Friday, April 28, 2006

Seven Questions to Reflect On

Among the many possible questions you may want to use to start creating your ethical will are:

1. Who influenced you most in your life and what did you learn from them that affected the way you've lived?

2. Describe the most important experiences of your life. What did they teach you?

3. What was the happiest time of your life? The saddest time?

4. What spiritual beliefs have guided and sustained you?

5. Describe the family stories you'd like people to remember. What meaning do they have for you?

6. What are you most proud of? Any regrets?

7. What do you wish you had learned earlier in life?

Pondering these questions could take days or months. But the most important decision is to get started with just one. Add "ethical will" time to your calendar (at least 2 hours to start). Then find a comfortable place to write. I prefer my comfy forest green recliner at home (alone) and some classical music in the background. I've also done some writing in a busy coffee shop with lots of distractions in the background. Whatever works for you!

I like writing longhand with my favorite pen in a "college-ruled 1 subject" notebook. Somehow, writing about personal experiences works best for me when my hand is moving (and not just my fingertips "tap-tapping" on my laptop). I think it was Natalie Goldberg in Writing Down the Bones who first clued me in to the idea of the heart-mind-body connection in the writing process. Thank you, Natalie, wherever you are!

So, if you're ready and willing, start with the one question that appeals to you most. Close your eyes and breathe, three long slow deep breaths. Then breathe normally for awhile as you consider the question. Open your eyes and write without stopping for as long as it takes to get what you want to say down on paper (or into your computer). Forget about editing for now. Just write. Enjoy the process. And be surprised by your memories, life learnings, and wisdom!
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