until I can accept and absorb the lesson (for there is always a lesson!), and move on.

What Is Your Life Mission?

My upcoming book that is announced in the right panel of this blog, Your Life Path, is my best contribution so far to serve the Whole. This book provides a complete/ original Life Path Mapping process with its chapter-ending self-discovery Tools. I have developed and practiced this approach over the last fifteen years, through interview research, analysis of results, producing a previous academic book on the subject, and—more importantly—through developing the embedded self-help Toolkit from applying the mapping and reflection process with large classes of students and with many individuals, as a “life path mapping” coaching approach.  It has been helpful for many and even deeply transformative for some.

The Your Life Path Tools can guide you gradually yet gently to review your past, to reconsider your present with regard to how you have reached where you are in life now; then to explore your values, your inner conflicts and challenges (from an archetypal psychological  perspective), and to reveal your deepest, most integrative goals. It leads you to express and embrace your Life Mission; then to claim your Life Dream and plan a fulfilling future course, beginning here and now, to live into the life of your dreams!

I do invite you to check out this book if it may serve you. You could pre-order using the url address in the right panel, either through Amazon (as a book or ebook), Barnes & Noble, or Indies. I will be offering a preview webinar series on Life Path Mapping by December (I will post about that as it becomes available).

And so, wherever your life path leads you to:

Go For It!

A Te Sante!

Be Happy!

Live Your Dream, Now!

I always welcome YOUR Comments and Stories.

Marry Your Future, with a Vision Board!

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Maybe this is a bit of a stretch for our topic this month of The Sacred Marriage, but I find myself sitting at my office desk and looking at my bulletin board that I realize I have turned into a Vision Board.  I have embarked upon my final year of teaching before publishing my book, Your Life Path, and then retiring and relocating to focus full-time on writing and life mapping services.

I pilot every life mapping tool that I will be introducing with this book, and the art of “future casting” is a big part of this approach.  Any form of creative envisioning of what I like to call your future Lifescapes can be helpful to you in manifesting the life conditions you desire to express.

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On my Vision Board bulletin board I have the poem Ithaca by Cavafy (You can click on the Youtube video embedded below, narrated by Sean Connery!):

I also have a collage of images that represent my journey ahead to realize my Life Dream.  It shows my future ambitions and goals:

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To create your own Vision Board, simply imagine!  What CORE VALUES do you intend (not simply wish for or hope to do, but INTEND) to establish in your future Dream Come True?  Even if your most desirable future is the life you are living Now, what core values are you manifesting that you intend to extend and embellish further on the road ahead?

Goal setting is not about–or need not involve, anyway–LINEAR THINKING.  By focussing on VALUES rather than specific, material objectives, you remain open and flexible to however the Universe or Spirit fills your mold.

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You can write your future values or conditions you intend to live into onto a poster board or in Publisher on a blank page on your computer. Then find (or draw or paint in) pictures online or in magazines that represent these values and conditions, and place them on your Vision Board in a manner that feels right to you. You can also cut out or cut and paste words and phrases onto your collage.

I like to create my Future Casting Collages (BTW, do several! The future is not cast in stone!) to represent my pathway from where I am Now to the future Now I aim to create around me.

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images (other than my own) are from pixabay.com

I invite and welcome your Comments and Stories!

I would invite your collages to share, but actually I recommend you hold these close and share them mainly with your loved ones. Your VISION is your own; nurture it well and it will be!

Trials and Your Life Lessons

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Here’s a helpful self discovery tool: Make a timeline of the challenging times of hardship or trials in your life. Map these life events according to your ages when each event has occurred.

First, do you see any pattern in terms of the clustering of these events? Have they corresponded with any other major events such as big moves or regular time cycles?

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Second, make a separate list of these events and the ages they occurred, then journal reflectively about any Life Lesson that you gained from each ordeal.

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Can you see any connections among your Life Lessons? Is there a deeper underlying theme, or a realization you can glean? After you have learned a Lesson, has your life experience changed course in any significant ways?

Sages say we often repeat similar tests or ordeals, revealing deeper and deeper levels of a major Life Lesson. Why, do you believe? What might this prepare us for?

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Sequel stories and some television series serve to dramatize this observation that life lessons can unravel over time, resulting in a gradual transformation of character. The popular Big Bang Theory–one of my favorites–is a good example, where every character undergoes gradual, transformative change based on learning their life lessons from relating with one another in the ensemble cast over time.

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images are from pixabay.com

So now, what is your life about?

I welcome YOUR Comments and story.