Life Review

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The circling world has returned me to the time of thin places and the Sacred has certainly permeated my past month, or perhaps age and effort have finally brought me to the place where the numinous is more apparent and the liminal invitations—to see thresholds into deeper ways of being—are more accurately and peacefully encountered. Of course, there are days I’m blind as a bat to the light surrounding me, and as out of touch with my spirit as I’ve ever been, but they are less, and since presence, listening, deepening, gratitude, and forgiveness have been qualities I’ve valued over material gain, I’m happy to examine my life periodically and discover if those traits I’ve treasured and quests I’ve set as worthy are being integrated into my life.

DSCF0634Maybe it’s autumn. There is something about its particular colors and quality of light that makes me more pensive than other seasons. It seems always to begin with a low-level anxiety, probably ancient, and I catch myself worrying if I’ve “gathered” enough to last a winter…and then the questions about precisely “what” I need to store and so be sustained come calling at my heart’s door.

DSCF0987Life review is a spiritual practice too often saved for the end-of-life journey. At that time, it’s a guided journey through life’s highs and lows, regrets and blessings, gains and losses, named by the one who is dying and explored deeply in order to bring greater peace and closure to the dying process. Rituals help ease forgiveness and augment gratitude, or opportunities may be revealed to heal wounds carried as painful burdens over a lifetime. I loved traveling the life review journey with my patients when I worked as a hospice chaplain, but often people are too weak, confused, or unable to complete the practice as they approach dying, and its benefits are lost.

And so I highly recommend we engage with this practice long before we face our final breath. A daily examen, a monthly meditation, or at least an annual dedicated time for reviewing our dreams and life goals, and whether the choices we’ve made are in alignment with our named purpose or will lead to imbalance, can help us live more fully and in tune with Spirit. And after the assessing, and emptying, comes the time of deep listening: what messages does Spirit bring to us for our encouragement and possible redirection?

DSCF1233Retreats can also help with this process, and so can a monthly meeting with a spiritual director. A friend of mine is currently writing her life Manifesto, and others have created Mission Statements to guide their journey…these are not carved in stone and can always be altered, but they serve a purpose in making their authors aware and committed to remaining spiritually aligned and awake during their time on earth. What, finally, is our Credo, and are we true to it?

Certainly, autumn brings me round to look again at who I’ve become and how true I’ve been to my gifts and spirit. The pull of the ego to conform, to “win,” to be the center of attention, to be perceived as successful by all the false measurements the world offers rather than the self-assessment I know after all these years will reveal the honest answers I need and treasure is relentless, but worth resisting. And every year, it gives me joy to see the path I’m on, the place I am, is where I’ve always wanted to be. Not that I have all the things I’ve desired, or perfect relationships, or a life without pain and disappointment, but that what I have is precisely enough and fulfilling.

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DSCF1011So I give myself time to sit, to walk, to be alone and realign myself with those goals I hold dear. I note my success and forgive my errors, and surround myself with friends who treasure their own paths and tend their gifts. I recommit to offering back the best of what I have and look for ways to contribute to the world more of what I believe it needs to come into balance. I listen.

DSCF0776The worries triggered by the autumnal urge to gather and store ease as I relax into the awareness that my life is rich. The sky shines silver and the leaves glow, burnished bronze and gold, calling me forward into mystery. I embrace it, knowing my life invites my continued growth and unfolding.

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10 thoughts on “Life Review

  1. What a beautiful post, I feel so chilled and relaxed just from reading it.

    You have me thinking now….a life review is something I shall certainly consider. I love the fact that you accept the positive and negative and move forward all the stronger.

    I too love the magic and mystery of autumn with it’s colours of red and gold, spring and summer are special too but autumn has a quality all of it’s own.

    What wonderful pics, your wildlife is breathtaking. Is that an egret? and what are those black birds, I saw them in Australia……they had such strange calls.

    I thought these words were such a lovely ending….”The sky shines silver and the leaves glow, burnished bronze and gold, calling me forward into mystery” sighs….xxxx

    • Thank you so much, Dina! Yes, an egret. The birds that appear black are back-lit…a flock of turkeys crossing the trail early one morning, so I stood back and took photos. Lovely to hear it relaxed you, so long as it didn’t put you to sleep 🙂 Joy to your week and may all the great good you offer the world be welcomed and received.

      • A flock of turkeys you say…..Wow!!! I wouldn’t mind running into them!!!
        I can ASSURE you that you are incapable of putting anyone to sleep, your writing is beautiful and you are a born writer….says I all greenish eyed! Lol. xxxx

  2. Kitty, this is a beautiful and profound message. I agree, there is something about autumn that triggers many of the same feelings with me, perhaps the light sifting through the multi-colored leaves or the smell of nature going to bed for the season. Your advice for life review is so sound; I have been doing some deep work during my sabbatical and it allows me to release the habits of thought that no longer serve me. I know you were undertaking this journey; it seems to have restored your inner balance and sense of joy. Your photos are truly lovely – is that a swan landing on the water? May your every day be filled with light and joy!

    • How kind and sensitive, Lynn; thank you. I hope your own days are merry and rich as well. The bird is an egret; they visit briefly on their way south in autumn. They, the cranes and herons have mostly moved on, but the huge flocks of blackbirds are still gathering and singing up storms, just hauntingly beautiful. May your autumn continue to bless you with its mysteries and gifts. 🙂

  3. It is always a great pleasure for me to read the words of John Muir. I encountered his writing when hiking through the High Sierras many years ago, and he has stayed with me always, as a reminder of how simple it is to love the nature around us. What you say of ‘life review’ is an integral part of my own life. I usually call it soul searching in English, translating the expression from my own language… but it is just as you describe it, an accounting of our own actions and awareness… a blessed part of life itself. The minimum is once a year, but it is far better to do it often… it can set the pace of living. I love your pictures. They always speak to me directly. May your life review bring renewal and harmony.

  4. Thank you, Shimon; thank you. I agree that once a year isn’t enough to live an examined life, but it seems to me that different times of year speak to different ways of exploring my journey and to different depths. Soul-searching is a very good way to describe it. I’m not surprised this is an integral part of your life; your self-awareness really comes across in your art.

    I’ve always love John Muir, too, speaking of someone who traveled his own path authentically. And although born in Scotland, he moved here to Wisconsin when he was 11 and eventually studied botany and geology at the University before heading to Canada, then various places in the US and eventually, of course, to California. For decades his spirit and Aldo Leopold’s informed the deep respect our state held for the environment and incorporated into laws protecting it. Sadly, this isn’t the focus or priority of our current state leaders and it’s a great disappointment to many. Muir certainly knew if we lost species, resources, and land formations, we will not see them again. For me, such a lack of wisdom in our leaders comes from impoverished spirits…maybe I should recommend that my governor and state elected officials commit to some life-reviewing!

  5. Oh my….I seem to do it often, quite often in fact, always checking in with myself to see if I am headed in the right direction spirit chooses for me. As a matter of fact I not only question myself often but life in general. I thrive on questioning and regard it as a wonderful trait to have been blessed with.
    Such wonderful words Kitty and your corresponding photos are always a delight. Thank you for sharing these important words and urging us all to review life. Autumn is a glorious time of color and as you say lighting, but with its splendor it brings the angst you address as well. I think finally realizing we always have just what we need and that more is always there if we need it is our lesson to to release the angst and flow forward into winter trusting all will be well. Thanks for sharing my friend 🙂 VK

    • Thank you, VK; your comments are always spot-on and welcomed. What’s surprising is how many people do not do the deep introspective life reviews that allow peace at the end of an intentionally-lived life…Wish we lived in a world where it was more natural and encouraged. But I’m not surprised you’re adept at checking-in and staying true to your spirit. 🙂 Appreciate your comments and visit.

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