01/26/2011 10:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

What's Your Personal 'State of the Union'?

"The President shall from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient."

Article II, Sec. 3, of the U.S. Constitution

Since Jan. 8, 1790, when George Washington personally delivered the first annual message to Congress, presidents have "from time to time," been delivering what has become known today as the State of the Union Address.

Today, we gather at the local watering holes of our various electronic devices to witness what has become as much of a political spectacle as it is a vehicle for the President to convey his vision for where he wants to lead the country.

We take note of who's sitting next to whom and on what side of the aisle, who's applauding, who's not, who's standing, who's not. And in today's extremely polarized Congress, we hold our breath, wondering if there will be another outburst like the "you lie" accusation hurled at the President during last year's address.

All of this takes place in the theater of the public sphere. It's all happening "out there." But here's my question for you/me/us: How's the state of your own private nation today?

When was the last time you assumed the role of President and CEO of your life and checked in with yourself? When did you last do an audit of your life's vision, the resources you have at your disposal to implement it, where you are along that path, and what you need in order to make progress?

Consider the private nation of someone perhaps not all that unlike yourself. We'll call him Ted. Like many other people in their 50's and 60's who have lost their jobs during the economic crisis, Ted is going through a major life transition.

Ted was forced to close the business he'd spent the last 20+ years building, and is now facing the reality of having to re-invent his career altogether. In addition, Ted's marriage also unraveled and he now is going through a painful divorce.

The state of Ted's life mirrors in many ways, the state of our country. As a nation, we're faced with the challenge of re-engineering ourselves in order to move forward, as President Obama outlined in his speech last night. Ted is now looking at how to re-engineer himself in order to get on with his personal life.

Ted's personal finances have been considerably weakened as a result of the recent upheavals in his life. His personal Treasury Department needs shoring up and he needs to create his own jobs program. But before he plunges forward in search of what's next, Ted has some fundamental decisions to make.

I asked Ted if he had a sense about, not what's next for him specifically as in a job, but what kind of life he wanted to live. What are his values today and how does he see those values shaping the choices he makes going forward?

I used to think I wanted to make millions of dollars. Having lots of money so I could travel and see the world seemed very important to me in my 20's. I wanted to live in a big house, drive a fancy car, and be able to retire with financial security in my late 50's or early 60's. Today, I'm about to turn 60 and I have none of what I'd dreamed. I'm not sure about where I'm going from here or even what I want.

Perhaps you can relate.

Ted went on to share:

Today, I could easily be happy being a monk. I still want to travel and see the world, but I could be happy without all the trappings I used to think I needed in order to be successful. I can see myself living simply, perhaps in a community of kindred spirits who share a vision for creating a whole new model for Boomer-style retirement. I can imagine a whole network of communal living, in different locations around the U.S. and perhaps even abroad.

Many of you are going through a similar transition period in your life. You might look to the current economic crisis as the cause of this change and upheaval, but if you look more closely, chances are you'll find there was something deeper stirring within you, even before the economy crashed.

You might uncover a deep discontent with something about the status quo of your life, even though at the surface, perhaps you'd not made any outward movements towards change. Or perhaps you felt a sense of unrest, or a distant call to shake things up a bit.

Ted's vision of a new paradigm for Boomer retirement and the next stage of his own life was actually inspired by an experience he had back in his 20's when he co-founded and lived on a commune during his college days. Today, his idea of communal living has evolved into something much more complex and sophisticated than a bunch of tented structures situated on barren land with no improvements.

The idea of communal living has sat in the background of Ted's consciousness for over 30 years and is now re-surfacing, having evolved, seemingly out of economic necessity. Perhaps Ted is really on to something that could change his and others' futures. But I wonder, is economic necessity the real force at work here?

In previous articles, I've written about the soul's calling and its impact on our lives. I've suggested that the soul has its own agenda and by hook or by crook, it will have its way with us. Your job, and mine, is to discover what that agenda is and get on board with it; to learn the dance your soul came to dance and then dance it.

My previous articles have addressed how to nurture the soul and come to know its calling, so I won't address those issues here, but you can find them in my author's archive. Suffice it to say, it's important to be current with your soul's agenda and conducting an audit of the state of your own private nation can help you assess how on track you are.

Conducting the audit

Rate yourself on a scale of one to 10 (one = in a state of continuous breakdown, 10 = complete fulfillment) in the following "departments" of your life:

  1. Department of State/Diplomacy: Consider the state of your relationships, "foreign and domestic." Which are peaceful and harmonious? Where is there conflict? Are you paralyzed by a need to be right or be in control? What's working, what's not working in this area of your life? What needs to shift in you to bring more peace to your life?
  2. Department of the Treasury: How are your personal finances? Are you making it with ease, barely making it, or not making it at all? Are you where you want to be in this area? What choices do you need to make now to get back or stay on track? What do you need to stop or start doing?
  3. Department of Education: Is it time to update your education and/or resume and take stock of the resources you bring to the marketplace? What skills do you currently have and what needs to be updated? What changes do you need to make now?
  4. Department of Health and Human Services: How is your overall health and well-being? What is your happiness quotient? Take stock of your mental and emotional needs. Are you taking care of yourself in these areas? If not, what is missing? What steps could you take now to begin moving in the direction you want to be?
  5. Department of Energy: Do you have the necessary physical and energetic stamina to meet the demands of your life? How are you renewing your personal energy resources?
  6. Department of Peace and Fulfillment: Are you where you want to be in your life? If you could change anything, what would it be? What would have you feeling a greater sense of peace? What steps can you take now to move in that direction?

Speaking of peace, in a comment on last week's post on MLK Jr.'s Legacy of Love, SShaw 490 suggested that "peace" be an active verb, as in "I peace you." In an e-mail to me this week he wrote:

These are great social conditions for us to seek a state of peace in our lives. And it's a great time for us to express that. Yesterday, we were at the grocery store and I noticed that the guy sacking our groceries was named 'Jonathan' on his nametag. When we left, I said, 'Thanks, Jonathan,' and you'd have thought I gave him a $10 bill, the way he smiled and looked me straight in the eyes. It was nothing, less than nothing, yet it was meaningful for one person, in one place, at one point in time. I hope that I 'peaced him' and he 'peaced me back.'

And in reference to a beautiful poem Sam included by Wendell Berry (which I couldn't include due to limited space) he wrote:

"We each hear the music in fragments, and we each have an opportunity to dance to it in our own way. We choose our steps, and the steps of my private nation are those of peace."

The state of Sam's private nation is peace. How about yours? What is your soul's agenda and how is it showing up in your life? If you'd really like to get creative, consider leaving it as a six word memoir. Six words describing your personal state of the union.


Please leave a comment below and let's have a discussion. I invite you also pay a visit to my personal blog and website, Rx For The Soul and let's continue to explore issues of the soul and more.

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Blessings on the path. I peace you.