Why Our Stories Matter
Our stories grow out of our life experience, continuously shaping how we view our place in the world. Some happy, some sad, they evoke feelings as wide and deep as the endless scale of human emotion. From exhilarating to profoundly tragic, they’re a rich source of self-discovery we can mine to discover our truth and uncover our treasures.
Some of my posts are, and will be, stories from my past that have influenced who I am. I share them openly and vulnerably, hoping to inspire others to recall and reflect on their own stories. For our stories have great power that reflection can liberate, if done in the spirit of compassionate self-discovery. Toward that end, I hold these truths close when I enter my Reflection Practice.
Reflection is non-judgmental. It is simply you, observing you and your past experiences, with no criticism and no judgment. Only learning.
Reflection enters a labyrinth of its own making, a winding path of story upon story that meanders to the quiet center of the Observer. An Observer with no story, only curiosity. Curiosity that rules this world of wonder — past events and personal history — to explore its emotions and meaning.
Then, when Reflection is ready, it leaves along the same path to re-enter the world. To experience it anew.
Reflection can feel lost, but it can never truly be lost in the labyrinth of its stories, no matter its length. For the path in, and the path out, are one and the same. One foot in front of the other will always take you to the center, on the way in, and to the world, on the way out.
Why Reflection Matters
Why care about reflection? Because reflection is the foundational practice for clarity. And clarity sweeps the leaves off the path to being yourself, who you were born to be. Do you have clarity now? Are you crystal clear about your next few steps? Steps along a path you feel will lead to the peace, satisfaction and results you desire in your life?
If not, reflection can take you to the fertile ground where the seeds of your talent, your passion, your inspiration are planted. When your non-judgmental contemplation mingles with your reflection, clarity sprouts. It emerges unpredictably. Sometimes in fits and starts. Sometimes all at once. It can’t be forced. And it’s not something you do. It’s something that happens to you from within.
Intending to be clear is like intending to be loved. It simply doesn’t work that way. With love, you show up under the right conditions, with an open heart, and love finds you. Clarity works the same way. You show up, reflecting and contemplating with an open mind, and clarity finds you in the midst of your learning.
Let’s Get Clear
If you’re struggling with clarity, it may be time to adopt a Reflection Practice. It isn’t hard, but it takes commitment. A commitment of consistent time set aside to develop the habit of going inside and drawing out and reflecting on your stories. There are no shortcuts. But once you’ve established this habit, it will consistently help you clear your path. Once mastered, you can return to it easily when you need it.
Pick a time of day when you can be alone with your thoughts.
It may mean getting up earlier, or finding a quiet place over a break at work. Perhaps even retreating to your parked car, as I used to do many years ago. Or choose the evening or late night. Forgo that last hour of entertainment or escape, or claim the hour after your home has settled down. Experiment until you find what works best for you and your situation.
Choose a means for recording your thoughts.
Write, type, or record. Whatever is easiest for you. The purpose is to reflect on your life and capture the times and events that moved you then or move you now. Start a document. Get a notebook. Pick an app on your phone to speak your thoughts. It doesn’t matter how you capture it as long as you do. So pick one and get started. You can always change it later. However you do it, you’ll want to refer back to it and reflect, so consider that as you make your choice.
Do it. Right now. Just try it.
I’ll lead by example.
Sitting here, right now, writing this post in my quiet home office space at my computer, a memory surfaced of a kind gentleman who approached me after a church service. I was perhaps five years old and decked out in my Sunday best, bowtie and all. He looked me in the eye as I extended my hand with a big smile to shake his. He asked if I was going to be a preacher. I suppose my greeting took him by surprise. It’s funny looking back now. I didn’t have aspirations to be a preacher, and still don’t. But there was something about that incredibly unremarkable event, that fifteen seconds, over fifty years ago, that imprinted a memory that remains and resonates to this day. Quiet reflection made it surface. Contemplation tells me I have a passion for connecting with people. My life experience shows me that those warm feelings surface when I connect with others. In person. In a group. Online. On stage. Through my writing.
Let’s Get On Our Path
The Endless Practice
The poet and beautiful human, Mark Nepo, describes the unfolding of your life as sweeping leaves from your path. In the fall of 2015, I spent a long weekend, and my 58th birthday with Mark, at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY. That experience, and this concept, changed my life. I wrote a poem there, “No Turning Back,” that captures my transformation.
The endless practice. Forever sweeping leaves to discover who you are. Never getting too far ahead of yourself. Continuously becoming who you were born to be. My Reflection Practice produced the clarity I needed as I cleared my path. To coach. To write. To share. And it still does.
So here. Take this broom and start sweeping. And pause now and then to reflect on your stories. Mine these treasures. And be gentle with yourself as you do. Life’s a path after all, not a prison. We’re never truly stuck. Sometimes, we’re just knee deep in leaves.