Life is Better Endings with the Healer as Your Ally

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What, to you, is a “better ending”? Whether we apply this notion to a preferred fictional ending in novels or films or to outcomes in our own life conditions, a better ending is in some fashion more satisfying or ultimately more fulfilling for all concerned, even if it is not necessarily happier than some other conclusion or set of conditions.

This month we will focus around the metaphor of life as better endings, pairing this with the collective and personal archetype of the HEALER.

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Certainly a Healer might facilitate or impart a better ending, whether by effecting a cure or healing of an illness or in some other manner improving upon a set of deleterious or less than ideal circumstances. I like the notion of my personal archetypal HEALER Ally–a part of my greater Self–having the capacity, the agency, to bring about better endings in my life. I can look to this part of mySelf–and you to yours–for healing a broken heart or to seek a solution that improves upon an out of balance situation.

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So I invite you this month to get more in touch with your own inner HEALER and to contemplate the meaning of potential Better Endings in your life. Always feel free to share your insights or stories (which I would publish here). 

Life is… a Bowl of Cherries!

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Live Your Dream, Now! is the throughline to Life Paths, a handbook for life mapping which should be forthcoming within the next year. This credo of “Live your dream, now!” highlights how important it is not to put off your Life Dream or future aspirations into a nebulous future but, rather, to live NOW according to the values and intent of your Life Dream, Here and Now. You can live INTO your future as a dream fulfilled by focussing on developing your current Strengths and being mindful “every day in every way” about who you are choosing to be, expressing from your core identity and nature.

Golden Buddha

Along with the metaphor of Life is a Bowl of Cherries, this month we will pair the archetypal Ally persona of the Golden Child, which is the universal archetype class associated with the sign of Leo and the month of July.  What an aprt conjunction this one is! The GOLDEN CHILD is a part of Self who knows whom s/he IS and may express itself forcefully or in a charismatic manner based on a positive self-knowledge amd capability, with great competence. Who better to assert Life to be a Bowl of Cherries than this, yourself as a Leonine Golden Child?

Life is a Bowl of Cherries as a life metaphor reminds us to embrace and to enjoy who we ARE and what we HAVE, right here and now. Yet I expect some readers–including myself in some respects this week as I am involved in a struggle currently to help my ailing elderly mother to cope with painful, life threatening effects from late stage Parkinsons–might appropriately question the sheer optimisim of such a credo. Is it then a mere platitude to declare life to be cheery, always positive, like “a bowl of cherries” even while facing the most dire of circumstances? What of all those well meaning people and animals for whom, indeed, life appears to be anything but happy, abundant or carefree? Is holding to such an optimistic mantra no more than a Polyannish attitude requiring one to “bury their head in the sand” or, worse, to DENY the more bitter realities of life in the “Real World”?

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That is a vital question, and one I have similarly heard from people who question Joseph Campbell’s parallel credo of “Follow Your Bliss!” Again, what of those for whom the chance of “attaining Bliss” of any sort seems remote?

I must answer for myself that while the world as a whole will always remain a harsh training ground at every stage of life, even for those with the highest achievements or wearing the most rose colored glasses; nevertheless it can be helpful to focus on the positive. Life metaphors can serve as positive affirmations that orient our outlook to look for the GOOD in life–to see the BEST in ourselves and in others–and when necessary, to see the silver lining beyond the clouds.

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I believe that human beings–perhaps all Beings–are wired to pursue and when possible to manifest “self-transcendence,” even in the most dire conditions. I recall a TV drama with Dick Van Dyke (check out his recent https://www.youtube.com/embed/hoPugqYMISM“>dance videos at 89!) portraying a homeless man in a big city. This character was a man of the deepest character: kind, gentle, self-sacrificing and ultimately happy in his life. He embraced a life of service and gratitude and he focussed on the positive potentials of every state of being, every condition, every relationship in his life.

So, life CAN be a bowl of cherries, if you CHOOSE for it to be so. And you can discover your Bliss anywhere, as everywhere you stand is Holy Ground as long as you stand mindfully and take in the bounty of the moment.

I welcome your insights and stories!

 

Crossing a Threshold to Embark on Your Greatest Adventure

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For the month of May I will illuminate here the archetype of the ARTIST and the Life Metaphor of Life as “Crossing a Threshold to Embark on your Greatest Adventure.” Crossing a Threshold refers to taking a step in a bold new direction that leads to the fulfillment of Living Your Dream, Now!

Most people live most of their lives either going forward into the future based on  experiences and effects from their past, or they live from day to day in the protective bubble of present events that stretch from the familiar past into a similar future.  This does not necessarily embody living with awareness in the NOW.

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Nowness is often mistaken for yet remains independent of timespace; it is where your consciousness is rooted, Moment by Moment. It is a state of balance or stasis you maintain that embues the liberation to choose freely what your experience—in or out of timespace–shall Be.

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In order to step across the threshold of experience rather than being condemned to repeat or perpetuate sameness–like the mythical Sisyphus going up and back down his mountain interminally–you must know who you Are (Soul, not embodiment) and where you desire and intend to go based on your mission, purpose and goals, or your Life Dream. So, it helps to contemplate where you are at this time in your life in relation to that which you desire to manifest that may or may not extend from your present life conditions.

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To genuinely cross the threshold to fulfill your life mission and dream, you need to detach yourself from your present, like a marionette cutting her strings to find s/he was a human all along!

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Can you think of a time when you accomplished a ‘quantum leap’ to a whole new quality or level of life experience than before? How did you do this?

We will explore this question this week and I invite and welcome your insights and your stories.

Make It So! The Power of Metaphor

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Metaphor:  Life Is What You Make It

Semantic Entailments:

  • Life is an “it”; i.e. comprehensible as an abstract object
  • Objective realities are “things,” composed (made up of) of ingredients or components, including conceptual components
  • Persons can design and construct objective realities
  • Therefore, people can construct their lives according to their own design

What is a metaphor? It is a cognitive SCHEMA—what George Lakoff and Paul Johnson would call an Idealized Cognitive Model (ICM)– that MAPS one conceptual  SOURCE domain of meaning onto another TARGET domain. A LIFE METAPHOR schematizes the semantic domain of a LIFETIME or of LIFE Itself (as a TARGET domain) according to factors associated with a SOURCE domain that projects metaphorical entailments onto this TARGET.

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So, for example, Life is a Roller Coaster is a Life Metaphor that posits a Roller Coaster as the Source Domain and Life as a Target Domain.  The metaphorical entailments of Life is a Roller Coaster include such conceptual transfers as:

Like a Roller Coaster, (a) Life:

  • Exhibits an unpredictable sequence of sharp Ups and Downs
  • Can be a jarring experience
  • Is a “wild ride”

Life is a Roller Coaster then carries further implications. BECAUSE (someone’s) life is like a roller coaster:

  • Life is experienced as a mixture of happiness and hardship, characterized as extreme Highs and Lows

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Working with clients with my Life Mapping process, I always ask at the beginning and at the closing of a coaching process for the person to express a Life Metaphor that is meaningful to them at the time. I have found that many clients who later characterize their life experience as–or have received a psychological diagnosis of–Bipolar (or Borderline) Disorder tend to express Life is a Roller Coaster or a closely related “UP and Down/ Hardship” schema as their initial Life Metaphor. Always I find that the Life Metaphor that one expresses closely characterizes patterns active in a person’s life experience at the time.

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That is why in this blog I am focusing on “positive” Life Metaphors. After completing a life mapping process, virtually all of my clients and students arrive at more optimistic life metaphors than those they expressed when they entered the process. The Life Metaphor you hold serves as a lens that projects and reflects the cognitive schemas through which you view and interpret your world of experience. So, if someone conceptualizes Life as a Roller Coaster, they might always be waiting for the “other shoe to drop” (to use an extension of the Hardship based semantic superclass). Now consider if, instead, that same person were to adopt the Idealized Cognitive Model of “Life Is What You Make It” and if that person were to act in terms of the principles and beliefs of this new construct. Then, perhaps, the Downs might be avoided because the person can implement proactive change rather than fatalistically expecting a downturn after every positive step “upwards” or “forward”.

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We construct much (if not all) of our life experience according to metaphor. “Up”? “Down”? “Forward”? “Back”? “Steady as She Goes”? All of these are imaginary, schematic constructs when applied to “a Life”… which after all is actually NOT an objective entity but is rather a flow, often disjunct, of moments.

Ergo, Life is What You Make It is actually more than JUST metaphorical; it is a truism. For life cannot be other than this: what you make OF it via your conceptual and schematic perceptions.

Thus I recall for you the famous words of a Starfleet captain many of us know and love (er, at least as a fictional character), Captain Jean-Luc Picard, who operates the Enterprise according to this month’s theme when he instructs his crew at every decisive moment: “Make It So!”

I welcome your comments and stories!

 

Life is… What You Make It 

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If life were made of Moments, we wouldn’t know we had one.” – (The baker’s wife, Into the Woods (S. Sondheim)

Are you the actor, character, author, or the director of your own Life Story? What might it mean to recognize that you are all of these? In Life Paths, my aim is to allow you to reconstruct and MAP your own Life Story, literally. By reflecting on the significant, shaping events of your life and especially those events that have been so critical that you feel you were not quite “the same person” before and after these events have occurred, you can identify the thematic Turning Points and Life Chapters of your own Life Story and you can reflect on “who” you have been throughout these chapters as the protagonist of your own life-mythic narrative.

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Life is what you HAVE made it, so you always have the capacity to continue to  make any changes that allow you to realize your goals, from chapter to chapter.

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For this next few days, in a very open format, I invite you to simply reflect upon what “life chapter” you are in right now, and at what STAGE in this chapter you are at. Are you just beginning a new chapter? In the middle? Nearing a major transition? What are your goals for the Life Chapter you are currently living? How can you maximize the advantages and the strengths or lessons you are gaining in this chapter? Do you anticipate another specific chapter to follow from the one you are in? How can you prepare for that transition?

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I welcome your insights and stories!

Tunnel Vision? Life Metaphors, Like Night and Day

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l always invite a person to begin their life mapping journey by expressing a Life Metaphor. Then, later, I ask them to consider how that Image relates to their own current life or their life history. Then at the very end of their life mapping “time out” reflections–usually over several months–I ask them again:

WHAT, TO YOU, IS A HUMAN LIFETIME LIKE?

How So? (Please Explain your Life Metaphor Image).

The images people offer before and after they take some time to reflect on their life as a whole–where they’re at,how they got here, where they appear to be headed, and what is the Life Dream that would manifest true Fulfillment in their life–are like Night ad Day. For example, in Spring 2012 I conducted a university class with 89 students (1/2 at a time) through a complete Life Mapping process.Here are just a few of the “Before” and “After” Life Metaphor images they expressed:

 Night and Day

This class was in 2012, not long after the US Great Recession of 2008 and during one of the most depressed job markets Americans have faced. When I compared the students’–mostly college Seniors–Before and After Life Metaphor images, I was actually a bit shocked at first. Almost to a person, their Before images indicated Uncertainty about their Future Life Path possibilities, just at the point that most of them were about to graduate from college.  Their After images, also almost to a person, reflected Clarity, Light, Hopefulness, greater Self-Confidence, and Enthusiasm.

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Folks, that is why I’m doing this; this blog and the Life Paths book and self-help companion Handbook that have emerged from developing the approach I call the Life Maps Process.

So, here’s a 3-step technique for you to try. First, if you haven’t already engaged with this week’s Life Mapping Tool (see the right panel), please respond to the prompt:

What, to you, is a human lifetime like? What image comes to mind? HOW is a lifetime Like that image?

Second, ask yourself (you may journal your reply): WHY do you believe you “get” this image, now? In what ways might this Life Metaphor image reflect elements of your own current life or your life history?

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Next, for your third step, I invite you to IMAGINE. Envision a time or a place in your future when/where you feel ultimately FULFILLED. You have found and realized your Bliss; you are Living Your Dream, Now!

Okay, so from this perspective, from the Vantage Point of your Life Dream fulfilled:

WHAT, TO YOU, IS A HUMAN LIFETIME LIKE?

How So? (Please Explain your Life Dream Metaphor Image).

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I invite you to take some “time out” to entertain these questions. I welcome and would love to share your story!

Your Life Path—Hard Knocks or a Golden Spiral?

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What, to you, is a human lifetime like?

When you close your eyes and look for an IMAGE of what a lifetime is like, 

what IMAGE do you see?

Also, HOW is a YOUR life like this image?

I invite you to imagine and then journal your response.

Feel free to share your image with us here,

or at least keep a record of what you have seen.

Your Life Path—Hard Knocks or a Golden Spiral?

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What is the difference between a negative and a positive life experience? This is a riddle, friends. Haven’t you noticed how there often appears but a hairsbreadth difference between an experience that can “break you” or “make you”? In life maps coaching, I see this a lot with people. Two people can experience very similar events, like a car accident or an illness, yet their understanding of or response to those events can be like night and day.

Two people who engaged in life mapping are Scott and Will (pseudonyms). Scott expressed a Life Metaphor when he told me twice, “They ought to give me a Ph.D. in the Hard Knocks of Life!” Will expressed a more positive, very detailed Life Metaphor, after closing his eyes to meditate on “What is a human lifetime like?” His image: “Life is a golden spiral with launch pads on various rings of the spiral that propel one to ever higher levels of realization!” Hmm. Two people, two very different metaphors for life. Why, do you suppose? And, does it matter?

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Scott’s life map traces a long series of Ups and Downs, especially with Work-related and Health-related events. He went through several years during which he would take a new job, move to where the job was, then lose the job and move back to his parents’. Scott had a car accident in the middle of all this which led to chronic back problems. He confided that with every loss in his life, he increasingly turned to “partying” with alcohol and drugs in an attempt to mask his pain. Life is Hard Knocks, says Scott, and certainly his life pattern conforms with that opinion.

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Then there’s Will, a retired pastor from the United Church of Christ. After choosing his religious vocation as a young man, Will graduated from a seminary, married his best childhood friend and “soul mate,” and then he conducted a successful career as a pastor for some 40 years before retiring, still active in his faith and father of two successful sons. Will’s life map  traces a series of extremely positive events, as we would expect. Still, Will’s map does record three deep ‘troughs,’ widely spaced but difficult times of Descent, in Will’s terms. These were times of soul searching. Dealing with a diagnosis of diabetes, facing his mother’s death, and facing retirement were, to Will, those “launch pad” events along his “Golden Spiral” lifetime that propelled him each time up to the next higher rung of the Spiral.

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Both Scott and Will have encountered challenging situations in their lives, though Scott’s life of “Hard Knocks” does appear to have been more characterized by Downs, while Will’s has been more consistently a positive experience. It makes you wonder, doesn’t it? To what extent do our Life Metaphors–interpretive lenses through which we frame and interpret life events–serve as self-fulfilling prophecies that, indeed, not only reflect but also perpetuate their own image? Someone says, “Life is a Roller Coaster” and lo, that person’s life does continue to drag the person through a challenging, bipolar sequence of challenging Ups and Downs. Yes, but there’s another side to that picture. If our Life Metaphors serve as mindsets or cognitive models that can either enhance or limit our interpretation of life events, then it stands to reason that finding a way to CHANGE a self-limiting Life Metaphor might also facilitate (or reflect) a more positive trend in a person’s life pattern!

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Check in Friday for more on how changing your outlook on your life’s possibilities can change your life metaphor which, in turn, can help reorient you to fulfilling your Life Dream!

Life Metaphors We Live By

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          So is life, for you, a Road to Glory or a demolition course?  Is it a slow, inevitable march into oblivion or a recurring series of cycles of growth that lift you by trials and gradual achievement toward increasingly lofty goals? Then also, in terms of what you are setting out to achieve with a Life Mapping adventure, will you be able to switch horses midstream, if you wish to, transmuting lead into gold? Yes! You can! (L. Watts, Life Paths, Chapter 2)

When you close your eyes and envision a human life, what is it is like; what image do you see? This is a Life Metaphor.

Life metaphors are schematic cognitive models, habitual ideas you have developed. You might ask yourself, where do they come from and why do you hold this image currently rather than another?

Serpentine pathway stones on a park lawn (concept)

Some Life Metaphors are culturally shared and defined: Life is a Journey, for instance. This model reflects the epic, mythic hero cycle stories found universally in all cultures such as Joseph Campbell describes in The Hero with 1000 Faces. These stories represent the hero’s adventure as a going, reaching fulfillment, and then and a return to serve humanity, as in the mythic adventures of Prometheus or Theseus, or of Dorothy in The Wizard the Oz or even Harry Potter.

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There is the metaphor of Life as a Mountain, with peaks and valleys: Sisyphus, for example, is compelled to roll a stone up the mountain and then it falls back down and he starts over again, endlessly.

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Or perhaps a Life is like a Hot Air Balloon ride? I saw one land once in a peach orchard while I was working on a farm. It was from Canada. The pilot got out and he seemed to me to have come from another world altogether.

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There are many other life metaphors that reflect and can also influence our understanding of life. Life metaphors can even shape our interpretations of and responses to life events.  Is life a Roller Coaster ride, and if so, when or for whom?

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I have always loved the Life Metaphor of Life as a Carousel, which is why I use the interesting “Carousel” header image with this blog, by the fantastic artist Ann Wipf, showing the horses leaping off from their platform. A carousel goes round and round and up and down, in time with the musical sound and flashing lights of the platform arcade. Traditional carousels may have a brass ring that the riders reach out for and try to catch as they go around. This reminds me of the golden snitch in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter stories; I have a poster on my den wall that shows Harry going for the snitch and it reads: “The game of Quidditch isn’t over until the Golden Snitch is caught.” Such metaphors as these can serve to propel us forward through the trials and tests of life as we aim to attain our life dreams.

Grand Palace. A temple Wat Phra Kaew

SO THIS WEEK I INVITE YOU TO IMAGINE: what is Life like to you, now? Close your eyes to envision Life or a lifetime; what image do you see? Explore the implications, the metaphoric entailments, thoroughly. How is a lifetime like the image you perceive, and why?

On Tuesday we will look more closely at the variety and basis of Life Metaphors. I invite you to share your stories and insights this week!

Life Path Metaphors We Live By

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This week’s Better Endings Life Mapping activity (#3) is to describe a human life according to a key metaphor or image. Is life like a Journey, a Cycle of Seasons, a Mountain or River? Or, to you lately, is Life more like a Roller Coaster Ride? If you haven’t already done this exercise of the week, take a moment to write down an image of what, to you, a human lifetime is like. And, how/ why? Briefly explain how life fits your current image of it.

[Please complete the above activity before continuing.]

Okay then. Now, ask yourself, “Does this image mirror any pattern in my own life?”  I am going to wager that it does. So, if you like, please take another moment to describe in what ways your life fits the image you just described.

[Pause; you are writing again.]

Very good! So, what’s this all about? I call the the sort of image you have just described a Life Metaphor. You might provide a different image depending on what is current in your life in terms of basic patterns, such as how much your life is feeling stable, dynamic, or in chaos. Today’s image of yours is what I will call an “initial” Life Metaphor; before completing a full Life Mapping process. I expect it will shift for you if you keep up with applying these weekly Life Mapping techniques over the course of this year’s blog. So I encourage you to keep a Life Mapping journal that will develop these ideas over time.

One of my own favorite Life Metaphors, and the reason for my use of Anne Wipf’s wonderful painting that I am using as the header image for this site, is: Life is aCarousel or Merry-Go-Round. Round and round I go with the cycles of time–days, weeks, months, years, decades–Up and Down with the flow of events in my life. And as I cycle along with this merry-go-round adventure, I always seem to be reaching out and striving to catch that elusive “Brass Ring,” every time I come around to it again.

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How wonderful that Anne Wipf’s great piece of art that is the focal image for this blog, “Carousel,” shows the horses leaping off from their base platform to freedom! It must get pretty boring, after all, for a carousel pony. It must feel like a cage, or like the mountain that the mythic Sisyphus is bound to, rolling a boulder eternally up, and then back down, over and over again as his punishment from the gods.

I imagine these Anne Wipf “Carousel” horses leaping off from their wooden platforms every night when the amusement parks are closed, teaming off together to some rarified, special place known only to themselves. Then, in my imagining, they willingly hop back onto their platform by morning, humble vehicles of divine love that they are, to bring pleasure to the children and adult children who delight in the brief, musical turn of the ride. Where do they go, do YOU imagine?

There is such serendipity and sychronicity I am discovering while producing this site that develops our year long theme of Better Endings. Last week I watched Mary Poppins and I was taken aback to see Mary Poppins and Burt (Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke) hopping merrily OFF from a carousel on horses that leap joyfully through a technicolor valley. Then on Christmas day I went with a friend to seeSaving Mr. Banks and learned, to my delight, that the entire story of Mary Poppins is about creating Better Endings that have the creative power to transform bittersweet memories from childhood. (Go see it!) And there was the carousel, in both P. L. Travers‘ and Walt Disney’s biographical lives as well, and their combined creative genius of allowing the horses to leap out from their ‘cage’ in the film, to transport their riders through a magical kingdom where wrongs are righted and sadness gives way to merriment.

Would you alter your current Life Metaphor at all, if you could? Or, would you rather like it to stay just as it is? I would love to share your insights and Comments.

Thanks for being out there, and I encourage you to share with  Comments and your own Life Metaphor stories or reflections!