Thursday, November 3, 2011

Reflection on the Journey

It isn’t the end of the year yet, but today seems like a good time to reflect. The end of October marked the end of our focus on one Step per month. 10 months, 10 Steps. Before deciding where to go from here, I thought we might look back to see where we’ve been. Each of us has had our own journey. Here are a few thoughts about mine.

January – Step 1 – Give yourself permission to be happy.

January, the beginning of the year, a year I thought would be highlighted by my retirement. A quiet year of reading and writing, spending time at my cabin, sitting in my back yard, training for my black belt test. Then, mid-month, my daughter Mia blindsided me with the news she was pregnant. She moved back home. Everything changed. I did a lot of belly breathing! The focus that month on shadow beliefs and counter beliefs helped me stay grounded, recognizing that I was responsible for how this news affected my life. I had the power to choose.

February – Step 2 – Decide if you want to be right or happy.

This was the month of truly understanding how much I don’t know. My daughter Grace stunned me with the news that she was pregnant, too. Good grief. And grief was the word. I grieved over disappointed expectations and lost dreams. I begged the cosmos to help me learn whatever I needed to learn before my third daughter, Lily, brought home similar news. (She didn’t, and she became known as “the one who’s not pregnant.”) Dan and James, my two sons who both have autism, reacted in their own way. James had a hard time grasping that these were not MY babies. He kept saying I was HIS mother. Dan, who has a more mature understanding of the ways of the world, but no self-censorship, announced to everyone, “Mia had sex.” I let it all go and decided to be happy.

March – Step 3 – Give up the delusion of control.

By March, you can guess that I didn’t have many delusions of control. Even so, I still made some feeble efforts to direct Mia’s and Grace’s choices as they looked toward the future. By the end of the month, I gave that up, too. And it was good.

April – Step 4 – Feel your feelings.

I had plenty of feelings. Have you ever noticed that when certain feelings are evoked, they churn up memories of previous times that evoked those same feelings? So I was awash that month with feelings new and old. The focus on Step 4 helped me befriend my feelings, cradling them and looking beneath for the underlying beliefs. I gave thought to which wolf I was going to feed. I practiced transforming feelings that did not serve my well being. I made peace.

May – Step 5 – Make haste to be kind.

May was my last month at work before I retired. A career of thirty years, twenty of them at the same place, was coming to a close. It was a month of transition, many goodbyes, laughing over shared memories. It was a month of receiving kindness from others, expressions of appreciation, gifts of gratitude. It was an opportunity to acknowledge those who made my years there so successful – the skillful secretaries, the maintenance angels, the computer geniuses, the people in various administrative positions who always responded quickly to make things happen, my hero at the coffee cart who knew exactly what I wanted, colleagues who have become friends, and of course, the students who enriched my life more than they will ever know.

It was also a month to realize that how I handled this year in my family would set the tone for years to come. Kindness was the guiding principle. It’s as simple as the golden rule, treating others as I would want to be treated.

June – Step 6 – Judge not.

Judging was a theme this year as I watched my daughters grapple with the judgments of others. That was hard. I spent a lot of time in June reflecting on all the ways we judge ourselves and others, and the damage we cause by the resulting separation. I looked more closely at hurts I still held onto, grudges I still nursed, vengeance I still secretly longed for. What violence we do to ourselves with our judging. I saw a reflection of myself in every judgment I aimed towards others.

We also judge our circumstances. I renewed my efforts to be complaint free, recognizing that subtle shifts in perception would brighten my world.

July – Step 7 – Practice compassion.

Compassion was the balm poured out to soothe the raw wounds of judgment from the month before. For every judgment aimed at my daughters, there were many more outpourings of compassion. I found myself full of compassion, too, as I remembered my own youth, and later my early years of parenting.

I found guidance and perspective in the teachings of A Course in Miracles, which characterizes everything we do or say or think as either a call for love or an expression of love.

And I realized that the person most often in need of my own compassion is me.

August – Step 8 – Forgive everyone.

Forgiveness is the most challenging Step for many of us, even though most of us, I think, would agree that it’s a good thing. I was struck by the quote that unforgiveness is like drinking rat poison hoping the rat will die. Reflecting on those judgments I still clung to in June, I saw that forgiveness had very little to do with the unforgiven, and everything to do with me. The key that helped unlock the chains of unforgiveness for me was shifting my focus away from being a victim. Moving towards an even more radical perspective, I began to see the spiritual gifts of many of the wrongs I harbored resentment over.

As with compassion, I realized that the person most often in need of my own forgiveness is me.

And I saw that forgiveness is rarely a one time event, but often requires repetition.

September – Step 9 – Develop an attitude of gratitude.

What a relief to get to this Step after some challenging months. There are so many ways to focus on gratitude, and they are all fun! Gratitude lists, games, and quotes kept this practice in my awareness through the month. And how timely, since Mia’s baby boy was born mid-month. After all the months beginning with my shock and dismay in January, I saw that he was indeed a blessing of incomparable value, and brought joy beyond measure with his every breath.

Gratitude is a humbling gift.

October – Step 10 – Be here now.

The journey brings us back to where we started, where we never left, in the present moment. Grace’s baby girl was born mid-month, and once again I was there, watching a new life begin, awed by the mystery, overwhelmed by the beauty and perfection of, well, everything. More than ever, I appreciate the eternity present in this, and every, holy instant.

When I sat down to write a post for today, I didn’t know that this was what I would write. In fact, I had something entirely different in mind. But as I looked back over the Steps and over this year, each Step seemed to speak a lesson to me, a gift. So I wrote what came to me. Whether you have been reading all year or just a short time, I hope that you have found something of value to your lives in the ideas we have all shared here. If there is something that stands out for you, any reflection or idea or memory, I hope you will leave a comment.

I am going to take a few days to sit with these reflections as I discern where we go from here. I welcome your thoughts and suggestions.

Most of all, thank you for your support, your encouragement, your honesty, your kindness, and your perseverance!

41 comments:

  1. What a stunningly on target piece of writing, Galen. You summarized so beautifully the problems and joys of being human. 2011 will not be a year you or your family will ever forget. I am humbled by the grace, compassion, love, understanding, and self-awareness you have exposed.

    I can't wait for what you focus on next year.

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  2. Congratulations for your grandchildren! ;) they certainly bring joy! I admire your courage of handling them all with grace. Thank you for your post! Reminding us that in everything we have a choice on how we would react....More blessings!

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  3. Bob--I am humbled in return by the graciousness and generosity of your comment. Thank you so much.

    Anonymous--Yes, we have much more power to choose than many of us realize. Thanks for your comment.

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  4. Hello dear Galen....In reading this post this evening...I wasn't aware that you had quite so many EVENTS happening in your life. I certainly admire your ability to handle it all with dignity and grace. I always find much wisdom in your posts ..... to which I will now add courage.

    hugs,

    Jo

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  5. Galen, it's your dignity and grace to accept with love and understanding what life has thrown to you, that strikes me the most. I'm not sure how I would react in your circumstances. Thank you for sharing with me about love and self-awareness.

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  6. Hi Galen,

    What a coincidence! I just finished writing a reflective article as well.

    It has certainly been a wonderful 10 months with you. I love your blog for its simplicity which makes it easy to comment. At the same time, there are so many wonderful stories and life lessons you have kindly shared with us. I have certainly learned a few things from you. :)

    I think I have come to associate the serenity prayer with you. The most important lesson I have learned from you is that we cannot control everything despite our best efforts. What matters is the ability to adapt and adjust as needed.

    Thank you for sharing your incredible journey with us! :)

    Irving the Vizier

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  7. Reading this I can feel you have a lot of buoyancy. That ability to lighten yourself / become enlightened will help keep it all afloat.

    I have enjoyed your words all year.

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  8. Galen Pearl you have been an Inspiration to me, even though I only joined late in the year, you have taught me how to reflect on me and improve.
    This year had been rich in many things for you but all these things have helped you and now you can say you have achieve a lot with perseverance and a huge dose of love.
    I will be happy to follow in whatever road you decide to take from now.
    Stay well and have a beautiful relaxing week-end.

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  9. Jo--No, it has not been a dull year! Hoping things will settle down now for awhile. Thanks for your comment.

    Inspiring--Thanks for your kind words. I'm sure you would do the same. We all learn to handle what life brings to us. Thanks for commenting.

    Irving--I will check out your article right away. You and I have both learned a lot about control this year, haven't we? I appreciate the reflections you shared.

    Mikey--And I have enjoyed yours as well! Buoyancy. I had not thought of that word. I like the image, bobbing along on top of the waves! Thanks for commenting.

    Marie--Thanks for your kind words. I am not sure how relaxing my weekend will be. I'm testing for my black belt tomorrow. Wish me luck! Thanks so much for your comment.

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  10. This post was so inspiring. Thanks for taking me through your 10 month journey. Although I have been following you for sometime; it was wonderful to see the steps all at once with your relections. It was so beautifully written. I want to share this with some members of my family which could use your thoughts on judging and forgiving one another.
    Enjoy those grandbabies; they will be great blessings in your life.
    Blessings to you and thanks for a lovely insightful post today. Your blog is a favorite of mine.

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  11. Even though I have followed it all, this review, this condensation of all that has happened in your life... helps me put things in perspective in my own. It is how we look at it all, our attitude that makes all the difference. Thank you...
    Barbara

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  12. Lovely post Galen... with so much reflection there. It sounds easy when you say it fast... but life is never easy... not even when things are going well. Life is fraught with challenge. You have met your challenges admirably. You have conquered so much in these 10 profound steps. Thank you for the privilege of sharing the journey thus far...

    Jean x

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  13. Great reflective post. Thank you.

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  14. LeAnn--Thanks for the kind words. And yes, feel free to share it with anyone. Interesting, isn't it, how family members are often the ones we first think of. Thanks for your comment.

    Barbara--Condensing it like this was a good exercise for me, too. I had not looked at the overview like that, but I can see how the steps helped me so much through this year. Thanks for commenting.

    Jean--I laughed about how it sounds easy to say it fast! I hadn't thought about it like that! Thanks for commenting.

    JJ--You are, too!

    Linda--Thanks for the kind words, and your comment.

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  15. Hi Galen, I discovered your blog while the journey had begun and have enjoyed your posts. There has been plenty of eye-opening thoughts for me and truly aspiring.

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  16. Galen,
    You sure know how to grow forward with grace. My daughter was 20 when she came back home pregnant. She planned adoption for my second granddaughter who is now 16. I know all about letting go of judgment and what other people think. It was our Course In Miracles support group that got us through it all.
    My oldest daughter opened up the book in the labor room and came upon the lesson about a happy ending for all things is sure.

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  17. Cynthia--Thanks for your kind words.

    Tess--Thank you for sharing your story with me. One thing I've learned is that I'm not the only person this has happened to! So many people have come forward for me and for my daughters in ways that let us all know that we are not alone. I would like to know more about your ACIM group. Maybe we could email? Thanks for your comment.

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  18. hello galen

    how are you?

    i paused for a bit after reading your article and one thing that stood out for me was the sincerity of your heart which was clearly displayed through the contents of the article.

    the order in which you've outlined each step and processes you've gone through show how you've handled the challenges that have come your way and I salute your courage, honesty, determination and selfless attitude.

    sometimes people write off the top of their head but you can tell this is from experience and deep reflections.

    congratulations on your retirement , i am sure you've had fond memories as you grew in your career.

    as for judging galen, i've learnt to be very careful at pointing fingers to people and I am hoping to God I maintain the right attitude because the circumstances surrounding each individual is different.

    above all one has to show gratitude for the gift of life, the treasures in family connection, the friends, parents, children, loved ones.... we have.

    thank you for sharing this.

    take care and enjoy the rest of the day

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  19. ayo--So nice to see a comment from you! I'm doing fine, thanks. I appreciate your reflections on my reflection. Thanks so much for stopping by.

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  20. Again, you have pulled out from within the clogged walls of my brain the things that have been rambling about....some of it endlessly lost thoughts searching for answers. I find those things that I've been reflecting most on can be dealt with one by one, just going off this simple truthful list. Be here now.....yes, and it doesn't really get any better than that, all we have to do is feel it!...and believe it and it will be so!

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  21. Karen--Your brain sounds like my brain! I do love lists. Thanks for your comment.

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  22. Galen,

    What an exquisite piece. I would be hard-pressed to remember all these valuable experiences and insights from the year. I see how the framework you've created is so useful for also celebrating one's evolution as a human being dealing with all the struggles we do.

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  23. Sandra--It's true that the 10 Steps gave me some framework and something to help keep track of events. It's also true that when you get life changing news, you tend to remember where you were and what you were doing. In general, I am not famous for my steel trap memory! Thanks for your comment.

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  24. Galen,
    This was a very insightful piece of writing. Thank you for your honesty and openness. You really had a lot to deal with this year between retiring and then choosing to accept the choices of your children without judgement. I'm sure it was much harder than we will ever know but, I would have to say you reacted beautifully! The way you've laid out the sequence of events for us reminds me of the lessons of the Tarot, each one building on the previous card. Each card a mini story of it's own with valuable life lessons wrapped up it's images and symbols. Thank you again for enlightening us with your own story.

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  25. Wonderful post Galen and thank you for sharing it. I love your strength.

    It is wonderful to sit back and see how life's struggles help us become the person we are meant to be.

    Actually 2011 as been a pretty good year for me. Not many things have good the wrong direction and I am very thankful for that.

    I do have a daughter that is about ready to have her third child. I don't know whether it is this or something else, but lately she is hard to get along with. There are days I just listen and listen. Not quite sure what is going on, but time will tell. It is hard when we can't get them to talk and a child has to work through whatever and all we can do is be there if they fall.

    i am very proud of you Galen and enjoy that grand child, they too grow up fast.
    Blessing to you.

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  26. Hello Galen,

    As I scrolled down to post a comment, I noticed the many messages of gratitude. It is clear to me that you have created an impact in our lives. And I totally agree. You are a gift.

    Even though there appeared to be challenges with your life, you have demonstrated and shared about handling them with grace and love. I enjoyed the various themes you have on your site. Your authenticity certainly shines through! Please continue to post and share.

    Looking forward,
    Evelyn

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  27. You continue to inspire me in my writing and in awareness of what my retirement means to me and to those around me. From reading the comments and your responses to each, I see how you share and affirm your readers experiences and answer some life questions. My favorite part was this phrase: "I appreciate the eternity present in this, and every, holy instant." I love how you said this. I am preparing a post on "time". I will have to meditate on this perspective!

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  28. Angela--That's an interesting comparison to the Tarot. Yes, at times it was hard, and not all my reactions were beautiful! But I found that my practice over these last years kicked in and helped me get through it all so much better than I would have years ago. Thanks for your comment.

    Debbie--Sometimes listening is just all you can do. It's hard to know sometimes what life is like even for those we love the most. I hope things go more smoothly, and congratulations on another grandchild. Thanks for commenting.

    Evelyn--Thanks for the kind words. I am sure I will continue in one form or another. The organization this year around the 10 Steps gave me a ready made structure. I am just sitting with things now until I have some sense of what I want to do. Thanks for commenting.

    Bea--Thanks. I have been reflecting on these questions myself about retirement and what matters to me most. I know you write about this, too. Thanks for your comment.

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  29. Hey Galen, inspired by your "post" ... my thought was "control" oh how I wanted < want > control...but learning to become a complete bondservant is one what has "no choice" I give my only choice to No choice but Your Will LORD be done....a servant is for hire, with an expectation of repayment for service but a bondservant is for service w/out an expectation of a reward...due to the extreme desire to serve! So losing control for me has been an extreme struggle....my fears, my anger, is but manifestations of the inward still trying to control....Happppppy Saturday, November 12, 2011

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  30. Hey Galen! Very beautiful post.;)

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  31. Rhonda--What an interesting perspective about being a bondservant. I was not familiar with the real meaning of that term. Thank you for your comment.

    Sharda--Many thanks!

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  32. I can't express how grateful I am that you shared your reflections with us. All of the people who have left comments have said things much better than I could.
    I have followed your posts this year with enjoyment and great interest, often marvelling at your wisdom and strength.
    I am sure that to your family you are a true te toka tu moana (the rock standing in the ocean)

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  33. Alexia--I love that expression! Thank you so much for the kind words.

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  34. I loved this post, as it really helps seeing the 'big picture' by taking some distance from each individual step and see them all as a whole.

    Thank you so much for sharing all your posts! They have been a real inspiration!

    Hope to read more from you in the future :)

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  35. Beliza--Thanks for the kind words.

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  36. Great post, thank you for sharing your journey of 10 steps with us. It's amazing what we can accomplish if we truly dedicate ourselves to something, isn't it? Congrats on your successful and inspiring journey of 10 Steps. :) Any idea of what you're going to do for 2012?

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  37. shy--Good question about 2012. So far, I'm not getting any clear inspiration. I guess I'll just see what develops. I'm curious about it myself! Thanks for commenting.

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  38. Hello Galen, how nice to visit your blog. Thank you for joining in the 2012 reflections.I loved reading your profile, because unlike many others, it really told me something about you.

    What a great list, it's so insightful and inspiring. It does take work, but it's worth every bit of the journey.
    I especially liked Steps # 2 and # 7...these are the areas that need the most work in my life. Number 2 especially is quite interesting to me when I consider my marriage. I never thought about it that way before.

    Happy New Year to you...may 2012 be a great one for you and yours.

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  39. Salma--Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment. I appreciate your kind words and wishes. Good wishes to you, too, for 2012!

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  40. I loved reading through your list. The learning steps of your life seem very relevant to mine as well. Especially letting go of the delusion of control.

    I wish abundant love and blessings for you and your family, for 2012.

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