In this season of celebration in religious traditions, we hear ancient and sacred stories, each of which shares powerful lessons. As we hear these powerful stories, I invite us to reflect on the messages we are weaving through the stories of our lives.
Diwali, the Festival of Lights, along with Hanukkah, and Christmas, all celebrate stories in which light overcame darkness in some way. These ancient celebrations lift us up through the power of sacred story. I invite you to see your life as telling a story, which can also lift people up through the power of the sacred and archetypal patterns of your life.
Have you ever thought of your life or of your life’s work as a hero’s journey? Have you ever realized that the way you live your life may tell a perennial odyssey, setting an example that was told by the great myths? By connecting the dots of what’s truly important about you and your relationship with people in both your personal and professional life, you tell a story of how you touch others both microcosmically and potentially even on a grander scale.
What story are you telling?
Is it in some way like the great heroes and heroines of the ancient Israelites, Greeks, Celts, Hindus or other inspirational figures throughout history? How does your career succeed not only financially, but also as a story about important values and impacts on your family, community and the larger world around you? How is your life telling a story on behalf of a higher purpose, a higher vision, or a higher power?
When I was writing my first book, Aging Well, it occurred to me that part of aging well entails intentionally shaping a life that uniquely has an impact on the world around us. When we periodically ask, “what story am I telling with my life?” we can be intentional about opening up to new choices, and become more mindful of the choices we are making. Then, as we live our lives more mindfully, deeper meaning emerges, but only if, at each step, we open ourselves to greater possibilities. By consciously choosing to live life all out and heroically, we can create an immeasurably priceless story.
Our lives, our stories, have power. Our narratives share consistent patterns and cohesiveness but have unique outcomes. Our lives, even the seemingly disjointed ones, tell others “This is what she or he was all about in this world”; “Here’s the ultimate impact he or she had"; “Here is my imprint and sacred impact on this world.” Our lives speak of values and priorities in ways that we are often probably unaware.
All of us have the potential to tell the story of our lives on purpose, rather than by accident. When we die, our families, clients, patients and friends will tell stories from our lives. Someone will probably seek to honor us by telling our story in the form of a eulogy. Why wait? Why not figure out what story we want told? Why not live out the rest of our career and family life by connecting the dots of our life to the perennial hero of old, really feeling our relationship with the larger world? Because your story has significance, I encourage you to reflect, teasing out the threads which weave a meaningful story.
What story do you want to tell?
As we reflect, thinking back to each stage of our life: early childhood, school years, teenage years, young adulthood, and professional life, I invite you to reflect on several threads that weave your story. First remember all the people who have made a difference, and ask yourself who stands out as having a big impact on you, and why? Did you learn anything of ultimate value, anything sacred or of lasting importance from them? What impact did you see them having on others? Who has inspired you to be the best “you” that you can be?
Second, let’s look at the threads of places and events. What places and events have significantly shaped your life at each stage? What choices have you made that have helped or hindered your heroic journey? What challenges have shaped you? What resources and support systems have made your journey possible? What was the most significant event in shaping who you are today?
Third, let’s reflect on what permanent values we may have acquired. What moral challenges have you faced and what have you learned is most important to you? What losses have you experienced and for whom have you grieved? What have you learned from loss and grief? What are your most significant accomplishments as an adult? What did you have to sacrifice and how did you overcome challenges in order to succeed in your accomplishments? What do those accomplishments mean to you and how have they benefited others? What is the main legacy of your work?
Fourth, what has been the most sacred experience, person, or connection in your life? In what ways have you experienced sacred community, or something or someone sacred in your life? In what ways have you experienced divine presence or the embodiment of compassion or a higher, enlightened consciousness in your life? In what ways have you experienced grace, forgiveness, and love?
Being your best self now
To conclude, you are capable of changing your story. What changes would you like to make in order to help yourself tell a really good story with your life – or is it already a fantastic read?
Know that you are capable of being your best self, here and now. See yourself and all your strengths, and all your potential, knowing that you are able to be all that you dream of being and to do all that you dream of doing. See your true self, your Higher Self, in all its beauty, and know that you can create beauty in your life and in this world as you live out the rest of your story.
My hope for you is that your life story will fulfill your greatest potential, so that others will be inspired and uplifted by the story you leave as your enduring light – your greatest legacy.
Carol "Anandi" Richardson M.Div., M.P.H., combines wisdom and training from both East and West, and focuses on wellness in mind, body, and soul. She specializes in Reiki Energy Healing, Intuitive Life Coaching, Hypnotherapy, and Raja Yoga Meditation. She is the author of Mornings with the Masters: Mystical Journeys in a Postmodern World, Exodus 2012: A Mission to Save the Earth and Aging Well~Be Your Best Self Forever!.