Category Archives: New Chapter

Chapter 12

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Beth,

Over the past 12 months you have tested, trusted, learned, expanded and contracted your mind and tested your limitations.You have followed and bent rules, heard guidance, and created new paths for exploration within yourself.

You have listed reflections of your learnings from the past 12 months. You have found personal strengths and limitations you didn’t know you had. My challenge to you, for your 12th month, is this: stop looking back. Look and plan for your future. These plans may evolve and they may change, but consider this a starting point. You know more, trust more, are more prepared than you have ever been to make a plan. I want to encourage you to push yourself to make actionable decisions. Encourage means literally to “put courage into someone”. Take the courage your friends have literally put into you these 12 months. Take the influences they have put into you. Create your own action steps towards a future goal by examining these influences and who you are. Define your next 12 books, not just the next 12 chapters.

You have 4 weeks, and 4 major tasks.

  • Step 1, week 1. Reflect. In the form a child’s questionnaire, you will reflect on who you have been and who you are, not only on the past year, but in the past and far into the future. Doing this should be childlike, enjoyable, nostalgic, and non-intellectual. What were the literal items you wore, things you did, review your past self, and define your future self. Enjoy the nostalgia of it. When you were 5, these things were defined in many ways by others. How has that changed? How many of these answers are still defined by others? Should they be?
  • Step 2, week 2. Look Inward. Create a mind map of this past 12 months. Who you are in the present and what flows out of you. Think of this as a creative model of you – what you have taken in, what you have put out.
  • Step 3, week 3. Create life goals. Identify 12 things you would like to accomplish or become in the next 12 years. Maybe these are career goals, maybe these are life goals or improvements. Maybe these goals will change. Take the inputs that you received from your journey this year, into these goals.
  • Step 4, week 4. Check the logic. You will now create a logic model for your goals. What will you put into it? What will come out of it? What outcomes did you expect, what do you want to strive for?

Step 1, week 1. 

First. Reflect.

Starting at your 5-year-old self, fill in your blanks to the italicized sentences below.

BB (5 years old)

BB (10 years old)

BB (15 years old)

BB (20 years old)

BB (25 years old)

BB (30-40 years old, each year. Some of these will be forecasts)
I live:

My occupation is:

My 3 favorite hobbies are:

My favorite food is:

My favorite clothes are:

I consider my home to be:

The most interesting thing I have been invited to is:

3 things I like about myself are:

3 things I want to improve about myself are:

The single most interesting thing I have done this year is:

My friends helped me:

(add to this if you feel useful)

(Adapted/ Inspired by designer, Dana Tanamchi)

 

Step 2. week 2.

Look Inward at the past year. Mind Mapping. Creative chaos. What have you taken in, what have you put out, what questions has your Living Chapters journey raised. What is the visual representation of this journey?

This is about you and the past 12 months. mind map is a diagram used to visually organise information. A mind map is often created around a single concept, drawn as an image in the center of a blank landscape page, to which associated representations of ideas such as images, words and parts of words are added. Major ideas are connected directly to the central concept, and other ideas branch out from those.

Here is an example. This can be as simple or complex as you need it to be.

images

Step 3, week 3. 
12 goals, 12 years

Step 4, week 4.

Develop a life goal logic model. In its simplest form, a logic model has four components: Inputs, Activities, Outputs, Impact or Outcome. Adapt this to work for you.

Create one for each of your 12 life goals. Ideally you have unlimited inputs, activities, outputs and potential outcomes for each goal.

After you complete these, reflect. Does this change your 12 goals? Adapt them if the logic doesn’t feel right. You do not need to share your logic models, but modify your 12 goals accordingly.

 

Inputs Activities Outputs Outcomes/impacts
what do you have to put in to get to your end goal impact or outcome what activities you need to undertake to get to your end goal impact or outcome what is produced through those activities the changes or benefits that result from the achievement of this goal
For example: Let’s say your goal is “Own a Boat”
What inputs go into this, (e.g., money, research?)
For example: “Own a Boat”
What activities need to happen, (e.g. sailing lessons, trip from Annapolis to St. Croix)
For example: “Own a Boat”
(e.g. sailing culture becomes a part of your life, lifestyle changes, community changes)
For example: “Own a Boat”
(e.g. increased skills/ knowledge/ confidence, leading to…new job, personal non-profit to help youth learn to sail, etc.)

6/1/2014

Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about. Check out the Chapter Summaries Page to get caught up to date.

 

chapter 11

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Beth,

It’s hard to believe that it has been almost a year since you began the Living Chapters Project.  What do you think so far?  How have you changed?  Have you changed for the good?  Has the project served its purpose?

Purpose is our theme for this month of Living Chapters and for sure it is going to be a bit more on the reflective side than the actual get out there and go do side.   So, let’s talk about this.  What’s the point anyway, right?   When we start asking ourselves these questions, we begin to find meaning behind what are we doing.   Meaning might be as simple as defining our wants, desires, and needs.

Do you think about why you do the things that you do?  The big things, or even the little things!

Why in the world did I just eat an individual size bag of peanut m and m’s as a midmorning snack?   After further reflection, here is what I discovered: My decision for eating them is quite affirmed.  Lunch was a few hours away! But simply, I like them.  Also to mention that they were my mom’s favorite: I always love thinking about how when I was a kid, I always snuck a few when I found the left over ones in the bright yellow twisted bag that she earlier tossed in her purse to save for later.
So, how do you make your big time, bigger than what kind of tasty snack you will have, kind of decisions?

Maybe there were some jobs that you didn’t apply for because you were afraid the company or organization might not hire you? Maybe you broke off a relationship because you were afraid of getting too emotionally involved?  Maybe you got rid of stuff because it served no purpose in your life any more? Maybe you didn’t call someone because you were afraid of what could happen?  Maybe you didn’t run that 5K because you didn’t think that you would make it.

Personally, I haven’t run any 5K races because I think I would be last!  But more importantly, I almost didn’t take a job because I was afraid.  I thought Oh, what if this would happen and I would need to resign.  What if I didn’t get hired?  Alas!  What if I did get hired and fell in love with a job because FINALLY I am able to do something that I love!   Can I tell you how I came to the decision for applying for the job that I am quite passionate about?  It’s because of you!   You taught me to not worry about the “what if” questions.  You taught me to forget about what my resume read (i.e. hanging on to a position for tenure or not applying would be a waste in particular if I didn’t get hired).  You reminded me that a new opportunity might not work out…or better yet, maybe it would!

Have you ever made a decision because you knew that, while feeling a little anxious about the unknown, you were meant to do something really great?   Everything up to this point has absolutely made you ready for the next step.

Some tips for self exploration…

1. What will happen this month as you reflect?

2.  What will happen when the Living Chapters Project is concluded?

3.  Who do you need to call whom you haven’t spoken with in quite some time?

4.  Who do you need to send a letter to?  When you think about that person, ask yourself why you are doing it and find meaning, or purpose, or reason for doing it.  I think (and hope) that this might deepen your relationships with others.

5.  Dish yourself some of your own advice.  Write yourself a letter if you have to.  Write one to your former self 10 yrs ago.  Write one to yourself for when this project is over.  Why?  To help you discover your purpose and find meaning!
These questions might not be just for your career, but I also encourage you to consider the details of your relationships.   When you start exploring the purpose of some of your behaviors/actions, relationships, and other areas in your life, you may begin to find a deeper level of meaning.  This might help us to live more intentionally.  Thoughtfully.  Reflectively.  One would hope that when someone else recognizes this in you that they might want to explore the same possibilities….Of finding purpose in their life too!  Who knows?  You never know who might grow because of you!

So, grow on.  Grab your favorite candy bar.  Discover why you chose that one.  Take the stairs a few times this month and really think about why you would ever do that when there is an elevator button calling your name.  Think about your health.  Think about your career.   Enrich your personal relationships.   Reach in.  Dig Deep and promise that you won’t ever stop looking for it.

Cheers to purpose!

5/1/14

Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about. Check out the Chapter Summaries Page to get caught up to date.

 

chapter 10

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Theme: Body/Kinesthetic

Getting out of your head & getting it done!

Beth,

This month I know you face a lot of changes as you make plans for an
island life.  It’s time to be physical and get things done!  You will need a lot of energy for your tasks at hand:  packing, organizing, etc. That being said, every other day I’d like you to spend at least 15 minutes to raise your heart rate.

This should be done before starting your day. Do this before turning on your computer, doing anything for anyone else or getting involved in your day-to-day life.  Elevate your heart rate by any method you choose. Make the exercise something simple that you enjoy, i.e. walking, running, jumping, swimming, anything that you feel comfortable doing with out thinking about the activity.  Something that is repetitive might work best for this. I’d like you to focus your thoughts on what you will accomplish each day while you are elevating your heart rate.   This will get your blood moving and allow you to clear your thoughts and make a plan for each day.

Good luck!

4/1/2014

Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about. Check out the Chapter Summaries Page to get caught up to date.

chapter 9

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Spirituality/Existential

Preface:  My Bias

I’m an atheist.  I’ve been an atheist since my early teens.  My arrival at this position was a combination of growing up in the Catholic Church and finding logical flaws in many of the arguments purported in Sunday Mass; spending a year reading the Bible from Genesis to Revelations as well as biblical scholarship; developing an interest in science, history, and philosophy; and my growing uneasiness with the idea of a personal, loving God existing concurrently with the reality of evil in the world.  Over the years, my position has matured but the basic core of my beliefs has remained constant:  there is a serious lack of evidence to support the existence of God.  Or as Bertrand Russell stated, when asked what he would say to God if confronted with him:  “God, why did you make the evidence for your existence so insufficient?”

That being said, why would I volunteer to participate in the chapter on spirituality?  Despite my lack of belief in all things supernatural, religion and other manifestations of spirituality have always been a topic of interest for me.  One aspect of religion that I consider important to the development of a person (though it is not the exclusive dominion of religion) is quiet meditative introspection (i.e. prayer).  That is not to say that community is not as important, but whereas prior chapters (September excluded) have been more outwardly expressive, I wanted this chapter on spirituality to be more internally reflective and self-examining.

The Task:  The Trinity

  1. Reflection through study:  I’ve provided a selection of religious texts for you to read to provide you with a diverse though extremely limited introduction to religion and how people of a spiritual worldview translate their feelings into words.  Even though this is not a comprehensive survey of world religious texts, I’ve tried to represent both Western and Eastern religious traditions and I think these are all important texts to read.  (I encourage you to read further.)  Write and reflect on what you are reading.

  • Week 1:  Old Testament – Genesis (read Chapters 1-11)
  • Week 2:  New Testament – The Revelation of John
  • Week 3:  Taoism – Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu
  • Week 4:  Buddhism – Silence by John Cage (read Lecture on Nothing & Lecture on Something)

*A note on my selection of texts:  In regards to the biblical readings, excluding the Christ story, Genesis and Revelations are, in my opinion, the two most influential Books of the Bible.  The Tao Te Ching is the most important text of Taoism and espouses an interesting theme of action through inaction.  I chose John Cage to represent Buddhism, not because I couldn’t find a sufficient Buddhist text, but because I thought you might find it interesting to reflect on how an artist (musician) whose life and music was thoroughly influenced by Buddhism translated his spirituality into thoughts and words.  I also encourage you to listen to his works to capture the full experience.

  1. Reflection through mediation:  All religions involve some type of introspective practice.  Whether it is reciting scripted prayers or quiet mediation, reflection on God, the community, and the Self are essential to spirituality.  So your task is to set aside 5-20 minutes twice a day (morning & evening) for prayer/mediation.  The form and location of this mediation can be of your choosing and it can change from morning to evening and/or day-to-day.  It can be silent mediation in the traditional Zen fashion (as you did earlier in this project) or a recitation of the Rosary.  Regardless of the form, this should be a twice-daily ritual.  As John Cage wrote, “In Zen they say:  If something is boring after two minutes, try it for four.  If still boring, try it for eight, sixteen, thirty-two, and so on.  Eventually one discovers that it’s not boring at all but very interesting.”

  1. Reflection through participation:  And so as not to make this chapter a completely introspective task, here is the community element.  Community building and cohesiveness is an important aspect of religion, so your task is to attend one religious service this month.  It can be a Catholic Mass or a Wiccan ceremony, whatever is available to you, and if possible speak to the participants about their spiritual experience.

Conclusion:  Alpha and Omega

I hope whatever you cull from this month’s chapter (and this project in general) that it serves you moving beyond Living Chapters.  Despite my own beliefs, I think there are wellsprings of creative and mollifying resources in daily introspective reflection.  I don’t feel this type of mediation needs a supernatural or religious structure to be beneficial to an individual, but that is a path each person has to navigate for themselves.  As Lao Tzu wrote, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”  Hopefully, this experience and this project will be an important step in that journey.

chapter eight

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Dear Beth,

Alright, so February is about the interpersonal.  I feel like this is your forte – you KNOW how to connect with people.

But let’s try this anyway.  I thought of this, that and the other, but have arrived I think at a very simple month for you  (my favorite discarded idea, by the way, was to ask you to meet a bunch of strangers and throw a party for them!)

Ok, so, a month in two phases:

1.  Listen.  Interact.  Be with the person you’re interacting with – and explore your moment of interaction by knowing that you ARE them.

What??…  so let me be simpler, or try to be.  I would like you, whenever you remember and it comes to mind, when in an interaction with another person, to take an attitude that this person is yourself.  That simple – just think something like “I am listening to myself”, or “This is myself”.

It’s a creative visualization, i guess.  Just thinking that you are who you are with.

You don’t need to go out and look for people to do this with.  Just live your day-to-day, and when it comes to mind, and you’re interacting with someone, just think and hold the attitude – this is myself.

(There might be a reaction against doing this, from within, say if you are in a conflict with the person or something.  See if you can override your personal needs for a time, and allow the identification with someone else to be stronger.)

Do that, and observe it, and let us know how it feels.

2.  Do something about it.  Once you get to mid-month or so, though you can start thinking about this as soon as you want,  take some time to think about what this experience has felt like, and the people who you’ve conducted the ‘experiment’ with.  I mean the people you’ve related to as yourself.

And do something for them!  Go into the experience of ‘being them’ and them being you – and see what you feel there, in terms of something to do for them.  Maybe it isn’t anything at all – maybe you feel they don’t need anything – and that is fine.  Or maybe it’s that they need something specific that you can do.  Do it.  And let us know.

I’ll try to do some of this too.

That’s all Beth!  I hope you have fun with this!  And no pressure to get your head around trying to have a deep or crazy experience that is interpersonal.  Just simply let go and see if it can actually feel like you’re swimming around in yourself…

2/1/14

Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about. Check out the Chapter Summaries Page to get caught up to date.

chapter six

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Stories from Your Life (and meditations on romantic love…)

Dearest Beth,

I have been wondering for months what the hell I’ve gotten myself into and how to engage with something so intimate and something so not my business as your interpersonal relationships.  But talking to you has helped me come to grips with this dilemma.  Our conversations over the last month have been extraordinary.  Because of these conversations, you have been floating around my daily life even more than usual.  I hear something, or see something, or think of something and you immediately come to mind.  But even though you wash over me as a presence, there are times when I wish that I had recorded our talks so that I could pull you to my side in a more physical way.

This month, for the chapter on interpersonal relationships, I’d like to see you blend your friendships with your love for collecting stories. I would like you to interview four people (feel free to interview more if you like the idea) who you love, care about, or are intrigued by.  You may choose old friends or people you want to get to know better.  It would be wonderful to interview and record people who you’ve talked to for ages just to see what it’s like when you move from spontaneous conversation to a slightly more purposeful format.  And I think one of these interviews should be with your Mom.

There needn’t be specific rules as to how you go about your interviews.  You could decide to be dead serious, dead silly, to talk about deeply personal things or to talk about your favorite foods or films.  You could talk about the past, present or future. You could ask someone to read your favorite story to you or to sing a song.  Whatever is important to you at the time is good.  I do think you should decide on some key questions before you begin your interview.  It would be nice to begin by asking that person something you’ve always wanted to ask them or something that you’d like to be able to replay in the future.  If the conversation meanders and you get completely side tracked, that’s fine. There is no need to share these stories or interviews with anyone if you don’t want to.

I would aim for one interview a week.

Now you have much more experience than I do related to collecting stories and thinking about story telling.  But I’ve come across a few beautiful stories or meditations on storytelling over the past few weeks and I’d like you to listen to them.  (Can you feel the teacher in me coming out here?) Hopefully you will just enjoy these.  And we can include these pieces in our future conversations.  Maybe, maybe, maybe you could think about the idea of a “single story” and your family.

What Are The Dangers of a Single Story? By Chimamanda Adichie on the Framing the Story episode of the Ted Radio Hour

http://www.npr.org/2013/09/20/186303292/what-are-the-dangers-of-a-single-story

 Hitchhiking as A Family from Dick Gordon’s The Story program

http://www.thestory.org/stories/2013-10/hitchhiking-family

Terry Gross interview with Maurice Sendak from September 2011.  This link takes you to the last 5 minutes of the interview, illustrated by Christoph Neimann.  There is a link to the entire interview on the page.

http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2013/01/03/terry-gross-maurice-sendak-christoph-niemann/

I am going to use this challenge to record some stories from my parents.  I have thought about doing this for years and will now get off my butt and do it. At the very least I can immortalize the story of my Mom getting her mouth washed out with soap by her father.

In terms of romantic love, I would like us both to read Elemental Passions by the philosopher Luce Irigaray.  I will be sending you a copy of this book soon!  Now this book will in no way give you any kind of useful advice about creating, maintaining, or leaving romantic relationships.  As a matter of fact, you may find this book way too oblique and even annoying.  But I’ve found sections of this book strangely beautiful and I thought we could talk about love and try to untangle what Irigaray is saying together.  It’ll be a slightly different interaction between us, but it would certainly make a car ride to western Maryland edifying as well as fun.

love,

Laura

11/1/13

Just finding this blog today? Read more about the Living Chapters project here.

chapter five

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Purpose and Meaning

I am constantly driven to find meaning and purpose in each step I take on this path called life. Many of the choices I have made revolve around the work that I do and building a career.  I have recently followed a new life path, one influenced by work, but driven by the desire to live a deeply fulfilling, well-rounded life. I have finally allowed my need to live a more balanced life outweigh my desire to continue on a certain career path.

Beth, you too spend a great deal of time contemplating your choices and the way they direct your life’s path, always letting your intuition be your guide. I always know that when I call you to discuss a change that I need to make you will be encouraging, no matter how strange and scary it might seem. I can hear you now, “Wheatie, trust yourself. You already know what the right decision is.” Your path has also been somewhat directed by the work that you do.  I am interested to see how this year of letting other people direct your life will impact the way that you make decisions in your future.

When considering my own purpose I find that much of my life is centered around my interactions with other people.  As a teacher I am constantly fueled by what I learn from the students I work with as well as challenging them to think and create in new ways.  I also choose to surround myself with a community of people that challenge me and help me grow. I think that our initial bond was created through our similar desire to learn from the people around us.  Interacting with people on such a deep level pushes us to grow but can also hinder us if not balanced with time alone to reflect on knowledge gained.

The challenges I purpose for this month are about finding balance.

Part 1: A Walk in the Woods

I want you to start off this month by going on a hike. It can be as long as you desire but you must be alone and in the woods. The combination of the physical act of moving, spending time alone and being surrounded by the beauty of nature always helps me clear my head and focus my energy.

Let your brain clear out any issues that might be blocking your ability to bask in the experiences and interactions that have come out of the past couple months and consider what you have learned/what you have been reminded of while participating in the challenges of the Living Chapters. How has this knowledge impacted your sense or purpose and meaning?

Part 2: A Treasure a Day

The second part of my challenge for you this month, BB, is to create! I want you to spend this month using your creative energies to make something new every day. I also want you to share those creations with the people in your life that have impacted your sense purpose.

Here are the guidelines:

1. Make something every day.

This something can be as large or as small as you desire. I know that you may or may not have all the usual items that would be at your disposal in other living situations aka your basement in Remington, so I am sending you a package of goods that might help you through this challenge. Also, remember to use your master skills in the art of collecting to find items that may help your creative process.

2. Send or deliver the creations that you have made to people who have or continue to make an impact on your life.

You do not have to send/deliver an item every day and you may send/deliver more than one item to the same person if you choose, but you must be intentional in your decisions during this part of the process.  Let your intention be fueled by your intuition, letting yourself naturally come to conclusions about who must receive which items and when.

I loved your quote from last month’s chapter… “Instead of figuring out a direct plan for my future, what I want to do is hone the skills that will help me arrive at it organically.” Use this practice in following your intuition through the creative process to fuel your ability to listen to your intuition in the next phases of your life.

3. Have fun!

Let this challenge be joyous and not tedious. If you aren’t feeling the project you are working on one day ditch it and start a new one. It will be more enjoyable if you are listening to yourself, especially if you are feeling that it is time for a break or to switch directions.

Note: This challenge does not include October 31st. That day is reserved for tricks and treats.

10/1/2013

Just finding this blog today? Read more about the Living Chapters project here.