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From disciple to discipline

From disciple to discipline

 

Once a student

always a scholar

 

Disciple comes from the Latin for student

and Old English for scholar

 

Who is teaching

and who is learning?

 

A disciple:

One who follows

and yet who is leading?

Truly?

 

What does it take to lead

Or to follow one’s lead

 

Is it discipline?

 

A steady, consistent

grounded

follow through

in a way

that invites a welcomed result

without leaning too hard

on specific expectations

rather on beautiful outcomes

 

and remaining open to surprises

not unlike

the writing of poetry

or the reading of poetry

 

the writing of a poem

the reading of a poem

 

Did this take an unexpected turn?

Are you surprised?

I smile as I write this

I hope you do too

as you read this

 

Following

a follower

or a following-through

of sorts

 

Hopefully devoted

to devotion

or so it seems

at the seams

along the edges

then all-in

fully immersed

in the sea of wishes

and dreams

and with the continued discipline

to see them emerge

in their fullest

expression

 

And we’re back.

 

For your consideration:

What about following, or leading, evokes a stirring within you? Anything?  All things? Certain things?

For me, curiosity runs through me almost like life’s blood. It doesn’t waver. To try to stop it would be like trying to hold my breath.

Questioning, seeking, learning, solving, not quite solving, learning again, solving, not quite solving. Life offers a Rubik’s cube of possibilities.

Okay, your turn:

Would you consider yourself a follower, or a leader, or both? Are you always learning, studying? When do you turn from being a learner to a doer, to an experimenter, an explorer, an adventurer? Or, do they blend into one another?

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences by leaving a Reply in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2020 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.
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It is a matter of what matters

It is a matter of what matters

Isn’t it?

Don’t you think?

Actually,

don’t.

Don’t you,

think.

 

Don’t think

Instead, feel

into what

matters.

 

What matters to you, to your soul?

A few things that matter to me:

 

In addition to money as currency

(not to be confused with ‘currentness,’ which is something different, altogether)…

 

Love as currency

Caring as currency

Compassion

Respect

Understanding

Empathy

Oneness

Wholeness

 

The sustainability of each of us

And the planet

Depends on it

On us.

 

What matters to you?

Does it matter?

Yes.

It matters

No matter

what.

For your consideration:

Set a countdown clock on your phone or computer, for a quick 11 seconds.  Without thinking, blurt out (and write down on a piece of paper), the first three things that matter to you. They can be lofty or grounded, simple or complex.  No editing allowed. No filtering. No worrying about what others’ opinions may be. This exercise is for your eyes and heart only.

Repeat this process as many times as your heart desires.  By the end of the day, take the entire list or sets of lists (remember, no editing), and put the paper under your pillow and sleep on it. Dream on it.

The next morning (again without thinking, without editing), jot down anything that arose for you since the previous day.  Anything new that you discovered really matters to you?  Anything that really doesn’t matter to you, after all?

On each new moon, if you so desire, revisit your list and see what still matters.

Okay, your turn:

Have you really felt into what matters to you?  If not, why not?  If so, what has been revealed?  Anything surprising? Anything unusual? Anything you’d like to reprioritize?

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences by leaving a Reply in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2020 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.

 

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Wholly holy night and day, into the light

All that is holy

With this season of holy nights and holy lights illuminating the darkness and lighting our path, we await each new dawn. We emerge into the day’s light, having risen from our moments of respite and retreat.  I write this symbolically and yet from the physical realm, too.  The deeper the well, the deeper the water; the deeper the reach down fully into the source.

At this, the final new moon of 2019 and among the few remaining nights and days of the 2010s, we are each about to step across a threshold from one decade into the next.  It’s a time of high energy and high holiness.

All are sacred

All are holy

Are we wholly holy?

Yes

Does our wholly holiness show up wholly?

Not always

 

We focus on the season

We can focus on a lifetime

Well spent

Well enjoyed

Well served

Well shared

Deep from within

our own well

 

Our whole selves…

 

Sacred

Sacral

Sacrificial

Sacrum

Consecrated

Chamber

Heart

Night

Day

and

Light

again

For your consideration:

As we leave behind 2019 and cross into 2020, I wonder this: What’s on the horizon?

What is it that you hold most high? Most holy? Will you express it? Wholly?

I invite you to set a timer for 11 minutes, take three long deep breaths, close your eyes and allow an image, a word, a phrase, a feeling of what the next decade will represent for you and how you will move through this new decade as we approach that door, our front foot resting serenely and confidently upon the threshold.

Okay, your turn:

When you hear, read, or contemplate the word “holy,” what comes up for you? Is it tied to a particular holy-day, or a certain season?  It is something to which you aspire? Do you bring it into your interactions at work or other communities, with your family, with your friends?

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences by leaving a Reply in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2019 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.
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Imagine all that’s in the highest good of all

Imagine if you will

Where in your life does your imagination play a role? Where does it fall on your priority list? Okay, so I’m not here to cause any panic or self-criticism.  As you’re reading this, I gather that the idea of invoking your imagination is now in your field of awareness.

In this edition of Soul Notes, we explore the ways in which imagination can take you to places well beyond what your mind, your intellect, your braniac brain can take you, and why that matters.  – Why that matters for you, your loved ones, your law practice, your trial team, your clients, the litigation process and legal system as a whole, and anywhere else that the ripple effects of your presence in the world may produce a valuable result.

I realize that is a tall order, and I’m confident that the tapping into the full extent of our imagination truly is that powerful. I invite you to welcome it in, and to use it as fuel for bringing forth outcomes that are beyond-the-beyond, as I like to say.

I know for me, when I stay too much in my head, I miss out on so much.  So, let’s dive deeper:

“Think like a lawyer”

Remember how we were often told that law school purportedly was designed to teach us to “think like a lawyer”? That has its place in our role as lawyers, for sure. Does that, however, make for the best of all possible outcomes? What about our imagination, our intuition, our instincts, our inner knowing…you know, all those things that come from the heart and spirit, our bodies even, and not from our intellect?

What if we were to bring all of ourselves into the practice of law?  What if we were to approach litigation, including our early case assessment (ECA) strategies and ideas generated from those processes into play, so as to produce wildly different and dare I say even surprisingly novel results?

Back when I was a law clerk, I was put in charge of ECA on a few of the firm’s incoming cases, including one involving defamation allegations. Upon my initial review of the Complaint, along with spending some quiet time pondering the underlying scenario and fact pattern, and mulling over the details a bit – a line of inquiry led me to pose this question to the lead partner on the case:  What if the alleged defamatory statements actually may have improved the plaintiff’s reputation, rather than damaged it?  That one question completely turned our ECA on its head, and changed dramatically our defense to the lawsuit, on behalf of our defendant client.  In our sometimes rush to draw quick conclusions, we run the risk of missing entirely different angles.

Setting aside time to think (and then some)

Once when traveling for work several years ago, I was reading the in-flight magazine and delved into an article where a CEO was describing how he prioritized his work day, and his work week.  He emphasized the importance of and the value he gleaned from blocking out time in his calendar for thinking.  He set aside specific hours as purely “think-time.”

I would suggest that we take this concept even further….MUCH further.  Let’s decide to extend our analysis beyond the mind and into the feeling and the emotions and the instincts, the “hunches” we may have about something, and following the intuitive bread crumb trails.

Yes, we CAN bring our hearts into the practice of law.  For many of us, our hearts (as well as our minds, of course) brought us to law school and to the legal profession, with the intention of making a positive impact in the world.  Why should we leave our hearts behind?  Why should we compartmentalize ourselves, and so much so that we feel ‘cut off’ from what we’re doing whenever we put our lawyer hat and heels on?

The so-what:

Succumbing to the industry-wide leanings toward intellectualizing the approach to law means we’re not only contorting ourselves to leave our internal, true wisdom behind – we’re also bringing less than the full plate of possible results and outcomes to the table for our clients.  And that, I contend, IS a big deal.

Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.

– Albert Einstein

Yes, expanding the circle of possibilities may also bring up the dreaded ‘irrelevant’ along with the relevant. Some sifting through the sand may still be required.

The importance of discernment:

Your lawyer brain is still going to be put to good use. Don’t fret. (I can hear your brain protesting already…”But what about thinking like a lawyer?  That’s what I sweated through law school for!  That’s what my clients pay me for!”)  You’ll still need to invoke a certain amount of discernment.  You’ll need to make a few (or several) precise demarcations – before proceeding with your case strategy, for example.  I’m suggesting, however, that be made from the full array of options that only your imagination can bring to the forefront – and not from the limited array that your brain can come up with on its own.

And, this need not be done solely on your own. Inviting others into your imaginative process can be helpful as well.  Inviting in other points of view, and asking the question, “what am I possibly not seeing with regard to this case?” may reap substantial rewards. For more on this, and ways to bring this to your work team or other groups you’re a part of, take a quick view and listen to my short (6-minute) video, here.  Also, for more on the ways to facilitate a ‘talking circle’ so that each person’s voice is fully heard, review my previous blog post here.

For your consideration:

What all would be possible, if you evoked and invoked a spirit of imagination in all aspects of your law practice and in your life?  Where has your intellect only taken you ‘so far’ and stopped you short of reaching a full understanding of a scenario?

If you need help with this, leave a comment below or book an exploratory session here. Together we’ll see where you can bring more creativity into your law practice.

Okay, your turn:

Where, if at all, do you devote time and space in your day or week, for day dreaming?  Or, for creativity? Or, pure imagination?  When has going beyond using only your intellect brought you surprising (or at least more creative) results?

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences by leaving a Reply in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2019 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.
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Promise me

Promise me

 Often:

Promise me “you’ll be good,” says one.

Promise me “you’ll stay,” says the other.

Promise me “you’ll always be mine,” they say in unison.

 

Instead,

Promise me you’ll be you.

Promise me you’ll be true

to you

and to me

And not to whom you think

I desire you to be

Promise me you’ll stay true to what you intend to be true

Promise me you’ll only make promises you sincerely intend to keep

Promise me.

Will you?

I will, too.

I promise.

~~~~

Tomorrow is not promised.

Today is all we’ve got.

And that is everything.

For your consideration:

What about “broken promises”?  Are they based on unrealistic expectations, wishful thinking, both, or neither?

I know for me, an unfulfilled promise hurts more than no promise at all.

Like most every child growing up in Southern California, I fantasized about going to visit The Magic Kingdom…Disneyland.  We did get to go when I was really little, and I was “too short to ride the rides,” as the signs said in front of the line for all the ‘big kid’ rides that my older brothers got to go on without me.

As I got a little older and a little taller, nearly every year, at some point, I would tug on my dad’s shirt sleeve and pester him with “please Dad, can we go to Disneyland again soon, can we, can we?” I believe my father did desire to make me happy, and sometimes, as I know now, he would say what I wanted to hear, without giving much thought as to whether it was likely to actually happen.

One time in particular, I remember when my dad announced to the family: “Yes, we are going to Disneyland,” and we set the date.  I practically squealed with glee and leaped with joy.  I counted down the days, imagining all the fun rides we’d ride at the amusement park, and how I’d get to have my picture taken with Pluto and maybe even Goofy, my favorite.

On the morning of the day that we were supposed to jump in the car and head out to Disneyland, I eagerly asked my dad what time we needed to be ready to leave. I was antsy with anticipation.

Engraved in my memory are these words in his reply:  “Oh, Lori, we’re not going to Disneyland today.”

He didn’t provide a reason why.  He dismissed the promise, and me, as quickly as I had asked the question.

I slumped down into my dejected heart and glumly walked back into my room without a spark of joy left in me.

I didn’t know what to believe.

So:

What if we were to commit to making promises from a place of what’s truly true? What if we made the decision to embody that promising promise now, and to carry it through…for ourselves and for all concerned?

Okay, your turn:

When have you felt the impact of a broken promise?  What does it mean for you to make a promise?

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2019 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.
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Planting seeds now and for well into the future

Planting seeds and envisioning orchards

In elementary school, our teacher often told the folkloric tale of Johnny Appleseed (whom I researched recently to find out was a real person named John Chapman — an early American colonist and missionary —  who was a member of the New Church of Christianity).

While details of his life and legacy are the stuff of legend mixed in with documented history, John Chapman (“Johnny Appleseed”) was known to travel throughout New England and into the Midwest, spreading apple seeds for others to grow apple trees on their land. It has been reported that he was quite the businessman and enterprising in that he followed the then law that prescribed that a person with 50 apple trees or more could stake claim to a plot of land as part of the early homesteading rules and regulations.

And his religious beliefs, stemming largely from the New Church’s forbidding doing harm to any of God’s creation, informed many of his day-to-day activities. He is believed to have built fences around apple trees to keep out livestock and other animals. It has been reported that he even helped heal an injured wolf and a hobbled horse.

Johnny Appleseed also was someone who made it his mission to spread apple seeds in a way that allowed apple trees to grow and the fruit to propagate naturally. He disfavored the intervention through the then and now common practice of “grafting” from one tree to another. Apples intrinsically have a wide variety of genetic variability. As such, not unlike a box of chocolates (an appreciative nod to the movie Forrest Gump), you’re never quite sure what you’re going to get. Without grafting, apple seeds are allowed to sprout into an array of unpredictable varieties.  That lends to them being hardier and more able to adapt to and incorporate their ever changing surroundings.  While less ‘standardized’ and less ‘consistent’ in their outcomes, non-grafted apples allow for the element of surprise and naturally occurring complexities to emerge from the mystery and manifest into form.

So, what’s the spiritual lesson in this, you may be asking?  I’d say it’s this:

Plant the seeds and let go.  Provide them water, soil and sunshine, sure; but otherwise, let them be.  Allow specific outcomes to remain uncertain. Resist the temptation to impose person-made alterations that prevent nature from enjoying its full expression and dare I say potentially quirky “imperfections.”  So, too, may it be with regard to your own dreams and aspirations.

With your desires, envision them coming into form.  And, then let them go.  Allow them to run their natural course. Don’t allow your over-thinking and over-manipulating to “graft” onto your dreams and drain the life out of them.  Don’t try artificially to “contain” the fruit of your dreams.  Allow them to adapt and blend into the naturally shifting conditions and environment.  That, to me, is what we mean when we say “to be in the flow.”

The analogies between personal development and spiritual growth, and growth in nature, are abundant. When I started to envision the topic for this particular edition of SOUL NOTES, I didn’t anticipate that it would lead me to the tale of Johnny Appleseed.  Alas, here we are.  There’s more to his story, as I know there is more to yours as well. Tales to be told, and shaped, reshaped, and retold.

The longterm impact and leaving a legacy

Johnny Appleseed also exemplifies that planting seeds in the short term can reap dividends in the long term. As each of us continues to grow in our own spiritual development, the world stands to gain from that growth.  As each of us plants our seeds of intentions, desires, and heartfelt aspirations now for the betterment of all, we help to provide for generations to come.  In doing so, we indeed stand to leave an important and loving legacy.

For your consideration:

Feel into your dream theme for this year, and determine what seeds you’re planting now so that they may continue to grow throughout the year into a strong and vibrant orchard, for you and for others to enjoy. You are the steward of that legacy. You are the gardener.

Okay, your turn:

What are you planting now, in the ground, in your life, in your relationships, and how you show up in the world?  Are there any seeds you’ve been keeping tucked away deep in your pocket so to speak, that it’s time to plant into the ground and to allow to grow out into the light? If so, what is it exactly that you are waiting for? The season is now.

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2019 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.
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Dream Theme 2019: Guiding you as your North Star

Using a dream theme as your north star

A star, a star, shining in the night…will bring us goodness and light. At holiday time, we hear songs that highlight the stars in the sky and how they lead us in holy directions and toward holy destinations.  They light our path, and lead us ‘home.’

Following your North Star is unique to you and an opportunity to create a year centered around what you feel most inspired by and for and by which you and your soul desire to be guided.

Around this same time last year, as you may recall, in Soul Notes we introduced the idea of a Dream Theme.  Did you select one for 2018?  If so, in what ways did it serve you?  Would you like to create one for this year?  I invite you to do so!

Just as the other stars in the northern sky of our galaxy rotate around the North Star, I invite you to allow a dream theme to help you by being your guidepost throughout the year.

You know how compasses work?  Compasses are designed so that the needle points toward the Earth’s magnetic North Pole.  The compass lets you know where you are, at any given moment, in relation to all points North. Technically, there are variations in the movement of true north on our planet, but you get the point. While the exact true North is somewhat fluid and always in motion, a compass remains a reliable tool to orient you when you are not sure where you are or where you may be headed.

Similarly, your dream theme can do that for you as well. It can serve as a guidepost.  When in doubt or uncertain about your next move in your career, your relationships, your health or hearth and home, you can always refer back to your dream theme for insights.

For 2018, I grounded into and made union my ultimate choice for the year’s dream theme.  The theme can be a word or a phrase.  It can be a noun (union or unity), or a verb (to unite) or a feeling (of united).

For 2019, I’m feeling into connection as my dream theme.  Accordingly, my year will be guided by my connection to the divine, and to myself, to my loved ones, to my community, and to my values and convictions. Yes, I’ll also come up with focus points and lists of what I desire to bring into form throughout the year.  And, I’ll likely have a list (or several) of action items for various parts of my life.  Those will be anchored, though, if you will, and stem from, my dream theme.  Whenever I feel off track, I’ll make the appropriate course corrections by consulting with my dream theme.

For your consideration:

Feel into what one or two or three dream themes are coming up for you, and allow the one that’s most strongly resonating for you to come to the surface.  If more than one seem ‘fitting,’ and you can’t quite decide, consider running them each through this short list of inquiries or ‘filters’:

If you were to select that particular one as the theme for your year:

What would it mean for you in terms of how you conduct your daily practice, your interactions with your loved ones, your clients, and your business or law practice? How well does it match up with where you’d like to see yourself headed this year?

Okay, your turn:

What dream theme are you considering to make your North Star for 2019?

Need help in coming up with your dream theme, or need someone to help keep you on track and moving forward consistently toward your own North Star?  Do you sometimes find yourself starting off on the right track, only to lose focus and then find yourself veering mightily off course?

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2019 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.
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From Darkness Into Light: Winter Solstice Edition

From Darkness into Light

This week, in the northern hemisphere, we are approaching Winter Solstice and the turn ever so slightly toward longer days and shorter nights. It’s a shifting out from the darkness and into more light.

Now is an ideal time to reflect on the year to date, and where you may be heading as 2018 approaches. In the quieter moments, what is emerging for you?

It’s a continuum, of course, just like the rotations of the earth, sun, and moon. Between the two polar opposites, or contrasts, lies the fluidity, the flow… It’s a rhythm and a cycle from the internal to the external, and back again. It’s a peeking out, and an emergence — from deep within the earth (ourselves) and out into the world above the surface (out into our external surroundings, relationships, etc.)

So, now is an ideal time to reflect on the year to date, and where you may be heading as 2018 approaches. In the quieter moments, what is emerging for you?

Three Soul Starters

If you’re in my tribe, you’re likely a woman attorney who has placed a lot of emphasis on your career, on your law practice, and on serving your clients. As the year winds down, and Courts too “go dark” for a few days around Christmas and New Year’s, I invite you to devote some sacred time and space to:

1. Consider where things are going well for you in your life and career
2. Envision where you’d like to see some things change, shift, or dissolve
3. Get excited about what your “Dream Theme” for 2018 might be (no need to commit right this minute…let your heart and mind wander for a bit and explore some possible themes that resonate for you)!

To set the stage, I urge you to put in your Calendar now a date and time during the next two weeks where you will allow yourself the opportunity to do this exercise. Rather than thinking that you’ll somehow wake up on New Year’s Day, amongst the typically frenetic energy of a New Year, and that somehow you’ll magically have your year ahead “all figured out” — take advantage of taking a few days off during the holidays to honor yourself and where you’d like to take your life and career the next 12 or 13 moons.

If drafting a yearly plan makes sense to you, feel free to try that on for size. Write it out, map it out…use one of the many “planner” systems available…if that helps you get started. There are all kinds of smart phone apps and digital reminder systems available now; and I remember the days of hard copy Franklin-Covey binders, and those hand-held Palm Pilots. What I know, from my own experiences, however – is that no matter what system you use they serve only as placeholders for your intentions and not as creation generators. Like any good tool, they are only as helpful to the extent that you use them, and use them consistently, and with frequent check-ins throughout the year.

Also, remember that any plans are simply that. They are not iron-clad. And, until you start taking action to implement them, you’re really only making guesstimates, anyway. And, that is more than okay! Be comfortable with knowing and trusting that you will likely, nee nearly always, need to make adjustments along the way. As when commanding a boat as it traverses the waters ahead, you’ll need to use the rudder faithfully and consistently to keep you on course. All systems go – push off from the shore. If you take the space to do so now, at least come January you will have gotten as clear as you can “from the dock” about where you’re ultimately headed. And you’ve envisioned whom you’d like to join you on the adventure, and you’ve packed a few appropriate provisions for the journey. Then, allow the magic of the adventure with all its joys and surprises to take its course!

This will help set you, your life, and your law practice up for success in the coming year. It will help you complete this year and ease into the next one, from a place of feeling calm, centered, assured, strong, and confident.

Illumination time!

Just as with the Winter Solstice, and moving forward from there, what is ready to be revealed? What needs to come out from the shadows and into the light? What needs to be released to lighten the load? What would make for a smoother, more secure, less encumbered voyage ahead? Revisit what you wrote down in response to the Three Soul Starters above, and annotate them now by incorporating into them your “illuminations.”

For your consideration:  What’s your DREAM THEME?

As you reflect on the year to date, and as you begin focusing on where you’d like to be heading as 2018 approaches — notice what emerges for you.

I encourage you to select what I’m dubbing a “Dream Theme” to serve as a guide post and to carry you through from now until this time next year.

You’ll be amazed at what you start to notice, once you select your Dream Theme. I’m curious as to what yours will be!

Your Dream Theme may change shape over the next several weeks…allow it to do so! Right now, mine is something along the lines of strength through vulnerability (or “vulnerable strength,” for short).

Okay, your turn:

What’s your Dream Theme for 2018? What have you come up with so far?

I invite you to SHARE your thoughtsfeelings, and experiences in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2017 Lori A. Noonan. All rights reserved.
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The Meaningfulness of Meaning: Living a Life Worthwhile

The Meaningfulness of Meaning: Living a Life Worthwhile

In this edition of Soul Notes, we explore the concept of meaning and what that constitutes in terms of a meaningful life.  In this article, I’ll make references to one of Viktor Frankl’s books, originally entitled From Death Camp to Existentialism, now more commonly known by the title: Man’s Search for Meaning.

A doctor of psychiatry, Viktor Frankl (Frankl) is the founder of the psychotherapeutic school of thought he named logotherapy.  In contrast to Sigmund Freud’s focus on human instincts and the human drive for pleasure, Frankl focused his work on man’s (humankind’s) quest for finding meaning in one’s life.

Part One of Man’s Search for Meaning documents Frankl’s personal experiences as an inmate in concentration camps during World War II.  In Part Two of the book, he elaborates on logotherapy and how his experiences in the camps provided the backdrop for himself to become in effect his own best patient.  Part Two includes examples of patients he treated beyond the camps along with scientific and statistical data to illustrate his points.

Prior to being captured, Frankl had already written the manuscript for his first book, The Doctor and the Soul.  He had tucked the manuscript into his coat before being forced onto the train for Auschwitz.  Once at the camp, he and all the other prisoners were stripped of their personal belongings.  Accordingly, the manuscript he had hidden in his coat was quickly confiscated.

Adding then to the already deep poignancy of Frankl’s observations made during the Holocaust, is the fact that he by necessity documented them all from memory.  He kept his mind sharp by reconstructing in his head the original manuscript of that first book that he would later rewrite and publish.  The only physical remnants of the original manuscript that he had been able to reconstruct while in the camps were in the form of key words and phrases that he would surreptitiously scribble on tiny scraps of paper.

Beyond the physical:  love, spirituality, and a  life mission

Physically separated from his wife in the concentration camps, Frankl didn’t know if his wife was still alive.  It was in his mind’s eye that he would hold onto an image of her.  Just as through love he would cling to an image of his wife –- through a sense of commitment to his life’s work and overall life’s mission –- Frankl with devotion clung to the hope and intention of (re)writing his manuscript and publishing his psychological findings, all to the benefit of his profession and mental patients worldwide.

According to Frankl, love goes very far beyond the physical person of the beloved. Love finds its deepest meaning in one’s spiritual being, within the inner self. He also said that even during his time in captivity, glimpses of nature, music, and humor helped him and others to survive.  They were grateful, he said, for the smallest of mercies.

Frankl further went on to contend that by devoting oneself to a cause to serve or another person to love, that the more human and actualized one becomes. In view of the possibility of finding meaning in suffering, he suggested then that life’s meaning even can be potentially unconditional.

If and when conditions get tough on the outside, spirituality can play an even more important role from the inside:

“In spite of all the enforced physical and mental primitiveness of the life in a concentration camp, it was possible for spiritual life to deepen. Sensitive people who were used to a rich intellectual life may have suffered much pain (they were often of a delicate constitution), but the damage to their inner selves was less. They were able to retreat from their terrible surroundings to a life of inner riches and spiritual freedom.” (Man’s Search for Meaning, page 36, emphasis added).

In other words, the type of person each prisoner would become resulted more from that person’s mental and spiritual state, than purely his physical state.  Profoundly, Frankl maintained that one can decide to keep (and benefit from keeping) one’s human dignity, even in a concentration camp.

The meaning in suffering

Frankl was not suggesting that to have a meaningful life, one must suffer.  He did profess, however, that if there is meaning in life at all, there must certainly be meaning in suffering.  According to Frankl, those prisoners who discarded their inner morals, and who concluded that their lives were pointless, and thus “gave up” psychologically, were those who “forgot that often it is just such an exceptionally difficult external situation which gives man the opportunity to grow spiritually beyond himself.” (Man’s Search for Meaning, page 72).

The importance of having faith in the future and the power of personal choice

Frankl also understood the importance of having faith in the future. Without a belief in a better future, he said, a prisoner was subject to losing his spiritual hold, and thereby made himself more susceptible to mental and physical decay at a much more fervent pace.

So, what to do?

We may not be able to change every situation that we face in life.  We can, however, change ourselves and our approach.

Through our attitudes, choices and decisions we make and the actions we take, we can rise to any challenge and accept the opportunity to infuse any situation with meaning, even the most difficult ones.  Meaning is possible with or without (although perhaps most strikingly during times of) suffering.

Our lives are lived in moments.  And every human being, as exemplified by Frankl, has the freedom to change themselves — and their experience of any situation in life — in an instant.

 “[E]verything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” (Man’s Search for Meaning, page 66).

Each of us gets to decide what our existence will be in any given moment, and what we will become in the next moment.

That is true freedom.

Freedom plus reasonableness

Freedom alone, however, is not enough.  Frankl makes clear that freedom to choose must be combined with responsibleness.  Otherwise, as a race, the human race, we are destined for destruction. Every person has both potentialities within us – to be either a swine or saint, he said.  Which one is actualized, says Frankl, depends on the decisions we make, and not on the conditions we face.

So the beauty and the promise of Frankl’s work and legacy I would say is this:

Each of us has the challenge and the opportunity to bring with us the values of our past, make empowered choices and take responsible actions in the present, and thereby create futures of the highest value to humankind.

With that, we find meaning.

All is not lost.

Much is gained.

 

For your consideration:

What makes life meaningful? Can there be meaning in suffering?  Is suffering required?

Okay, your turn:

What has helped you bring a sense of meaning into your life?  Was suffering part of it?

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences by leaving a Reply in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2017 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.
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Staying the course, and the value of course corrections

Staying the course, of course! Or, rather, is it time to make a course correction?

“Without paying close attention, it’s easy to get off-course.”

Sailing back home from Catalina Island

Years back, a friend invited me to join him and a few of his friends for a weekend of sailing.  We left the shores of Marina del Rey, California and sailed across the 33 nautical miles to Catalina island, spent the weekend on the island, and sailed back. There are several tales to be told from that weekend, some more wild and adventurous than others!  For purposes of this blog post, allow me to focus on one aspect of the trip – and that is our return sail from Catalina, across the Pacific Ocean and back home.

Upon the return, I took my turn at the helm.  Clearly, we knew our intention, and our destination –  to get the boat and ourselves back to the mainland and the port from which we had originally departed.  It was at that dock where we had left our cars, too – so we knew that’s where we needed to point the boat.

Steering wheels on a boat work pretty much the same as a car – turn the wheel to the left, the boat heads toward the left; rotate the wheel to the right, the boat points toward the right.  Sounds simple enough?  Yes and no.  Out on the open ocean, conditions are in a constant state of flux, from the weather conditions, to the wind speeds and direction, to the water currents and cross-currents, to the presence of marine life and sea animals.  Additionally, the faster the sailboat is moving, inversely the more precise and subtle the movements needed to adjust the direction of the boat.  (There are lessons to be learned here about momentum, too.  Perhaps that topic shall get its due in a future edition of Soul Notes?)

Other things are simultaneously happening on the boat, too.  While the boat’s wheel moves the rudder, the sails themselves are usually in need of their own tending in the wind.  And, that’s not even taking into account the sway of the boom upon ‘coming about’…be ready to duck, or you may be knocked over by a solid wood beam!  In other words:  pay attention to what’s happening.  Be aware.  You’re the captain!

A slight variance makes for extensive consequences

Without paying close attention, it’s easy to get off-course. Even a less-than-one-degree variance as you’re heading toward your destination, especially over the course of dozens of miles, can mean the end point is miles from your intended target!  That indeed would have notable and undesired consequences.

If we were to veer that far off course, without course corrections, we’d find ourselves facing one of two situations: either we’d end up hitting the shoreline at a point where there’s no place to dock; or, we are able to dock the boat and yet are miles and miles from where we parked our cars.  (The same thing can happen upon leaving your car near the foot of a mountain, and trekking up one of several available hiking trails.  If you take a ‘wrong turn’ on the way back, and end up on a different trail at or near the top – without a course correction, you’ll likely find yourself hiking all the way down the hill only to arrive several miles away from your starting point. Hill bottoms by nature are substantially wider than are hilltops!)  So, the scope of error increases exponentially, unless and until you notice you’re veering off course and make the necessary course corrections along the way.

I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.”  — James Dean

During this time of Summer Solstice, it’s wise to take another inventory of your life, your dreams, and your aspirations. Here’s a reminder from last Winter Solstice’s edition of Soul Notes:

“Review and Replenish

Every 90 days or so (you can use the solstices and equinoxes as an easy guide from the natural world) examine — not only your luggage and passport, but your life’s dreams and ambitions.  Not unlike the natural world, your life is dynamic and fluid.  Quarterly review and replenishment is about right – any more often than that, and you may be disallowing your aspirations their full due.  Your life is worth it – no short-changing or robbing your priorities the opportunity to fully settle in and calibrate. Throughout the year, consider:  How do you feel?  How do you wish to feel? “

For your consideration:

Is it time to course correct?  If so, what areas of your life are in need of calibration?

Did you keep notes in a journal near the end of last year, heading into this year?  Did you review it during the equinox three months ago?

What has emerged or changed for you since then?   Are your desired destinations the same, or have they shifted?  Has something or someone in your life changed in terms of your priorities, and what’s important to you?  Which ones may have veered a bit off track?  What steps will you take to get them back on track?  Make a commitment to yourself to do so, lest you find yourself miles away from your intended destination.

Okay, your turn:

When in your life have you noticed you’ve veered off course?  What, if any, course corrections did you make?  How did that impact the result?  Are there times when you didn’t notice you were veering off course?  If so, what if anything could you have done differently to increase your awareness?

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

 © 2017 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.