May I see through the clear clean glass of my soul and not the layers of dust piled upon my soul.”
One of my favorite wisdom teachers was the late Dr. Angeles Arrien, author of many books. The questions below come from her book “The Second Half of Life: Opening the Eight Gates of Wisdom.”
As you reflect on the experiences of your life and how they impact you, these four questions may open new avenues for you to explore.
1) When did I stop singing? This is when I lost my authentic voice.
2) When did I stop dancing? This is when I lost my connection to my body.
3) When did I stop being enchanted by story—particularly my story? this is when I lost my fire.
4) When did I stop being comforted by the sweet territories of silence? This is where I began to not trust the mystery, and stopped being an explorer.
You may have never lost one or more of these, or you may have returned to one or more later in life. If you returned to one or more—at what age, and do you remember the circumstances?
May these questions help you clear the dust from your soul so you may see your true beauty.
When I’m questioning my life, wondering if I am playing it safe or living fully, I turn to a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke. I invite you to practice an abbreviate form of Lectio Divina, sacred or divine reading, as you read this poem. I’ll have some questions at the end to reflect on and write about. Read the poem slowly and pay attention to what line(s) or word pops out for you.
God speaks to all of us as he(she) makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.
These are the words we dimly hear:
You, sent out beyond your recall, go to the limits of your longing.
Flare up like flame
and make big shadows I can move in.
Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
don’t let yourself lose me.
Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.
Give me your hand.
Sit with the line or word you chose for a bit, then turn to the following questions.
- 1) What feelings are evoked within you?
- 2) How does this line/word touch you?
- 3) What does this line/word say about your life?
- 4) What struggle or longing in your life today is speaking to you?
The stories were remembered for a reason. Family stories, they were told and retold because they contained essential truths. Life and ourselves were in these stories, whether they were flattering or not, straightforward or opaque, legend or history. They showed us, in one way or another, how to live.
Elizabeth Ehrlich, from Miriam’s Kitchen
Our families create our first stories and are our first teachers. Writing about families is an important tool to help us understand our own life stories. Below are prompts to generate writing about you and your family.
1) What are your favorite family stories? Take a few minutes to jot them down. These
are the stories you grew-up with, stories you heard around the kitchen table, stories
you heard from your parents.
2) Choose one or two of the stories listed and write about them. Write about who told
the story, how the story happened, and when it happened?
3) What is your favorite family story and why? Where do you fit into this story, or how
did this story shape you or your understanding of your family?
4) What stories have you passed onto your children or other family members?
5) As you think about these family stories is there one relative you would like to spend
a day with? Write a story of how you would spend a day with that person.
These prompts were adapted from Your Life, Your Story by Pat Flathouse, With Catherine Cogburn and Susan Wittig Albert.
We often have unfinished business with a loved one, a friend, an ex that we would like to resolve but don’t know how. Write them a letter, not for them, for you. It is a letter that you won’t mail. This letter is for you to get all your pain, hurt, confusion, questions, anger out. Whether the person is alive or has passed on, this is a wonderful way to begin your healing process by sharing your thoughts and feelings.
My mother died suddenly when I was in my early thirties. At the time I still held a lot of unresolved anger and resentment toward her. Not only was I in deep grief, I was crushed by the guilt of my feelings. I decided to write her a letter sharing my hurt and confusion regarding our relationship. It was surprising how long the letter turned out to be. I went to the cemetery and read the letter to her. I then put it in an envelop and saved it.
Over the years I have periodically read the letter and added to it. Each new addition showed my growth and understanding of our relationship. Over forty years these moments with my mother, through letter writing, have been very healing. The last letter I wrote was this past Mother’s Day and it was filled with love, compassion, forgiveness, and understanding for both my mother and myself.
I invite you to think of someone you would like to write a letter to expressing your sense of unfinished business between the two of you. Write them, sharing your feelings and confusion regarding your relationship. Writing this type of letter is not about them, it is about you and your desire to heal yourself.
I attended a workshop yesterday on spiritual memoir writing presented by Phil Cousineau, author of “The Art of Pilgrimage.” I’d like to share some of his insights for writing a spiritual memoir, plus some questions for you to ponder.
—Memoir is interior, there is an entire universe in a memory.
—Spiritual memoir is about a soul struggle, sharing your inner truth. The inner war is the engine of memoir. The heart of memoir is “Did you change and how.”
—Do you feel an inner necessity, an urgency to write your story?
—What is the necessity, the urgency? This is your need to write the story.
—Does writing your story move your spiritual quest forward?
—What would you write if you were not afraid of your own soul?
—Write about what you didn’t talk about at the dinner table.
—What would you write if you weren’t afraid of what family or others would say?
Memoir is your truth and only you can tell it. May these questions support you in your quest to write your story. If not for others for yourself.