Thursday, February 22, 2007

Seven Questions to Explore in Your Ethical Will: "Who am I?"

I'm always looking for new questions for people to use for self-exploration in my classes on creating ethical or spiritual wills. In reading Deepak Chopra's new book, Life After Death: The Burden of Proof, I found seven questions he poses are necessary for knowing "Who am I?":

1. What is your story? Your story is more than just a list of the events in your life. It's about your self-image, how you see yourself, what shaped your mind, which memories imprinted themselves on you. Taken altogether, your story tells you where you are in the cycle of life.

2. What are your expectations? Expectations are seeds. Once planted, they manifest into those things we gain from life, or lose. When you become aware of your own expectations, you discover the unspoken limits you have set on yourself. There is a huge difference between those who expect great things and those who don't.

3. What is your purpose? This is the meaning you are trying to find. Purpose runs deeper than the superficial things we hope to get, which mostly center on money, possessions, status, and comfort. If you know your purpose, you know the deeper project to which your life is dedicated.

4. What is your destination? This is about fulfillment. Human goals are endless; they unfold, not like a road that has an end but like a river that flows to join the sea, merging with ever larger possibilities. If you know your destination, you can envision your highest fulfillment.

5. What is your path? Having identified your purpose and your destination, there must be a way to get there. "Path" has been adopted as a spiritual term, but in fact everyone, spiritual or not, follows certain ways to get where they want to go.

6. Who are your adversaries? Forward motion is never without obstacles. On your path you will find yourself blocked. At times the adversary is external, but if you examine yourself deeply, you will find it is always internal as well.

7. Who are your allies? We all bring others with us on our journey. Just as your adversaries did, you may identify these allies as external, but they only reflect your own inner strength, just as an opponent reflects your inner vulnerability."

Chopra goes on to say that "what we know right now is immediate and personal: how we feel, what we want, whom we love. And that's enough. The decisions we make determine how life proceeds. We don't go through life simply making good choices and bad ones. We go through life making who we are. Choice is the hand that shapes the raw clay of a person."

What choices have you made in your life that have shaped the "raw clay" to become the person you are? Who are you making as a result of your life choices?

I encourage you to answer the "Seven Questions" and, if you're interested in how scientific discoveries and the wisdom traditions provide a map to the afterlife, read Chopra's book. It's a fascinating look at how your expectations, beliefs, and level of awareness in the "here and now" can shape what happens after you die.
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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Family Histories & Stories in Your Ethical Will

Quite often in my life legacy classes and talks, people will ask about including family stories and family history in their ethical wills. I always encourage people to include whatever has been most important to their lives as well as what they'd like to pass on to future generations of their family. So cherished stories and historial information about one's family can certainly be included in an ethical will.

If you want to make family history the main subject of your document, I'd encourage you to consider doing a family history video to complement your ethical will. This week, I met with Terry Sheldon who has a company -- StoryBox Creative -- which helps people create a video that tells a family's story using historical photos, interviews, and video of family memorabilia.

Passionate about his work with families, Terry describes his company as "unlike any you've ever seen. Our single goal is to enrich your life by helping you preserve your memorabilia & strengthen your legacy." He offers two essential services: production of "a heart-warming video documentary of your heritage - a keepsake you can pass on to the next generation" and the transfer of all your photos, slides, film, and video to digital media.

If you'd like an experienced professional to help you preserve your family history for a very reasonable price, I encourage you to take a look at Terry's website and to contact him at:

And tell him where you learned about his service. I look forward to collaborating with Terry to bring more personal and family legacies to life to share with future generations.

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Friday, February 02, 2007

The Wisdom of Molly

No writer of my generation has gifted me with more "laugh-out-loud, tears in my eyes" moments than Molly Ivins. Only Garrison Keillor even comes close.

Reading about Molly's death at the age of 62 this week saddened me. And it reminded me how blessed I've been by writers who first came into my life when I was in my 20's in Minneapolis. Both Molly and Garrison were there.

Although I never met her then, Molly was a brand new reporter for the Minneapolis Tribune. I was a lowly intern in the advertising department of the paper, confined to pasting "lean, meaty spare rib" clipart into ads for a corner market (while finishing my Journalism degree at the U. of M.). In the confines of the news department (where "ad guys" were banned from entering), Molly was covering, in her words, "the uproar of the late 60s -- the antiwar movement, black riots, angry women. It was a wonderful time." As for Garrison, though I can't recall seeing him around the J-School, word was that he was seen there too on occasion (though one of those notorious English majors!).

Guess I've been reading Molly's syndicated column in various newspapers for nearly 25 years. No telling how many laughs I've enjoyed as she took on every politician (and all of Texas) in her columns. People seemed to either love her or hate her as she smacked the egos of (mostly men) in Washington and Austin. And the "Bushies" were her favorites these past few years. Some of her humorous looks at the weirdness of Texas (where I traveled for business too many times in the '80s) were among the best. Last night, on the PBS News Hour, they replayed a story she did for them on Texas fine "ort" (pronounced "art" by non-Texans) back in 1986. If you didn't see it, here's a link to the video (a "must see" if you're ready for some serious laughs):

Remembering Molly Ivins

Yesterday's Oregonian offered a fine tribute to Molly by her friend and editor, Anthony Zurcher. I especially liked what he said about Molly's wisdom:

"For me, Molly's greatest words of wisdom came with three children's books she gave my son when he was born. In her inimitable way, she captured the spirit of each in one-sentence inscriptions. In "Alice in Wonderland," she offered, "Here's to six impossible things before breakfast." For "The Wind in the Willows," it was, "May you have Toad's zest for life." And in "The Little Prince," she wrote, "May your heart always see clearly."

Like the Little Prince, Molly Ivins has left us for a journey of her own. But while she was here, her heart never failed to see clear and true -- and for that, we can all be grateful."

If you'd like to read the full tribute, here's a link (to the San Francisco Chronicle version):

Goodbye, Molly

I was also pleased to read Garrison Keillor's tribute (and poem) about Molly on his blog today. It offers a link to much more about her life and work at the Texas Observer -- well worth a look if you're a fan of this larger-than-life, feisty woman with that unmistakable drawling voice:

The Texas Observer

What a wonderful legacy of writing you left us, dear Molly. Thank you for all the laughs, for your outrage at the "(p)ills" of our politics, and for speaking from your heart with a strong, clear (husky!) voice. I will miss you.
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