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Archive for February, 2010

We all have one, whether we’re aware of it or not. We’ve been watching lots of great Olympic stories over the past couple of weeks, and with the closing ceremonies coming up this weekend, what about your own version of these mythic stories? I’m not talking about winning medals, but I am talking about experiencing the same motifs and archetypes in our own life stories as these great Olympic athletes have.

The Greeks knew well the archetypes of the mythic story, and we learned much from their gods and goddesses. But they were not the only ones who knew the mythic archetypes. Joseph Campbell, in his classic The Hero With a Thousand Faces, first identified the universality of the mythic pattern. What he found was a pattern made up of the same three archetypes – departure, initiation, and return – in all the world’s classic myths. It is the universal formula for transformation.

In my book, The Gift of Stories, I adapted this timeless pattern to fit the lives we live today. So, we can also think of this ageless pattern as – beginning, muddle, and resolution. The Olympic version might be – challenge, struggle, and triumph. Not all the stories ended in triumph, obviously, some ended with the struggle, but great struggle is always the key to whatever does happen next. The challenge continues through the struggle, and how we approach both largely determines whether we experience the intended transformation regardless of whether there is triumph or not.

A 23rd way to review your life story – think of a time in your life when you had a series of experiences that followed the pattern challenge, struggle, and triumph. These three archetypes coming together usually signal a transformation. What was going on in your life during this time? What did actually experiencing each of these three archetypes separately and together feel like to you? Who were you before this experience and how did you change after it? After you’ve thought this through as much as you need to, and have written it down, tell your Olympic story here for others to enjoy and learn from.

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In stopping the daily flow of life, in noticing the things that often pass by unnoticed, in looking closely at images that appear as frames in a quickly passing movie, in focusing on the fragments of stories that come to mind, we can witness the emergence of our soul. This makes visible to us, maybe for the first time, the arc of our life, the path we now realize we were meant to undertake with our life, and this is what allows us to step for a moment out of time and into an eternal realm, which in turn gives us a new interpretation of who we really are. Finding that revealing space where the soul comes to life is where life renews itself, in the magical moment when past converges with present to give deeper meaning to both.

The stories we tell of our lives are like water, making more fluid the hardened events and facts of a life. Our life story softens us up, preparing us to see the things of our life more clearly. It dissolves the sedentary elements of our life, making us more ready to experience the flow of life, thus facilitating the necessary transformations of life, which ultimately move us along toward a unified consciousness.

A 22nd way to review your life story – reflecting on the flow of your life, see if you can identify a moment of truth when what you thought was solidified became liquefied, when you experienced the softening up of your self, maybe even the breaking down and the reforming of your essential self. What was it in particular that allowed your life to become more fluid? What was it that you suddenly became aware of that was always right before your eyes? What did this tell you about your soul and what you were meant to undertake in this life? After you have digested all of this as much as you need to, see if you can tell this story of stepping into an eternal realm.

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Rumi said, “There is one thing in the world that should not be forgotten. You may forget everything except that one thing, without there being any cause for concern. If you remember everything else but forget that one thing, you will have accomplished nothing. It would be as if a king sent you to a village on a specific mission. If you went and performed a hundred other tasks, but neglected to accomplish the task for which you were sent, it would be as though you had done nothing. The human being therefore has come into the world for a specific purpose and aim.” If we do not fulfill our own specific purpose, can we say that we have accomplished our mission?

A 21st way to review your life story – think about what it is that you might have been sent to this Earth to accomplish. How could you ever forget this, once you become aware of what this is? Wouldn’t that be the most important thing in your entire life? If there was one thing, one simple or specific mission, that was yours, and only yours, to carry out here, what do you think that is, knowing what you know about your life so far? If you can identify what your specific task is, tell the story of how you came to this awareness, how you might have gotten sidetracked once in a while, how difficult or easy it might have been to stay on task, and what it has meant to you to know your mission and to be working toward accomplishing the task for which you were sent here.

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