Image by Ulrike Mai
Narrated by Marie T. Russell
For many years, I was too caught up in my own world to be fully present for other people—I was on the clock, feeling the pressure of time and agendas. It’s clear to me now that sometimes, I was the one creating the sense of urgency. I wanted to get a deal done and move on to the next one before the opportunity fell through, not fully appreciating that there would always be another deal.
It’s taken me years of inner work to start to see my interactions with others differently and to make noticeable changes in the ways I relate to family, friends, clients, coworkers, and business associates. As a boss who could come across as overbearing, I had to learn patience.
In the past, I was probably not focused enough on fostering relationships. I am more aware now of how important it is to slow down and be sure I’m balancing my role as a boss (which I still am) with my desire to be understanding about an employee’s emotions and personal life. People in positions of power and leadership need to figure out where that line is, which isn’t always easy to do.
As my self-imposed clock has slowed down, I’m better at making the time to be present with others than I did years ago. Having fewer demands on my time and less of a desire to chase after an opportunity to make money helps, too. I also acknowledge that while I’d like to go back and change how I acted in some situations, hindsight is 20/20.
People often say, “If I had it to do all over again, I would have stopped to smell the roses more often.” But would they have? Don’t we all try to do the best we can at the time given the many responsibilities we have to juggle?
Now that I am eighty, I continue to pursue my various interests, and while I have some health challenges, I am able to be active and enjoy my life. I believe that my health-related choices such as being physically active and eating healthfully have helped me stay alive and even thrive for so long.
I also believe that the shamanic work I have done has contributed significantly. It has helped me loosen the constrictions that might have caused me to stay on the same path and not make the changes that led me to where I am today: feeling I’ve lived a good life on my own terms.
Perhaps other things have positively contributed to my energy field, too. I have some good instincts and am not particularly anxious or fearful by nature, which reduces my stress. In a crisis, I can take a breath or two and, more often than not, act calmly. Martial arts probably reinforced my ability to remain emotionally nonreactive. Having good interpersonal relationships with friends and family is said to be health protective, even more so than not smoking, according to some research, so my remaining engaged with others has probably helped me foster good health, too.
But What About the “Suddenlies”?
There are always going to be “suddenlies”—events we can’t predict that interrupt our lives and demand our attention. Recently, just a month after having a stress echo test that showed no heart problems, I developed some heart symptoms so concerning that I went to an ER. After examining me, the doctors told me they saw no evidence of a heart problem.
I was vacationing out of state, and when I got home a week later, I was still concerned, so I went to an ER again. Now I learned that my instincts had been right after all: The doctors said that three of my arteries were so severely blocked that I needed bypass surgery. Two days later, I had the operation.
The last thing I was expecting given the tests and examinations I’d just had was suddenly needing a lifesaving bypass, but these events reminded me that “suddenlies” happen sometimes with little or no warning.
The necessity of focusing on my health has made me more aware than ever of the importance of living with vitality day to day, moment to moment, making choices aligned with my priorities. I have accomplished a lot in this lifetime, but I still have ambitions—to write more books, for example, and to use my resources to help more people who are struggling with health problems or trying to find opportunities to change their lives for the better. There will be more “suddenlies” in the days ahead, I am sure, but I choose not to fear them. I have to accept that they will show up.
The Shift from Acquiring to Sharing
You may be at a stage in your life where you are starting to make the shift from acquiring to sharing—walking the way of return and facing the fact that your life is closer to its ending than its beginning. If you would like to do more for others, opportunities abound. However, you might feel that you can’t make a significant difference because of your limitations—of time, resources, skills, and so on.
When you engage in service to others, you might find that you actually have more resources than you realized. You might also come to see as I have that life is enhanced by doing more for others and that helping even in what seems like small ways can potentially have a big impact. If you truly would like to engage in service to a greater degree than you are now, consider whether you are holding on to misconceptions about how much of a difference you can make.
If you are struggling to accept that you are closer to your life’s ending than your life’s beginning, you might want to work with shamanic and Jungian techniques for gaining insights and energies for healing and change so that you are not stuck in regrets.
Questions to Ponder
- Do you believe that if you give in service to others more than you are doing right now, it will drain you of resources?
- If so, where does that idea come from?
- Is it true for you?
- Why or why not?
- If you have engaged in service to others, do you find it replenishing and energizing in ways?
- Do you find it helps you recognize resources you might otherwise have overlooked?
- What if you were to experiment right now with spending more of your time giving and sharing instead of spending so much time acquiring and accumulating?
- What difference might that make in your own life and in the lives of others?
- Have you donated time and/or material goods to charities in your life?
- If so, how did you choose each group, and what type of involvement have you had in their work?
- If not, would you like to start giving back to charities or other groups?
- What might motivate you to do so?
- How might you get involved in their work?
Simplifying your life
- Do you have trouble letting go of accumulated possessions?
- If you want to do that, what, if anything, is holding you back?
- How might you go about simplifying your life?
- Could you do it in a way that would leave you feeling no regrets?
- Do you have trouble saying no to spending time in particular activities that aren’t satisfying or rewarding anymore?
- How might you extricate yourself from these commitments without feeling guilty or ambivalent?
- As you think about the “suddenlies” in life, are you prepared for them?
- How have you prepared yourself?
- Have you become better prepared for unexpected moments as a result of having faced shocking twists in the plotline of your life?
- Where has your strength come from when faced with a “suddenly”?
- Is there something you can do, or make happen more often, to remind yourself of that strength?
- As you reflect on your life, what kind of legacy would you like to leave behind?
- What would you like people to remember about you after you are gone?
- What have you accumulated in terms of material possessions and knowledge, experience, and skills that might benefit others?
- Have you acquired skills or wisdom that you would like to share with others via writing or teaching?
- What would prompt you to do so?
- If you were to write the story of your life, would you be happy with your story, or would you want to change it?
- If you want the story of your life to change, what would you like your new story to be?
If you think it’s too late to change, I leave you with this: I have seen people at the very end of life change their story and die a good death, free from the constrictions that have bound them since childhood, free to say “I love you” and to accept themselves and surrender to the mystery. Maybe you will choose to believe in your potential to do the same. I hope so.
Copyright 2021 by Chiron Publications. All Rights Reserved.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher.
The Necktie and The Jaguar: A memoir to help you change your story and find fulfillment
by Carl Greer, PhD, PsyD
Compelling reading for anyone seeking the courage to make more conscious choices and live fully awake, The Necktie and The Jaguar is a memoir with thought-provoking questions that encourage self-exploration. Author Carl Greer—businessman, philanthropist, and retired Jungian analyst and clinical psychologist—offers an illuminating roadmap to individuation and personal transformation.
Writing about his spiritual practices and reflecting on his vulnerabilities, he tells of honoring his longings for purpose and meaning, journeying to transpersonal realms, reinventing his life, and devoting himself to service to others while living with deep respect for Pachamama, Mother Earth. His memoir is an inspirational testament to the power of self-discovery. As Carl Greer learned, you don’t have to feel trapped in a story someone else has written for you.
For more info and/or to order this book, click here. Also available as a Kindle edition.
About the Author
CARL GREER, PhD, PsyD, is a retired clinical psychologist and Jungian analyst, a businessman, and a shamanic practitioner, author, and philanthropist, funding over 60 charities and more than 600 Greer scholars. He has taught at the C.G. Jung Institute of Chicago and been on staff at the Replogle Center for Counseling and Well-Being.
The shamanic work he does is drawn from a blend of North American and South American indigenous trainings and is influenced by Jungian analytical psychology. He has trained with Peruvian shamans and through Dr. Alberto Villoldo’s Healing the Light Body School, where he has been on staff. He has worked with shamans in South America, the United States, Canada, Australia, Ethiopia, and Outer Mongolia. He is the best-selling, award-winning author of Change Your Story, Change Your Life and Change the Story of Your Health. His new book, a memoir titled The Necktie and The Jaguar.
Learn more at CarlGreer.com.