The short story which follows is but a tiny bit of my story on how I got to where I am, and why I am standing before you today. I hope as we move forward you would be willing to share a bit of your own story with me.
It all began on a bitter-cold snowy New Year’s Eve, December 31, 1998. I was living in St. Paul Minnesota and was looking for a different way to celebrate the beginning of a new year, with the hope and expectation that 1999 would be better. I learned that the Archbishop would be preaching at a special liturgy at the Cathedral that would end at the stroke of midnight. This seemed to me a much better alternative than sitting once again in a bar full of lonely and desolate people, all pretending to be happy, some drinking to hide and mask their pain and fears. The last three years had been hard on me, with the death of my father and divorce in 1995, and feeling less and less satisfied with my career choice, I sought and needed a change.
I arrived early, a perpetual habit of mine, only to learn that the Archbishop would not be there that evening, but was to be replaced by someone newly ordained. I was sorely disappointed in this change, but as the young priest took the high pulpit that evening, I was astounded to hear for the very first time the Story of the Dash.
The storyline is very simple. We are born on such and such a day, month and year, and we will die at a future date and time. We don’t know when, or how, or even sometimes why...that’s in God’s (your Higher Power’s) hands...but what we do have is the dash—the span of years from our birth until our death, and the choices we make on how to live out that life because we all have been given the gift of free will to choose. The dash represents one’s legacy of their time here on earth. The dash symbolizes all of our achievements, disappointments, and the objectives we met or failed to meet. The lives touched, relationships built, lost, and built again. If we had the chance to be a parent, how would our kids remember us? As our own parents advance in age, had we been loving, caring children and responsive to their needs? What kind of impact have you made on the lives of others? Good, bad, or somewhere in-between, all of us have impacted many, many people during our time here on earth.
I reflected on the lives of some of the people I have always admired: the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Dorothy Day, Archbishops Oscar Romero, John Ireland, Jack Roach, and Chicago’s very own Joseph Cardinal Bernadine. Others might look elsewhere, but these were my hero’s. These were people of influence, substance and grace. These were people that faced great adversity in their life and were able to stand strong in Faith with Love shinning from the eyes and in their hearts.
I took a step back, reflected upon my own life. I humbly admit to you, my sisters and brothers, that I have often fallen short, and still do in my desire to be a better human being, spiritual life coach, presenter and pastor. How are you living your own dash?
The Good News is that it is not too late to change. It is never too late to begin the journey to discover and then become the person you were placed here on earth to be. I have learned a great deal about life since that cold snowy night in Minnesota almost ten years ago. I hope to be able to share some of the highlights of positive change with you.
What have I learned along the way? “Success is the art of being who you already are” is probably one of the most profound, difficult and yet quite simple things I have ever uncovered and discovered. One cannot believe the difference and limitless possibilities once you are comfortable in your own skin. I believe life is a process, a journey, not a destination. It is in living the questions of our lives that we find the answers. Your Creator has given you every single thing you need, not only to survive, but also thrive, right here, right now, today. You may ask, “I am not happy, satisfied, content with what is present in my life today”… “There must be something more to life.”
You are right, there is so much more just waiting for you to discover. The mystery of what is holding you back from living the life you were put here to live can only be found by looking within. The quest for the answers you are seeking are only found within each individual. Prosperity, happiness, relationships, joy, love, personal and professional achievement are possible and probable if one is willing to seek their own path.
How does one begin? The first key to allowing positive change is to accept the reality of where you are today. It may not be a pretty picture, but continued denial of reality will not change your situation. If you are lost ask for help and direction. There are many here who would love and be thrilled to do so. I am one among many who have progressed on their own journey deep within to discover our own individual truth. Know that there are many paths but one destination. To your own self be true.
The next step is to ask the question, “O.K. here I am, who I perceive myself to be and what I am doing is not working as I believe it should.“ This is where the journey to go-within begins. Turn off your cell phone; avoid interruptions for at least 15 minutes to start this process. Find a quiet place and bring along something to write on and write with. Visualize yourself in a calm, comfortable place without distractions or worry. Some may choose the beach with gently rolling surf, some a mountain or a prairie meadow, or deep woods—go wherever peace prevails for you in your mind and heart.
Take a moment to thank your Higher Power (God/-ess, Spirit, First Cause, Universe, etc.) for the opportunity to commune. Know that nothing can ever separate you from the love of your Creator. If you are feeling distant, ask, “Who moved.” Breath slowly and deeply and just ‘be’ in the present moment. Begin by asking the question, “ What is my highest purpose, why am I here?” “Who have you called me to be?” Let your thoughts go and listen to what comes forward into your consciousness. Take notes of what you see, hear, feel, and think. The message may come in many different forms, tailored just for you. When you have some notes it is time for the next question, “What should I be doing differently?” “ What do I need to change?” “What do I need to add?” ”What do I need to give up?” Listen deeply, calmly, knowing all is well, and that the right answers for you will come forward. Take notes on what comes forward. To close the session, offer your petition of gratitude to your Higher Power for this shared time together. Know that you can return anytime to continue or to begin again, depending on your heart’s desire.
Continue this process every few days until you become to have a clearer picture. You may wish to consult someone with what has been stirred up for you in this process, again, there are many here to help you on the journey. Simply ask for help and guidance and you will be led to the right person or group.
This is but the first step on the journey of the adventure we call life. The process continues with an expanded version of the concepts of gratitude and love. I know in my life and in my heart that “gratitude is the grease for the gears of positive change.” Are you ready to join me on the journey of personal and professional transformation? I hope so. It is so much fun when we discover we never have to journey and progress alone on the path.
Visit Be Not Afraid International online at www.benotafraidintl.org.
Fr. Tim Dodd, MA, EFT-ADV, created Be Not Afraid International in 2005 as an avenue of outreach, healing and hope to those seeking positive change in their life. A passionate presenter, workshop leader and Spiritual Life Energy Counselor/coach he asks simply, “Where does it hurt?” and “How I can help?”
By building a bridge between Traditional Spirituality and Energy Psychology, Fr. Dodd has the tools, training, compassion and experience to help you heal your emotional, physical or spiritual pain. This process helps the individual or group heal past wounds, current pain and future discomfort. Private sessions are available via telephone or Skype videoconference anywhere in the world.
For those in or around Chicago, the counseling/coaching office is located at University Church, 5655 S. University Avenue, Chicago, IL 60637, USA.
The office phone number is 773.324.8151. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org
To learn more, visit Be Not Afraid International online at www.benotafraidintl.org.
Fr. Tim Dodd, MA, EFT-ADV, is an Ordained Interfaith Priest of Universal Ministries and received his Master of Arts in Pastoral Theology from the Catholic Theological Union at Chicago. A member of Spiritual Directors International, he received Spiritual Director certification through the Claret Center. Fr. Dodd holds Advanced Certificates in Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) by Gary Craig, the founder, and Dr. Pat Carrington’s Pace Educational Foundation and has studied with EFT Master’s such as Dr. Carrington, Carol Look, Loretta Sparks, and many others. He also holds the Basic Certificate in Ho’oponopono through training received directly from Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len, who co-wrote Zero Limits with Dr. Joe Vitale.