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Archive for November, 2009

It must have been in the early 80s when I was taking a couple of courses at Harvard that I first ran into the unforgettable storyteller Dr. Hugh Morgan Hill, known widely and affectionately as Brother Blue. He would often stand forth at a corner of the Square and regale passers-by with uplifting stories from his own life or by adapting traditional folk tales. Telling stories that connected listeners was his sacred calling. His message of universal harmony came through every line of every story he ever told. He passed away earlier this month at age 88.

He often drew upon timeless themes to inspire others. “How many want to climb the mountain?” he would say to his audience. “Moses climbed the mountain. Jesus climbed the mount. The mountain is inside of you. Climb to that place where the higher self is. There is something else beyond names, beyond all words; words can’t grasp it. Climb this mountain of yourself…”

A 12th way to review your life story – What is that story you hear when you climb the mountain of yourself to your higher self? What story is it that wants to be told from the middle of the middle of you to the middle of the middle of everyone? What is the one story that connects who you most deeply are with who we all most deeply are? Take as much time as you need to listen to this inner story of your higher self, and when it feels and sounds familiar enough to you, share it here for all of us to enjoy and connect with.

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Since Arlo Guthrie is here in Portland today with his whole family, children and grandchildren, I thought it would be fun to reflect on something he wrote twenty years ago. He called it “My Oughtabiography,” and starts out with, “I was born with a guitar in one hand in Coney Island, which is the good part of Brooklyn, New York…” After bringing us up to date, he goes on to say, “My personal life is somewhat of a mystery, even to me. Although it’s fun to be mysterious at times, it isn’t always convenient. People always want to know what you are, as if it made some kind of difference. Lots of people want to have something special in common with folksingers. They’d like to share their views on religion, pollution, nuclear power, human rights, truth, justice, and the American way with someone who sees things the same way. I have come to the conclusion that we are all one person with a few billion faces so we can see things in lots of different ways. I guess there really isn’t any mystery to me at all, unless I think of myself as being all alone…”

Now you know what an “oughtabiography” is, right? Wait a minute, what is Arlo really saying, anyway? Have you ever felt like “we are all one person with a few billion faces”? What in the world does that feel like?

An 11th way to review your life story –  If we all are one person with a few billion faces, does that mean your soul’s “oughtabiography” would be the same as, but from a different perspective than, someone else’s? Arlo gives voice to his soul in his own natural style, by expressing himself, his own inner qualities, and his own personal experiences. What have you acquired along your journey that makes you who you are? What conclusion have you come to about what it all comes down to for you?  Take a stab at telling the kernel of your soul’s story, in a way that expresses most who you are, in one sentence. Let’s see how many one sentence soul “oughtabiographies” we can share here.

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Stories have long played a vital and active role in the everyday life of people in traditional communities. They contained the lessons that needed to be learned, and they were also used to bring about healing. Stories define a three-part spiritual journey in which we: a) are well, or settled in to something familiar and comfortable; b) experience an imbalance within, or get dislodged from, the familiar, which creates confusion and chaos; and, c) confronting the unknown, find something new that feels even more comfortable than what we had before, or we return to where we were but with a renewed sense of commitment to what now even more clearly matters most to us. This is the timeless pattern of transformation that we live out many times in our lifetimes. Bringing our stories into the open in order to understand the energies behind any of our discomforts can be critical to our healing, our growth, and to our transformation, so that we ultimately find solutions to the on-going muddles, or life crises, we find ourselves in.

Story is therefore crucial to the core task of identity formation. Throughout our lives we tell stories that describe who we are – and sometimes we retell, or recast, old stories that we may have inherited that are no longer serving to contribute to our growth. In many indigenous cultures, identity formation is the development of a coherent master story – the one in the many – that links together, or integrates, all the stories we tell of our lives as sacred beings into an inclusive, archetypal expression of our soul’s journey.

As it is said in Native American traditions, “All you are is story. When you pass over, the stories told by you and about you are all that remains… We are all the stories that have been or ever will be told about us.”

A 10th way to review your life story – Take a few moments to see if you can identify your soul’s master story. Of all the stories you’ve told about yourself, or that others have told about you, which parts – the lasting motifs or timeless elements – really get at the heart of who you really are? What is this story that you want to remain about you? Which story do you want to be known by? If you would like to share a summary version of that story here, it will benefit us all.

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We can easily discover in the process of telling our life story that we are more sacred beings than we are human beings. Telling the story of what will endure about us long after we are gone is transformational. This is a gift we can give ourselves at any point in our lives. Telling our story while it is in process, wherever we are in our lives, will help us gain a sharper perspective on our past and our present. Telling the stories of our lives can give us a clearer sense of what we really hope for in the relations we have with each other.

There are unforgettable moments in the telling of our stories when we recognize a connection in our lives, a connection that links one moment of our lives with another moment, maybe years apart, or a moment that connects us in some deep way to our parents, our grandparents, our ancestors, and maybe even to all of humanity. These are moments when our whole perception of the world and ourselves can change in an instant – and we become totally transformed. They can occur often when we reflect on and share the stories of our life with others. In this moment, new insights take over, and all we want to do is savor them, and do whatever we can to not let anything else interrupt this new connection we have made to ourselves – to our own soul – or to others.

A 9th way to review your life story – When we compose the story of our life, we can tell this story in many different ways, with any number of variations or emphases. For now, think of your life, from as far back as you can remember to the present, as one on-going, connected series of events, experiences, and moments to gain lasting meaning from. Think also of all your relations and what they mean to you now and what you hope they will mean to you in the future. How would you describe these connections if you were telling their story? How has your soul created lasting connections for you? Does this story, like all other enduring stories, have a beginning, a muddle, and a resolution? Tell this story here in a short version that expresses how these meaningful moments in your life are the glue that holds everything together for you and establishes deep and lasting connections across time and space.

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