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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images are from pixabay.com

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!

 

Departure: A Double Entendre in Current America

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This month I am sharing about the phase of the Hero’s Adventure known as the Departure. It is a response to the Call to Adventure and must be undertaken mindfully, with good intention in order to bypass Threshold Guardians and Cross the Threshold of Adventure as you embark upon your Quest that only you can fully accomplish!

But as I attend to the news in this unsettling era of American conservatism in the White House, I recognize that “departure” is a word with a double meaning. The first meaning is as described in the above paragraph. The second is darker, more foreboding. A Departure can also be a turning AWAY from everything one has valued or known to be true for themselves. Where this new administration is going–or trying rather forcefully to take us to–is an extreme departure from much of what I value dearly and hold to be true based on the evidence of science and the witness of my heart.

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Climate change; Native American sovereignty rights over reservation and cultural resources; immigration and an open heart for refugees fleeing violence, poverty or corruption; racial and religious equality and freedom of choice including a woman’s choice over her own reproductive rights: suddenly all of these appear imperiled.

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The first sort of departure, acting on the intention to embark upon an Adventure in pursuit of one’s Dream, is positive and it can bear much bounty of a profound, heroic nature for all concerned. The second, a reversal of value-orientations developed over decades or even centuries in our democratic nation, feels ‘negative’ and disheartening to me. I feel disempowered by this second-order form of departure from the course the vast majority of people in my entire country have been pursuing toward achieving our collective American Dream.

So, the first departure, you must hold to, even in times of radical change and upheaval. Never turn back from your Dream!

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As to the second, darker seeming reversal (or any such external sort of reversal of charge threatening to obtrude within your world), do what you can, of course. Step forth, speak out as that becomes available for you, march, sign petitions as an active citizen who does have rights of free expression and whose values DO MATTER!

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Perhaps the collective good will ultimately triumph over the narrow nationalism and bigotry we see paraded about before us daily. The political comedians and newscasters are doing their best to stem the tide. Activism IS bearing fruit and will continue to do so. If that is the departure you are now being called to or in addition to the positive path you are set upon, all the best to you.

But my core message here for you is to not let the Threshold Guardians–any would-be naysayers or fatalistic pessimism itself–deter you from heading out on or continuing forth with YOUR Adventure.  Joseph Campbell would remind us that every successful Hero’s Adventure, both in the pursuing and in the realization of one’s Quest, one’s Dream, profoundly benefits not just the individual but the Universe as a Whole.

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images are from pixabay.com

We need to support one another in our joyful pursuit of our Dreams, perhaps Now more than ever.

I welcome YOUR Comments and Story.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DEPARTURE—The Separation Phase of Your Adventure!

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Every Rites of Passage adventure consists of three phases of ritual activities: Separation, Transition—I like to call this, Transformation—, and Reintegration. The initial SEPARATION phase launches the person or group of ‘ritual passengers’ into their Adventure. It is usually marked in a formal rites of passage cycle by distinguishing the Adventurer in various ways as no longer in her/his ‘old’ state but not yet in the ‘new’ state s/he seeks to attain as the Quest of their adventure.

I love the scene in the very first Star Wars movie (Episode 4: A New Hope) when Luke Skywalker stands on a hill at dusk watching the double sunset and feeling the desire to depart the way of life he has known to embark on a greater adventure. This is the beginning of Luke’s Call to Adventure. His Departure begins shortly thereafter, first when he departs his uncle’s compound to find the renegade R2D2 and encounters his Mage Teacher, the Jedi Knight Obiwan Kenobi. The second stage of the Departure is when Luke leaves his home planet, but perhaps we will come back to that set of scenes as Crossing the Threshold.

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Luke is marked for Departure by his show of restlessness with his uncle and aunt just before his longing gaze into the double sunset.  When he (upon his second departure on the Millennial Falcon) receives his weapon of the Light Saber from his Teacher, this separates Luke from all others as he is from then on in training to become a rare spiritual warrior of the Jedi Order.

Very common ensignia of Separation accompanying the Departure stage of an heroic adventure would be donning a uniform or cutting one’s hair (e.g. for a military boot camp, or Yentl’s shearing of her feminine identity in cutting her hair in order to be able to study as a Hasidic scholar). One sheds their old identity and prepares to confront the ordeals of the transitional/ transformational Passage.

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As I approach retirement in a few months over a year from now, I have already begun the Separation process so as to allow and to prepare well for this Departure.  I am on sabbatical from my professor role this semester, which is a form of semi-retirement (though busy, as my retirement will also be).  I do not hold myself to the same normal schedule of a regular workaday semester. I wear jeans more than not even at the office. I close the office door unless I have a known appointment. All of these mark my intention (to myself and coworkers and students) to shift identities; no longer Chair of my department, now I begin a more liminal, transitional passage.

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images are from pixabay.com

It is helpful and important to MARK yourself as being in Separation from your earlier way of life if you are to step boldly into the next phase of your adventure. The more clearly and distinctively you can separate yourself from your normal routines and activities, the better!  As you mark your Separation you create at least the shell or form of your new identity. You must shed your Old or outmoded way of life in order to move confidently into the New mode you aim to achieve that will bring you Fulfillment of your deep aspirations.

What new Adventure are you aiming to undertake that can help orient and launch you in an appropriate direction to Live Your Dream, Now? How will you MARK your Separation as one ready to Depart?

I invite YOUR comments and stories!

 

Teachers and Learners, An Alchemical Pairing

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I love being a Teacher, as I have taught now for 37 years, from 2 years tutoring and then teaching developmental English for inner city Buffalo students in New York to teaching for 13 years for Phoenix area community colleges and Arizona State University, to 22 years since 1993 as a professor at the University of Colorado—Colorado Springs. And, I love being a Student, as I have been from the very start and will always continue to be!

We learn through teaching and teach through learning, and those we teach are also our own teachers, too! So here I want to celebrate the Learners who teach their teachers how better to connect, to stay informed and current with contemporary issues, and above all, to better LISTEN to their learners’ needs and their hopes and dreams.  For being a Learner can be a daunting, brave act, especially when the student steps forth to ASK their pertinent questions and to personalize their QUEST for gaining grounds toward deepening their topical interests and toward fulfilling their individual life goals.

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Never settle for less than what is stated in the previous sentence.  As a Learner, you have the right and in fact the obligation to not just attend classes and complete assignments but to question, to expand your reading beyond that given, to critique perspectives presented and to elaborate and develop your unique viewpoint, sensibility and expertise.  There has never been in the entire history of creation another YOU (true for All), and your specificity of experience, feelings and outlook truly make of you a very special Learner—and Teacher, too.

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Learning takes many forms. It could be in a formal classroom setting but it does not need to be, and even when it is, it doesn’t really begin or end in a classroom. Nature might be your Classroom, or your Family might be the soil in which you are planted to gather and to share nourishment and understanding and love.

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Learning is the process of manifesting Better Endings, with any endeavor. We learn to drive a car, and this brings greater personal freedom along with greater responsibility and awareness. We read a novel, and whole worlds unfold before our imagination; worlds we never knew before but that are now realms we can return to forever.

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images from pixabay.com

As you learn, you gain invaluable lessons of experience; not just head knowledge but compassion and passion for serving others and for attaining the capacity to embrace and live your Dream! 

 

 

On a Clear Day You Can See Forever

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This month’s topic is the metaphor Life is… A Mountain with Vistas.  I offer this topic to encourage you to nourish your own capacity to thrive, not merely to survive.  The principle we are working with here is VISION, and the method is to energize your divine gift of imagination via creative visualization.  Daydreams, for example, can help you discern where your deepest desires are so that you can increase your motivation to fulfill your most intrinsic life purpose and Quest.

The daydream I shared Friday and Sunday, for instance, revealed to me my deep desire for spiritual freedom and creative independence. On the surface this daydream was about reading a great book while drifting in a rowboat on a peaceful lake, then bumping up against an island and getting out to explore. Yet this is my spiritual quest (to a degree) in a nutshell! It shows my desire for spiritual freedom (the boat floating freely), my love of knowledge (the book), and my creative curiosity and love to explore and to thereby serve (by being a trailblazer). Nurturing this daydream has allowed me to cultivate free thinking and an adventurous freedom which I also have sought to share and foster in others: students, friends and family, readers.

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What do your daydreams reveal to you about your own inherent gifts and motivations?  What vistas and quest do they expose?

Consider next the lyrics to a rather mysterious song, taken from a somewhat obscure and equally mysterious musical starring https://www.youtube.com/embed/ZyNKZUWJSa0?rel=0“>Barbara Streisand, Yves Montand and Jack Nicholson, ON A CLEAR DAY YOU CAN SEE FOREVER.

“On A Clear Day (You Can See Forever)”

On a clear day
Rise and 1ook around you
And you’ll see who you are

On a clear day
How it will astound you
That the glow of your being
Outshines every star

You’ll feel part of every mountain sea and shore

You can hear
From far and near
A word you’ve never, never heard before…

And on a clear day…On a clear day…
You can see forever…

And ever…
And ever…
And ever more. . .

 

Do you remember this movie musical (also a long running Broadway show)? It was about this young woman (Streisand in the movie) who while trying to overcome a smoking addiction by seeing a psychologist who practices hypnosis, becomes a high class lady from a former lifetime under that hypnotic influence. The doctor (Montand) falls in love with the past-life version of his client. At some point she and the doctor realize they have a Soul bond that may transfer across lifetimes, so that perhaps in a future life they might find each other again and fall in love!

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What can you take from this to apply to your own aspirations?

To me: Life is greater than, vaster than only what appears on the surface.  As spiritual sojourners each on our own cosmic quest (however we might individually conceive of this), there are stones to upturn (to look under), mountains of knowledge to explore in search of WISDOM, LOVE, FULFILLMENT. 

ANY life experience can bring one to the awareness and fulfillment you might seek. It doesn’t matter if you are a housewife or a scientist, a millionaire or unemployed. From wherever you ARE, you can LOOK and SEE that which you seek to understand.

So, here’s a technique I offer you this week, based on the lyrics from this musical above.

Imagine it is a CLEAR DAY. You are at a mountain top, overlooking a vast expanse.  Turn West and you can see highlights from your Past. Ahead and surrounding you immediately is the Present. To the East (the direction of the new dawn) is your future. Contemplate these vistas freely. How do these vistas relate to each other, and how can you bring great Bounty into your present life from your Future that fulfills all that which has brought you to Here-Now?

I always invite and welcome YOUR insights and stories!

 

Your Quest Totem

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This week I have invited you to reflect on your Life Quest, celebrating yourself as the adventurous protagonist of your own Life Story.  I hope you have reflected on a challenging goal which you aim to fulfill in your life; if not, I encourage you to do so now.

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Now I’d like to introduce a powerful technique and principle to help you to “ground” your intention for realizing your vital quest. It is called TOTEMIC REPRESENTATION. Totems can be anything that represent something you wish to remember or to center your focus upon.  Totems can be as simple as keeping a “talisman” for good luck, like a rabbit’s foot, which helps you to remember your ambition to succeed. If you have a particular idea you wish to center your attention upon, you might create a SYMBOL of that idea that you carry with you or place in a personally meaningful location that you see often. A shrine in your contemplation space or a rosary, for example, might be symbolic of your spiritual beliefs and may help you to practice your faith on a daily basis.

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Totems are very good for representing your goals or Quest, to help you focus on that which you wish to remember or to be reminded about in the process of achieving this purposeful goal.  A simple totemic device for helping you to focus on your Quest is a pictorial Collage or “Vision board.” I invite you to create a collage that represents aspects of your Quest that you recognize as important.

Here below is an image collage I’ve just created to represent my Quest for the next several years. To create this online collage all I had to do was to open a Publisher page and then to INSERT some personal photos and some online royalty free clip-art images from my laptop. You could also use magazine images on a poster board, or create your own artistic collage of images and words. I recommend you place the most central aspects of your Quest centrally in the collage design. I have placed processual steps I feel I need to realize plus results from achieving my quest, accentuating the Positive!

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Once you have created your collage or some other Totemic form that represents your Quest, I encourage you to place this somewhere you see often, such as your bedroom wall or mirror or your office bulletin board, or on your refrigerator door. When you contemplate the images in your collage, notice how synchronous they are with your Quest intention, even more than you realized while placing them on your Vision board.

What action steps does your arrangement of images suggest? Can you read this like a map to the realization of your Quest? What steps can you take in your life now in the direction of fulfilling your Quest?

Act Now Key Means Do It Take Action

I welcome YOUR insights, pictures, and stories!

The Quest

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Because your life is mythically storied, you are on a grand heroic Quest. What is your Quest? Do you know? Has it shifted over time or is there one Lifetime Quest you came here to Earth to fulfill?  For some it may be related to parenting; for others it is realizing their talents, contributing to knowledge, or realizing spiritual goals.  Let’s start by exploring what a Quest is or can be by reflecting on some mythic  and historical Quests.

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Jason and the Golden Fleece is a Greek myth all about The Quest. In order to take his prophesized place as King of Thessaly, Jason is sent on a quest by Zeus and Hera to obtain a golden fleece, with Hercules and other fine crewmates, but also with a saboteur aboard the famous ship, the Argo. After facing many tests and obstacles, Jason demonstrates resolve, loyalty to the gods, and virtue, eventually defeating the protector of the fleece, Hydra (who has killed the saboteur) so that Jason and his surviving Argonauts, along with his wife to be, Medea, return to Thessaly where Jason will be King.

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Jeanne d’ Arc’s (La Pucelle’s) historical epic is iconic of a female ‘spiritual warrior quest’. Against all gender norms and odds, Jeanne listened to her saintly voices and led her French people to success in battle against Britain at Orleans, but then she was betrayed from among her own countrymen and tried for heresy.  To the end Jeanne d’Arc honored her spiritual Quest of service to God, refusing to recant and ultimately being burned at the stake. It is said that witnesses to her death saw a white dove flying out from the ashes. (Here you can link to Leonard Cohen’s “Joan of Arc”).

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Then there was Odysseus, whose adventurous quest to return Home to his wife and son at Ithaca after the Trojan War took ten years. Like Jason, Odysseus and his men faced a series of deadly challenges and obstacles placed in their path. To survive to reach his home in Ithaca, Odysseus had to demonstrate strong leadership and to outwit his deadly foes.

One of my favorite poems, Ithaca by the modern Greek poet Cadafy, frames each of us as on a Quest similar to that of Odysseus:

Ithaca

When you set out on your journey to Ithaca,
pray that the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the angry Poseidon — do not fear them:
You will never find such as these on your path,
if your thoughts remain lofty, if a fine
emotion touches your spirit and your body.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the fierce Poseidon you will never encounter,
if you do not carry them within your soul,
if your soul does not set them up before you.

Pray that the road is long.
That the summer mornings are many, when,
with such pleasure, with such joy
you will enter ports seen for the first time;
stop at Phoenician markets,
and purchase fine merchandise,
mother-of-pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and sensual perfumes of all kinds,
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
visit many Egyptian cities,
to learn and learn from scholars.

Always keep Ithaca in your mind.
To arrive there is your ultimate goal.
But do not hurry the voyage at all.
It is better to let it last for many years;
and to anchor at the island when you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches.

Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage.
Without her you would have never set out on the road.
She has nothing more to give you.

And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not deceived you.
Wise as you have become, with so much experience,
you must already have understood what Ithacas mean.

Constantine P. Cavafy (1911)

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So, Quests come in various modes: Tests of worthiness; Goals of Service; and Going Home (spiritually as well as physically) are various ways to realize your own highest nature and achieve your Purpose.

Where are YOU at in relation to the pursuit of realizing your own Quest? I invite you to take some time this week to reflect on and to envision your Quest.

 

The Allure of Travel–Promptings

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It is Prompts Tuesday at Better Endings for the weekly topic of Travel. How does travel help you to attain Better Endings or how have you used travel to facilitate Better Endings in your life? I was sharing yesterday about how I usually try to think of a trip away from the usual routine as a Vision Quest. Do you do that too? I find that setting up my trip focused around answering a significant question in my life helps me to frame the trip as a spiritual quest or adventure.

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Here are some prompts you can use to focus on Travel Better Endings:

  • Travel as a means to jump-start your focus
  • Travel to ‘shake out the cobwebs’
  • Travel for the sake of travel and Adventure
  • Travel to consider future relocation
  • Travel because of longtime association with a place (like to check out a reincarnation feeling)
  • Business travel
  • Family travel
  • Relationship partner travel
  • Newlywed travel stories
  • Road trip stories
  • Travel as a pilgrimage
  • Travel to relocate
  • Driving vs plane or train travel
  • Travelling inward
  • Hiking/ camping travels
  • Travel with your pet(s)

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I invite you to write or talk about or contemplate/meditate about or artistically represent your own reflections on one or more (or another) of the above themes. I welcome your insights, comments and stories!