Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Life Lessons: "Waking Up" to Close Friendships

In my ethical will, one of the life lessons I've written about is the importance developing and nurturing close friendships, especially same gender friends. I had great boyhood "pals" but, like most men of my generation, I lost touch with them over the years (except for one man I've stayed in contact with). From my 20's into my 40's, I left the world of male friendships behind, focusing on my work and family -- spending no time on close friendships. My only so-called "man friends" were a few work colleagues and a neighbor or two who I'd play bridge with or a very occasional game of golf. None of us were able to talk about anything other than business, sports, or politics with one another.

Thankfully, I got a "wake-up call" -- a gift of the mens' movement in the early 1990's -- and started a group of men friends who I can talk with about anything going on in my life. For over 12 years, we've gotten together for breakfast every Tuesday morning to enjoy each other's company and talk about "our week" and the heart and soul issues of our lives. A few men have come and gone, replaced by others who've stayed. This week, the four men at the breakfast table ranged in age from 61 to 85 (our group's "old guy" bikes 3 miles to the restaurant -- and can do 49 "real" push-ups!). A couple of guys were missing but we know they'll return when they're back in town (or missing the easy companionship of men they can talk to about anything -- or nothing -- in their life that day).

Most years, our men's group has also gone to the Coast or to the Cascade mountains for a weekend together. No planned activities -- just time to talk, cook meals together (we eat very well indeed!), enjoy long morning walks on the beach or trails, and "hang out" in the natural beauty of Oregon. It's an incomparable experience that I wish every man could enjoy at some time in his life. I suspect that the world as we know it would be more peaceful and all relationships more harmonious if men of all ages had a such close group of friends.

My focus on male friendship was prompted by an article I read recently -- an excerpt from Bob Greene's book, And You Know You Should Be Glad: A True Story of Lifelong Friendship. Here's a link to the article:

Friends for Life

May Bob's story bless you with laughter and tears (as it did me when I read it). And inspire you to take the first steps (if you haven't already done so) to invite close friendships into your life -- making the commitment of time and consistent willingness to "show up" for the people who become your own friends for life.
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Thursday, August 24, 2006

On Valued Life Learnings: Recognizing Our Teachers

In one section of my ethical will, I write about significant life learnings from teachers who've influenced the way I've chosen to live my life. Angeles Arrien, who I quoted last week in Reflections on the Second Half of Life, was one of those people. I met her just once several years ago when she did a workshop in Eugene and I've read all of her books. The wisdom she shared in The Four-Fold Way has made a life-shaping difference in my life over the past dozen or more years.

Most prominently, in the years I facilitated hundreds of mens' groups and workshops, Ms. Arrien's following words were confirmed (and affirmed) over and over in my experience as trust (and brotherly love) developed between the "strangers" who arrived for a weekend together or for a weekly support group:

"When we learn to live these archetypes within ourselves, we will begin to heal ourselves and our fragmented world.

1. Show up, or choose to be present. Being present allows us to access the human resources of power, presence, and communication. This is the way of the Warrior.

2. Pay attention to what has heart and meaning. Paying attention opens us to the human resources of love, gratitude, acknowledgment, and validation. This is the way of the Healer.

3. Tell the truth without blame or judgment. Nonjudgmental truthfulness maintains our authenticity, and develops our inner vision and intuition. This is the way of the Visionary.

4. Be open to outcome, not attached to outcome. Openness and nonattachment help us recover the human resources of wisdom and objectivity. This is the way of the Teacher.

When we understand these universal experiences, we are better able to respect the diverse ways in which these shared themes are expressed by all people."

While I may never learn to fully live these archetypes within me, they've been a powerful guide for my life and the lives of many of the men who shared the group experiences with me. For future generations who survive me, my hope is that people will honor this ancient wisdom -- learning to live "the four-fold way" to experience harmony with one another, with the environment, and with their own inner nature.
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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Reflections on the Second Half of Life

I've long admired the work of Angeles Arrien, a cultural anthropologist who wrote The Four-Fold Way and most recently, The Second Half of Life: Opening the Eight Gates of Wisdom. In her new book, Ms. Arrien offers the following passage which I find especially helpful for creating an ethical will:

"Nonattachment, surrender, and letting go of the future are necessary if you are to reflect on your entire life and all that you have been and done, and enter the final threshold of your life. You make the conscious choice of living not in the past or future, but in each present moment. This takes great courage and the ability to make peace with your life: to live without hope or fear, to let go without regret, to know that you have lived fully.

  • Reflect on your life and notice the areas where you are attached or have unfinished business. Consider this: If you knew when your life would end, what would you do to live out your final days in a full and complete way? As you cannot know the moment your life will end, why not live each moment as though it were the most precious one left to you?
  • How do you honor your ancestors? What do you know about them? What qualities in your ancestors would you like to emulate?
  • What was your first experience of death? Who died? What impact did this event have upon you? How has your relationship to death changed since then?
  • Identify what you are grateful for in your life journey; what have you learned from this journey and what have been the many blessings and opportunities offered to you along the way?
  • Review where you have been positively affected and changed for the better by your life journey.
  • Where were you challenged, tested, and stretched beyond your perceived capacities?
  • What do you need to mend your life or where do you need to do rectification or reparations work? What final forgiveness work is needed for you to feel complete? What do you need to say or do to feel complete?"
Powerful questions to reflect upon for writing your ethical will ... and for the way you choose to live the rest of your life!
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Monday, August 14, 2006

Leadership Lessons From Mom

I came across an article in an issue of Business Week that offered some wonderful life lessons that Henry Givray received from his mother, Stavroula Givray. Here's a link:

Leadership Lessons From Mom

Henry poses a great question for business leaders at the end of his commentary:

"In the end, isn't making an enduring difference in the lives of people by inspiring them and enabling them to do great work and reach their utmost potential what leadership is all about?"
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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Voicing Your Beliefs in An Ethical Will

Most people I've worked with to create their own ethical will have included a section about their beliefs. If you'd like some inspiration for writing and giving voice to your beliefs, take a listen to (or read) some of the essays from the "This I Believe" program on NPR:

This I Believe

After you've written your beliefs for your ethical will, you may want to contribute some of what you've written to the radio program. They've made it easy (once you get through their "submission agreement"). I haven't contributed myself yet, but have added it to my "to do" list for some day in the future.

Let me know when to listen to your "This I Believe" segment on our local NPR station.
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Saturday, August 05, 2006

Some Funny Advice On Not Giving Advice in Your Ethical Will

I caution people not to give advice (nor guilt-trip) family members in their ethical will; rather, choose to focus on sharing "lessons" from your life experience and your values.

Reading today's comics, Pickles reminded me of the wisdom of not sharing "all my wisdom" as a Grampa:

Pickles - August 5, 2006

Any advice you'd care to share about not sharing "advice" in your ethical will?
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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Becoming A "Storycatcher"

I've long admired Christina Baldwin's writing and storytelling. Her latest book, Storycatcher: Making Sense of Our Lives through the Power and Practice of Story, is a wonderful resource and guide for "catching" the stories in your life that you'd like to include in your ethical will.

Baldwin says that "we all have moments in our lives when we find our depth. Reflection on those times helps to create a story that defines how we live our lives. The responsibility of a Storycatcher is to use the spiral of story and experience to add insight and meaning to our life events. The more deeply we carry the story, the more we can recognize wisdom in our lives and the lives of those around us."

The book offers many questions and "tell me this story. . ." beginnings to get you started with writing your personal and family stories. I highly recommend Christina Baldwin's book which tells her life story while providing inspiration for writing and telling the stories of our own lives.

More information is available at: www.storycatcher.net.
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