Experts: Interviews

Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

Why Write an Ethical Will?

journal writing close up

In his book Healthy Aging, A Lifelong Guide to Your Physical and Spiritual Well-Being, Dr. Weil promotes preparing an ethical will as a gift of spiritual health to leave to your family at the end of your life, but he also asserts "its main importance is what it can give you in the midst of life." What does Dr. Weil mean when he says that preserving our history, wisdom, and love for future generations gives us something in our lives today? I think I can answer this question by sharing my observations and experience as I've guided women to write an ethical will.

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging for Socializing - If you want to jumpstart your social connections, join the Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging online guide. It has a vibrant, active community of like-minded thinkers and a dedicated moderator to help guide you along. Start your 14-day free trial now!

But first, what is it? The ethical will is a modern incarnation of an ancient patriarchal tradition that men first transmitted orally and later wrote as letters to their sons to pass on their values to the next generation. "Well," I thought, entranced when I first learned about the ethical will, "I, too - mother and ancient hippie feminist - have wisdom, values and love to express to my children and grandchildren." What I wrote that day is the most important message I have ever written.

From that powerful personal experience I began sharing my discovery with other women. The themes have remained intact even as the format evolved over time. First was to empower women to believe that the urgency to free ourselves from the silence that has long held us hostage: to reverse our mistaken ideas that we can't write or that we have nothing worthwhile to communicate.

Second was to realize that we are each unique and sacred beings. We all have both ordinary and extraordinary gifts, and we each have valuable experience and life-lessons to transmit to others. We can, together in what I call "legacy circles," find the courage and the language to tell our loved ones and the world who we really are and what matters most deeply to us.

Another theme that differentiates the traditional ethical will from what I call the "spiritual-ethical will" involves reclaiming our foremothers' legacies. Most of our memories are limited to their roles as mothers, wives, workers. Few of them shared their identity beyond or behind those roles. Fewer still articulated or wrote their hopes and dreams for us.

How then do we prepare ourselves for the sacred responsibility of writing our spiritual-ethical wills? We gather our personal and feminine family history and with that as context, harvest the experience and learning of our own lives. Once captured, we communicate who we are and what we value in the format of "legacy letters." Workshops, writing retreats, and my books, Women's Lives, Women's Legacies: Passing Your Beliefs and Blessings to Future Generations and The Women's Legacies Workbook for the Busy Woman: A Step-by-Step Guide for Writing a Spiritual-Ethical Will guide a process that integrates our past and present with the intention of communicating and preserving both for future generations.

The gift to our loved ones is inestimable. Your words will fill the holes in their hearts and the gaps in their histories. Your courage, honesty, and generosity will guide them in difficult times and sad situations. Your values will encourage and inspire them. Your blessings will teach them love.

What does the ethical will give us in the midst of life? While writing an ethical will links you to your history and future generations, clarifies your values, and communicates a legacy to those you love, it simultaneously addresses deep universal needs that we are rarely aware of. I have observed these needs being nourished in women everywhere from prison to hospitals; in work and retirement; with professionals, homemakers and corporate managers; with new mothers, grandmothers, seniors and the aged; with feminists and lesbians; with single, committed, married, divorced and the widowed; with women ill and abused; with women of every age, of various ethnicities, faith traditions, economic and educational levels.

Legacy writing clarifies our identity and focuses our life purpose. These are the unexpected gifts received in the midst of life. Beyond them, six additional needs are addressed as we write our spiritual-ethical wills. They include our need to belong, to be known, to be remembered, to have our lives make a difference, to bless and be blessed, and to celebrate Life. No matter a woman's situation or circumstances, the gifts arrive invariably accompanied by hearty laughter and the sweet tears of amazement, gratitude, release, fullness, and a sense of peace.

Many of us feel a sense of urgency to document our legacies to help shape this unfolding new world. We realize that life is fragile, that we do not control the number of our days. As we fulfill the individual responsibility to preserve our values and love, we simultaneously participate in strengthening the fabric of our communities and culture.

May your spiritual-ethical will be an eternal link connecting you to generations past and yet unborn, and may all your legacies be blessings,
Rachael Freed
Womens Legacies

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Start eating for your health - begin your free trial now.

Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness
Achieve emotional well-being in just eight weeks! Start your 10-day free trial now!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan
Your 8-week plan to wellness.
Begin your journey today!

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe Wellness Guide
Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Food Pyramid

Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

Condition Care Guide
Learn about health conditions from acne to vertigo, and Dr. Weil's view of the best treatment options for each.

Healthy Recipes
Discover a treasure trove of healthy, healing foods and creative, delicious ways to prepare them.

Q&A Library
Over 2,000 questions from you and their corresponding answers from Dr. Weil.

Copyright © 2015 Weil Lifestyle
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here