Archive for September, 2009

Like the timeless wisdom stories of the past, our life stories can bring order to our own personal experience, help us center and integrate ourselves, assist us in forming an identity, affirm, validate, and support our own experience socially, clarify our relationship to those around us, help us understand our commonalities with others, as well as our differences, foster a sense of community, and even bring us face to face with an ultimate mystery. Our life stories take us beyond our everyday existence, allow us to enter the realm of the spirit, or the domain of the sacred, and render a world-view that makes sense of the natural workings of the universe we are part of.

Our life stories reverberate past the personal and into the collective realm. They carry a power connecting the deepest part of us with the deepest part of others. They are sacred stories, touching the life force that we all have within us.

From the earliest times, stories have been central to life. Through stories, what is enduring is transmitted. Traditional peoples understood the importance of sharing not only their sacred stories, but also their own stories of life lived deeply. They knew that this supported the cycle of life. Stories became the food of the soul. Today, this is as true as ever. Enough stories, truthful stories – told from heart, and of the soul – can stop hatred, prejudice, racism, and this can change the world.

We have much to learn from each other through our life stories, much that will help us understand and relate to others more compassionately. “Our lives are journeys toward a certain kind of wisdom, which is a love and appreciation for all living creatures,” says Mary Pipher in Writing to Change the World. As we tell and share the stories of our journey toward this understanding, this love and appreciation can not help but bring us closer together; it can not help but change our world.

A 3rd way to review your life story –  Sharing life stories is a powerful experience, one that can touch us deeply, and give us great joy and satisfaction. It can give us a sense of inner harmony and connectedness.  Think of an experience from your life that carries the power of an archetypal force, something that was challenging for you but that you overcame in time, and in so doing changed or transformed your life. Put this universal experience in your own words that will connect with others experience, and maybe even change something in them. Share this story here for others to learn from.

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Last Friday (9/11) was the National Day of Service and Remembrance. It’s only fitting that next Friday follows this up by kicking off the National Weekend of Remembrance. The White House Commission on Remembrance and Families United host this annual event, in part, “to unite our citizens in remembrance” while “honoring all those who died in service to our country…”

There is a deep tradition here, going back at least as far as the first Memorial Day, of “shared remembrance” where “we have the chance to successfully connect as Americans.” In remembering those we love, and may have lost, we remember more of who we really are.

What else is going on when we remember who we are? How and why does this remembrance connect us to others? Well, there is a power deep within our life stories. Through the stories we tell of our lives, we tap into ageless themes that suddenly become familiar to us, adding greater meaning to our lives, and linking us to our ancestors, as well as those right next to us.

Our stories are always variations of one of the thousands of myths, folk tales, or legends that have spoken to us for generations of our inner truths. In telling our life stories, we recognize that there is something of the gods and goddesses inside us, too.

Life storytelling can transform our lives. Knowing our own stories is an essential part of a natural developmental process of personal transformation. Our life stories still serve the same classic functions as did the earliest known stories, myths, and folk tales: to bring us into accord with ourselves, others, the mystery of life, and the universe around us.

A 2nd way to review your life story – take a moment to reflect on that deepest part of yourself. Where is it? What is it? Is it matter? Is it spirit? Is it energy? What is its purpose? Can you remember a time in your life when what you did or thought seemed like it was so familiar to you that you knew you weren’t the only person who had ever experienced that kind of moment? What was this déjà vu evoking experience? Reflect on what recognizing something in your own experience as common to others, maybe even universal, means to you. Write down, in a page or two, the story of how this experience impacted, changed, or transformed your life. How did it, at the same time, seem like it connected you to others? It would be wonderful if you were so moved to share your remembrance here with others by posting it in the comments section!

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Today is the first annual National Day of Service and Remembrance. Can there be any two more profound and meaningful spiritual practices? These embody and engender many other forms of spiritual practice, including prayer and meditation.

Eight years ago, on the morning of 9/11/01, nearly 3000 lives were suddenly lost. In reality, their souls continue on in their eternal journey, in their original form, as spiritual beings. Our remembrance of them keeps them close to us, keeps their essence alive, and also assists them in their journey. Service and remembrance are both about nurturing the soul, our own and those we remember or serve.

I have been thinking about starting this blog for a while. Actually I woke up this morning writing it in my mind before I even got out of bed. This is one of those things that is a deep part of me that I can no longer not give voice to. So here goes, an attempt at yet another blog. My hope is that this will find a worthy place among the others.  My commitment here is to, each week, reflect on the meaning, purpose, and results of regular remembrance in our lives; to offer a broad secular and sacred perspective on the practice of remembrance; and, for at least the next year, to offer suggestions for a practical approach to taking action on not losing sight of what really does matter most to us while, in the process, remembering who we are at our essence.

For each week over the next year, with a couple off for good behavior, there will be 50 different but interconnected reflections – that I hope will stimulate some thought on your part – followed by interactive exercises – that may provide an even more important on-going place for dialogue and interaction among people of a variety of persuasions.

Whenever a new national day of something is established, the result is increased remembrance and awareness of whoever or whatever it was established for. Can we even imagine how much less Martin Luther King Jr. would have been remembered if his birthday had not been formalized? One day a year for remembering something/someone may not seem like much, but before we know it we are remembering that person much more throughout the rest of the year, too. So the memory of those who lost their lives on 9/11 will, as it already has, expand further and further beyond this one-day a year.

This National Day of Service and Remembrance obviously did not come out of thin air. It began with Congress’s proclamation of this day as Patriot Day in December 2001. Its seeds are also found in President Obama’s Inaugural Address. He said, on January 20, 2009, “As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages…” And so do we, each and every human being, have important stories to tell about the lives we are living. President Obama concluded this Address with these words, “So let us mark this day in remembrance of who we are and how far we have traveled.” This is our front porch for remembering who we are, how far we have each traveled, what has meant, and still does, the most to us, and for sharing our stories of remembrance with each other.

The practice of remembrance inspires unity with and compassion toward others. Remembrance, especially on this day, reminds us that our personal fate is inherently tied to the collective fate of us all.

One way to review your life story – Today, many people, as they do every day, will be remembering those who were closest to them that they lost eight years ago and who have become even closer through the regular practice of remembrance. As we remember those souls who continue their journey along the greatest adventure anyone can ever imagine, let’s reflect on our lives here and what we have yet to offer, from the depths of our souls, to others. If we can get into the practice of regular, even daily, service and remembrance, we will discover more of who we really are and what matters most to us. For today, this week, let’s think about this question, “Who am I, even if I have lost a deep and meaningful part of me?” What remains of me even when what matters most may have seemed to have vanished? Is there any part of me that remains unchanged? How does this changeless part of me relate to others? How can I better keep the awareness that the answers to these questions provide me? How can I incorporate this awareness into my daily life and action? After you’ve reflected on these questions enough to have some thoughts you want to record, write down what you would consider to be your most important understanding from this reflection, and post them here for others to learn from.

So here’s to making every day of our lives a day of remembrance, of remembering who we are at our essence, and of remembering how much more the practice of remembrance connects us all as members of the human family. I’ll add links and other bells and whistles as we move along our journey together. Let me hear your thoughts and comments, take a few quiet moments to reflect on who you are, even after you may have lost a meaningful part of you, and post them back here. Thanks, and I look forward to our journey through remembrance together during this next year!

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