The Value of Friendship– My Tribute to a Friend

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There are places I’ll remember all my life,

though some have changed.

(All My Life, by Lennon and McCartney)

I do not believe in accidents. I do, in fact, believe in reincarnation. One of the best books I have read on the subject that has helped me understand relationships in life is The Journey of Souls, by the psychiatrist Dr. Michael Newton. Newton bases his understanding of reincarnation on transcripts from persons under hypnosis answering his questions about Souls’ experiences BETWEEN lives. These transcripts show amazing uniformity and provide a fascinating account of the spiritual nature of our relationships generally– including how we might recognize a Soul over multiple  lifetimes with whom we have a strong affinity or connection. While Newton avers that the future is not fixed or predestined in a rigid way, as there is always a Plan B if one connection in life or another does not work out so that we can still reach our goals and learn life’s lessons, still his subjects claim we often meet and form relations with some Souls over several lifetimes, and between lives we might reconnect with members of our “Soul group.”

All these places have their meanings

with lovers and friends I still can recall.

This week I want to share about aspects of a personal friendship which has helped me understand the spiritual value of Friendship altogether.  One friend in particular whom I first met when  was 17 has been an important connection ever since, despite geographical distance. This friendship has had a profound influence on my life in a way I can only call “spiritual,” and it has led me to question and arrive at my own understanding of what it means to be Soul occupying a (human) body.

I first met Donna when a high-school buddy invited me to join a fencing class in our home community. Donna was our fencing teacher, and I fell in love quickly with the art and sport of fencing, which I continued with for many years later on an intercollegiate fencing team. After the ten week class was over, I had ordered some fencing equipment which I picked up from Donna at her apartment. We began a conversation then–I might later say she became a special mentor at the time–which grew over the years into a special friendship.

Donna would read and encourage my journaling and poetry when, once a week on  Thursday afternoons, I would walk a mile and a half to her apartment to visit. She introduced me to excellent literature–from prose to philosophy and spirituality and poetry–as well as to music and art. I felt a unique sort of affinity with Donna–that when our eyes met, she was somehow mirroring me in a more experienced, dynamic, creative elder persona. I believe Donna also saw in me a diamond in the rough, with some of her own younger life aspirations and interests.

I attended college initially not far from where Donna lived, so we continued our friendship until eventually, at 25, I left for graduate school in Arizona. After that a major shift occurred. I called Donna from campus one day having felt inwardly something momentous was happening with her.

“Hello, is Donna there?”

“Just a moment.” (Her partner)

“Hello, Linda.”

The low voice at the other end of the phone I almost did not recognize; was this a friend of Donna to tell me she had passed away? But then I realized it was Donna after all.

“I am changing my name. It is odd that you called today, because

tomorrow I am having surgery.”

I put pen to paper to write down Donna’s new last name, assuming she had married her current partner.

“Donald, Linda. My new name is Donald.”

“Okay…”

Donna, to make a long story much shorter, had realized, after having successfully dealt therapeutically for several years while I had been in college with a situation of multiple personality syndrome, that her/his core gender identity was actually that of Donald and had perhaps always been such since childhood.

When I met Donald for the first time face to face a couple of summers later, my first thought was, “That’s it! That is what was always so different about Donna. This is who He truly IS.”

So, life went on. Donald has had an amazingly dynamic and successful life after ‘transitioning’ in place in his home community. For over 35 years he has given wonderful service in the arts world as well as professionally in the behavioral/ mental health field.

Of all these friends and lovers

there is noone who compares with you.

And these places lose their meaning

If I try to think of love as something new…

But this story is about our friendship through the years and about how Donna/ Donald has helped me fathom the spiritual value of Friendship.

Sometimes I have felt I could have been “Donna”; that when “Donald” stepped into little Donna’s form as a young child or baby somehow I stepped out and was born as Linda. I know that sounds incredible and probably is but a fantasy, and at the same time for me Donna has had an independent spiritual persona somewhat apart from Donald. For many years I often dreamed of visiting Donna, usually in the same, transitional sort of place, overlooking a pond with a pathway around it. We would play cards or Scrabble and continue our unending conversation. In more recent years that has shifted to where I sense Donald and Donna are indeed one and the same–merged as one, so to speak. I sometimes hope that when I leave this world, I will reconnect with my Friend and continue our spiritual friendship, eternally, as we go forward with our individual spiritual capacities.

So, a Friend. That first day as I walked to Donna’s to pick up a fencing foil, jacket, mask and a glove, I was singing “You’ve Got a Friend” by James Taylor (click here to link to that song). And often on the many Thursdays that followed, walking to visit Donna, I continued to sing and to ponder that Song.

A Friendship connects two Souls far beyond merely physical or emotional considerations or circumstances. It uplifts and extends our very notion of personhood and can reveal the eternal, Divine nature of Soul.

I welcome YOUR Comments and Story!

 

Pass It On!

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Here is a quick activity: Think of one mentor who has taught you a valuable lesson. What was that lesson?

Second, how have you sought to impart that lesson to others? What has been the result?

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My quick response:  “Patience is a virtue.” (from Diane) I aim to teach this to my students, especially advanced students working on research projects or thesis papers. I have seen many of these students take some great strides. For myself, I use this principle daily, now in yet another book editing romp.

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I am amazed daily at the miraculous interweaving and orchestration of Life.

“Love is all, and do as thou wilt.”

(Stranger By the River, by Paul Twitchell)

Follow Your Leaders!

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I am thinking back all this month about the Helpers who have appeared in my life at critical moments to lead me to my next destination or goal. This in fact, as I reflect on it, is a Universal Principle! Life seems so well orchestrated when you pause to reflect. Nothing, that is, seems wholly accidental—or, if it is so to you, at least how you have responded to fortuitous events has woven the beautiful fabric of your life and life lessons to date!

Helpers are role models and Leaders. They have been where we are aiming to arrive, so they know the pitfalls along the path before us.

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(one of my Role Model Helpers, Orene)

Who have been some of your Role Model Leaders? How have they helped you to move ahead on your Quest?

I have had so many Helpers that when I look back at my life it seems these Helpers have appeared in my Path like Stepping Stones, perfectly arranged to lead me forward on my personal and spiritual journey to understand and to work to fulfill my potentials.

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When you follow a Leader and accept the gifts from your Helpers, this is a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. Every step forward you take benefits not only yourself but also others. I love Martha Graham’s excellent inspirational statement, which a therapist once gave to me as a gift:

“There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique, and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium; and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, not how it compares with other expression. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.”

I welcome your Comments and Story!

 

The Helpers

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In every Hero’s Adventure—as in your own Journey of life—“when the student is ready, the Teacher appears.” Teachers, Masters, Mentors, Guardian Angels, Guides, and Signs or signposts arrive to escort us or to prepare us for the challenging passage into the Unknown.

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When we look back we can appreciate how a Helper arrived who allowed us to advance in ways we probably never would have otherwise considered. That special teacher appears who lights up a whole field of study for you at school, or that talented role model who demonstrates qualities you long to develop in yourself; by accepting such encounters we connect with our deepest aspirations and claim our life’s motivating Mission or Purpose.

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Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is playing as I write this, so as we are celebrating the twentieth anniversary of J. K. Rowling’s gift of the wondrous world of Harry Potter, let’s focus on Dumbledore as the archetypal Mystic Helper. The qualities Dumbledore exhibits in his mentoring of Harry are those latent qualities Harry is needing to develop in himself in order to fulfill his destiny: magical abilities, teaching skills, the practice of right discernment, balancing good vs. evil impulses, and dedication based on love foremost.

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Think of a Helper who appeared or is now present in your life and whose example and insights have helped you develop aspects of your own nature that have allowed you to move further along on your own purposeful journey.

How did you meet this Helper? What interests or abilities has s/he aided you to develop?

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This month we honor and celebrate The Helpers.

I invite your Comments and Stories.

Celebrate Your Mentors!

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What have you learned from the Mentors in your life, and from when you have mentored others? A mentor is a Teacher (of the TEACHER Archetype), yet the Mentor is a specific kind of a Teacher; one who imparts Wisdom, not just knowledge on a subject. So the Mentor is often paired archetypally as a TEACHER/MYSTIC character, such as Gandalf in Lord of the Rings, Glinda in The Wizard of Oz, or Dumbledore at Hogwarts.

This week I invite you to make a list of some of your primary Mentors.  I encourage you to contemplate and/or journal about their influences on “the person you have become.”

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I will share about just one of several key mentors from my life; I will call her Dr. T, or Bonnie. Bonnie was a philosophy professor at my undergraduate college. I first met her while I was a student in a class on Creative Studies. She was a guest professor that day who was to speak with us about the philosophy of creativity. I arrived a half hour early to our class that day (held in a lounge sort of area where we students often liked to ‘hang out’ even apart from classes there).  Dr. T. was already there, too, sitting with a student who majored in art and who had brought a papier mache figure of a human being he had created in an art class that day.

“How the *x*x* did you do that!?”

These were the first words I ever heard uttered by Dr. T.

“I mean, I could never do that; how could YOU?”

She persisted. The student was stunned, as was I, at this encounter. Soon others arrived and the class began.  Bonnie proceeded to explain her profound appreciation for the creative process this student had drawn upon to envision and then manifest his vision in an artistic form. From that day on I became fascinated with Dr. T. I took several philosophy classes with her and several Independent Study classes as well. I even came to mother-sit for Bonnie’s elderly mother for two or three years before I graduated and left Buffalo for Arizona.

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Of many insightful lessons I learned from my Mentor, here are two:

Dr. T. took a nap every afternoon at her old-style, stone and oak Buffalo house. She slept in a small room on a single bed like a cot. One day she told me:

“Every day, I swim in the Ocean!”

I remember her telling me this one wintry Buffalo afternoon when I had arrived to mother-sit.  I understood she was telling me that she dove into a deep contemplative state every day with her nap.

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Another time she told me how when her son was young, one day while they were sitting under an oak tree in a park, she picked up an acorn and asked her son to hold it in his hand.

“There is God!,” Bonnie proclaimed.

From then on I understood why she had furnished her home completely with used oak furniture from Salvation Army. She loved the sturdy Oak Tree as a symbol of mature spiritual wisdom.

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After I left for graduate school in Arizona, I touched base a few times with Dr. T., but sparingly.  One time she told me she had started painting with oils in her retirement.  Like Van Gogh, she told me, she painted with full tubes of paint instead of with brushes. A local gallery had held a showing of her works. To the end Bonnie expressed her passion as a spiritual Being fully and with gusto!

How the *x*x* did she do that? I have ever since emulated Dr. Bonnie’s integrity and drive to create, to thrive, to truly BE.

I invite YOUR Comments and Story!

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THE TEACHER ARCHETYPE

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TEACHER is such an obviously universal Archetype. The role of Teacher exists in all cultures throughout history in relation to the sub-archetype image of the Learner (or, Student). This relationship and the roles expressed may take different forms, though.  Some Teachers instruct quietly by their very example; others may be more didactic and direct.

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One of my favorite Teachers served as a role model for my own apprenticeship to teaching while in college. Antoinette Mann Paterson (now long departed from this pale plane) was a Philosophy professor at the college I first attended in Buffalo, New York.  She would teach in front of a large Introduction to Philosophy class with her eyes closed! It was like she was channeling the information to be transmitted to the young, fertile minds in the classroom. Then suddenly she would open her eyes, turn and face a specific student with a direct question.  There was something amazing to me about the passion she displayed.

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One day Dr. Paterson had been invited to visit a class in Creative Studies which I was taking.  I arrived about twenty minutes early to the open studio area we held our class in; she was already there, sitting unidentified with a couple other students around a table. Suddenly she turned to a young man who had brought a paper mache piece of art he had created for another class. “How in *** did you DO that!”, she asked him. “I could not do that; how did you transform paper, nothing really, into that magnificent FORM?” The student was dumbfounded. I don’t remember how he might have tried to answer Toni.  But this is how she began introducing us to a “Philosophy of Creativity”.

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Another time at the beginning of a semester I went to Toni Paterson’s office to ask if she would conduct an Independent Study for me.

“About what subject?,” she asked.

I said the first thing that came into my mind: “ Silence,” I answered; “A philosophy of Silence.”

In the course of our following discussion, Dr. P. asked me what I thought about the meaning of Life. I had been in a depressed state at that time because of something that had affected me emotionally the prior summer. So, I answered her: “Life…Really? So, what?”

“Take out a pen and a piece of paper,” Dr. Paterson directed. “Now then, I want you to write down a question with two words in it: ‘SO …WHAT?’ Bring me the answer in ten pages or more by next Thursday!”

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When I came back to Dr. Paterson for my conference the next week, I had scoured a wide range of literature about the meaning of life. But Toni Paterson took this further. She sat me down at a table with a pencil and a large sheet from a sketching pad. She asked me to arrange “WH-question words” around the corners of the blank page: WHO? WHAT? WHERE? WHEN? WHY? Then as we talked she drew a diagram linking all these to a central, newly constructed word: WHAN! That was the answer to “So, What”, she suggested:

“The answer to ‘So, What?’ is “WHAN!”

She was so right! Whan, that elusive common denominator principle has from that moment on been a torch of Light in the Darkness for me.  There doesn’t need to be an answer to everything; the ESSENCE is WHAN! See? This enigmatic Lesson lifted me from my depression. Life didn’t have to have a meaning or to “add up to” anything; It IS what it IS; it JUST IS! This freed me to start thinking “outside the Box” (or as a later friend has taught me: “There is no box!”)

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So, how did Dr. Paterson TEACH me such a life affirming lesson? First, she set me to task, rather than trying to answer my facetious question, “So, what?” for me. Second, she took that question of mine quite seriously, as a matter I was deeply concerned about. Third, she helped guide me to a satisfactory resolution of the anxiety I brought to my question, by encouraging me to read about what others had thought about in relation to my subject (showing me I was not alone in my angst). Then she helped me to comprehend a deeper underlying principle that gave rise to the question in the first place!

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Toni Paterson was THE TEACHER incarnate! I have never forgotten HOW she approached teaching, and this has helped me to cultivate my own TEACHER strengths.

But what do I mean by calling THE TEACHER an Archetype?  What do you think? Have you ever “let out” your TEACHER part of Self? Sure, you have, right?  I still after 35 years of university teaching often feel THE TEACHER coming forth through me in a classroom. When I first began teaching, I knew I could rely on “stepping into” the ROLE of TEACHER in order to overcome my naturally introspective personality and to shine forth expressively to share about what the students were there to learn.

Maybe you have experienced your own Inner TEACHER in your role as a parent or as a scout leader; or, when you have felt a strong impulse to share a point of view that you feel instinctively someone else could benefit from hearing. We all have a bit of THE TEACHER within us, as well as the counterpart character of the LEARNER. In fact, a Teacher cannot but be the Learner first!

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I am deeply indebted to and grateful for all of the wonderful MENTORS I have experienced as Teachers in my life. These were not always formal classroom Teachers; they were friends, family, even my pets who have taught me the true meaning of Life! Which is WHAN?   Yes, that’s right; it is the WHAN of unconditional or divine Love, the essence of Life Itself. For, what else ever really matters?

I welcome your Insights, Comments and Stories!