On Praxis, On Mundi...

"Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished.

Tell about it." Mary Oliver

The impetus for this blog is rooted in my insatiable fascination with the ways and means by which we humans navigate our worlds.

I am endlessly intrigued by those things that are most elemental to us, from the terra firma soil that roots us, to the sacred water that floats our boats, to the perfect slant of wind that flies our kites, to the spark of fire than warms our bellies and ignites our imagination.

As I enter my sixth decade and the heart of spring in my 50th year, I don’t know how much progress I’ve made in figuring out these things. Unless the via negative and/or engaging in not so ideal life practices counts as a mad method to discovering a better way. Which, of course it does, in part. Our life trails beg to be detoured, backtracked, and trod upon again with more intention such that the trail begins to resemble that of a labyrinth.

I do know that I dedicated the lioness’ share of my 40s to trying to figure some of it (translation: me) out. In my early 40s, I would often lament I wish my children had come with pre-printed instruction manual. I've since come to recognize that as with them, so with all of us. Each of us shiny, complex, inscrutable humans have a unique modus operandi imprinted upon ours souls like a hidden, sacred manuscript. This is the holy grail. It remains our lifework and our soul's most fervent mission to illuminate these from within and go about living our words in the wider world.

In a pivotal retreat entitled Inside Passage back in spring of 2008, I crafted my Instructions for Living list, which is essentially my own personal truths and core values that I wish to remember and tell myself. I’ve fine-tuned it only slightly in the years that have followed to ensure the verbs speak the tell-tale truth of my practices:

Distilling one's list to verbs is a great litmus test. Are these verbs that jazz me? Are they ones that define me? And are they ones I can envision myself growing into as a way of being and doing?

{breathe, sing, embrace, call, point, marvel, show up, tell, practice, shine, choose, Snoopydance, teach, whisper, flirt}

What works for me about this list is that each instruction hints to me of how I most want to live. When I read these, I am reminded that...I want to be a centered, grounded, loving peacenik. That I operate best when I am a grateful possibilitarian. That I wish to be my own best heart healer and truthteller. That I seek to be seen, heard, celebrated. That I feel at-one-ment when I am humble and rooted, as well as when I lighten up, show and shine, and become a lamplighter for others. That good things come from risking more and releasing knowing. That I am here to teach and spread joy, keep on keeping on being a trailblazer, and be the passionate, playful poet.

I've since gone on to craft two other manifestos....a self-care avowal/promissory notes to self and a CompassionIT! manifesto, fashioned in acrostic form below.

I still have at least two more in me to write - a spiritual treatise and a Creativity RULES! list.

I'm smitten by other people’s manifestos and personal directives, too. Click here, here, here and here to see some what I consider to be some of the most notable ones floating in cyberspace.

Creeding our deeds is the easier task - living them lively as in walking the talk each day? That's the tricky part.

But I'm with Mike Dooley of tut.com fame in believing that thoughts become things. So hear, hear to all who scrawl, scratch, scribble their creative and spiritual intentions. It’s a noble if sometimes frustrating endeavor, because it entails a tremendous amount of navel gazing at our fiercest, our finest beliefs + actions.

I believe that if honed well, such instructions, declaratives and performative utterances can and should form the basis for our epitaph statements. They ought be like that final checklist in which the honorable mentioner attests, verily I say to you, she was this and then some, boy she did she ever do that, let me tell you a story, and yes, she lived precisely and uncompromisingly in this way because it's who she was.

Speaking of death, one of my favorite books is How Then Shall We Live? Four Simple Questions That Reveal the Beauty and Meaning of Our Lives by Wayne Muller. In it, he poses four seemingly-simple and compelling questions:

  1. Who am I?

  2. What do I love?

  3. How shall I live, knowing I will die?

  4. What is my gift to the family of the earth?

To answer those four questions is to have all the fodder needed to write a marvelous manifesto worthy of gilding in gold, framing in fancy wood and hanging with some prominence upon one’s wall.

I don’t know that I’ve really come of age relative to my practices – I suspect I am just only now beginning to apprentice myself to my truest self and devotions in this second half of life. But I’m happy with my first half of life drafts above. It more than hints at who I am, what I love, how I wish to live and my earth family gifts.

If you have yet to give any form of personal credo a try, I invite you to begin now.

  • Start small and as poet David Whyte would say, close in.

  • Begin by answering Wayne Muller's four questions above.

  • Consider your most firmly-held beliefs and values.

  • Bring to mind a mantra you utter as your golden rule of living.

  • Think about defining moments in your life and what you learned from them.

  • Plumb your favorite song lyrics, poems and wisdom quotes for inspiration.

  • Choose active verbs and make your statements affirming (avoid negative (don't/won't) and absolute (always/never) language.

  • Read a few of the This I Believe essays and themes and see if anything resonates.

  • Ask your friends and family what they know to be true about how you do life.

And as you write about your core beliefs and what lights you up and where you find meaning, start to underline some words or phrases. Think about all the things you champion, so that is to say, what you speak, stand and vote for. Think about the roles you play, the job titles you've held, your accomplishments, your interests and your wish list of as-yet achievements. Or pen your own wish and wannabe list, as I did, of your ideal, 100% fully-charged and battery-powered self.

Manifestos make room for all of these things. And they can be especially powerful reminders for me, on my not-so-great days when I don't want to get out of bed a face the day let alone a whole daunting list, and like I ought to just shoot myself...to at least try breathing in peace and see where that leads me. So what more can I say? If you've got your own instructions and recipe for living, own it and flaunt it. And if you don't, why not start today?

As William H. Murray famously asserted,

"Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it.

Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now."


© 2016 Praxis Mundi.

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