New reading and it is beyond AWESOME. Just wanted to share…
When things go wrong in our life and we encounter difficult situations, we tend to regard the situation itself as our problem, but in reality whatever problems we experience come from the side of the mind.
If we responded to difficult situations with positive or peaceful mind they would not be problems for us. Eventually we might even regard them as challenges or opportunities for growth and development.
Problems arise only if we respond to difficulties with a negative state of mind. Therefore, if we want to be free from problems, we must transform our mind.
-How to Solve Our Human Problems, by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso
About a block away from my home is an orange field run by local farmers that sells a huge bag of oranges for $5. The look of the oranges is hideous. Even after washing, the oranges come off dirty, with uneven skin, and flawed. But when I eat the inside… it’s the sweetest orange I’ve ever tasted. What’s funny is that I’ve gone to farmer’s markets, organic markets, and even non-organic markets to find the sweetest fruit, and no matter what they look like on the outside, I can never tell (without cutting it open and tasting it) if it’s going to be sweet or not… Have you ever got stuck buying a bunch of fruit that looked delicious and none of it tasting any good?
That famous cliche “it’s not what’s outside, but what’s inside that counts”. We all know it and say it, but do we really “know” it? When we talk about what’s “inside” what are we actually talking about? Our character? Our values? If we’re nice or not? If it’s not our bodies that matter, but what’s inside us that matters, what exactly is that thing inside us that matters? Let’s be honest. Is anyone’s “insides” truly perfectly wonderful and sweet? Sadly, I don’t think I’m alone when I say that more often than not what we often find on the inside is NOT a kind, humble, generous, compassionate amazing human being, but an insecure person in some way- a person who suffers and struggles and, like all human beings, makes tons of mistakes. So if that’s what matters, then I’m not sure either of the two are an ideal “thing” to put all our attention on.
What if what matters, isn’t either of those (neither or body or mind), but something we totally overlooked? We get so distracted with what we look and feel like inside and outside that we completely forget about the possibility that…maybe…we’re still just picking at the surface. We’re obsessing about the peel of the fruit, and totally missing the real sweetness…
Yesterday, a good friend of mine sent me a video of Sadhguru, who spoke of life as we know it as simply the peel of the fruit. He spoke of the surface of life being our body and mind, and the basis of our life being something beyond our immediate five senses. Take for example when we die: Our body and mind are gone, yet our loved ones are grieving us. What is it they were grieving? No one cares about the dead body or the dead organs inside. Yes, while on Earth we have to feed our body and take care of it, but the only reason the peel of the fruit means anything to anyone is because of the fruit it carries inside of it. And so it goes with our own lives, we get so obsessed with the peel that we completely forget about the fruit!
Sadhguru said, “If you are eating the peel of life, how would life be? It would be bitter! The problem with the peel is that it has spots of sweetness in it.” The little chunks of sweetness in the peel are only because of the fruit, but if you go beyond the peel, and taste the fruit, how sweet our life must be!
We spend ridiculous amounts of time looking for joy only within what our immediate five senses can grasp: touch, smell, taste, hear, see… We cling to temporary satisfactions like food, drugs, sex, alcohol, and shallow relationships wishing, hoping, preying that they will keep us satisfied long enough that we won’t realize we’re wasting our life away nibbling at a bitter peel. Those things are not the fruit! It is all the peel…just fleeting moments of temporary satiation that only drop us back into that emptiness…that feeling of…something missing…
What if every day was spent eating the fruit and not the peel? How sweet would life be? Sadhguru said that living our life eating the peel is like living life only with the intention of eat, sleep, reproduce, and die. If that was our only purpose on this Earth, then what is the point of our intelligence? What is the point? The fact is, that “something missing” in all of us is a desperate search for connection, love, meaningful relationship, a sense of purpose. If our only purpose is to eat, sleep, have sex and die, we don’t need this kind of human body to do such primal things. We are better off being a dog, or a cockroach.
We are humans on this Earth, with an AMAZING potential and purpose. Our intelligence has brought us so far and so quickly, but we are currently at a stand-still because we have gotten so used to eating pith and peel, happy when we’ve managed to find a sweet spot, and disappointed when the rest of it is bitter nastiness. Yet we still eat it! We’ve totally lost sight that fruit even exists.
So with that my wish for you, me, and all of us is that when we come across the sweet and the bitter parts of the peel, we recognize it as simply the peel. May we remember that life is not what’s outside, but what’s inside. Life is what is contained within the peel. Life IS the fruit inside all the bitter and sweet spots. The real lasting, juicy, wholesome, unchanging sweetness is…YOU.
Once upon no time, there was a little Soul who said to God, “I know who I am.”
And God said, “That’s wonderful! Who are you?”
And the Little Soul shouted, “I’m the Light!”
God smiled a big smile. “That’s right!” God exclaimed. “You are the Light.”
The Little Soul was so happy, for it had figured out what all the souls in the Kingdom were there to figure out.
“Wow,” said the Little Soul, “this is really cool!”
But soon, knowing who it was was not enough. The Little Soul felt stirrings inside, and now wanted to be who it was. And so the Little Soul went back to God (which is not a bad idea for all souls who want to be Who They Really Are) and said,
“Hi, God! Now that I know Who I am, is it okay for me to be it?”
And God said, “You mean you want to be Who You Already Are?”
“Well,” replied the Little Soul,” it’s one thing to know Who I Am, and another thing altogether to actually be it. I want to feel what it’s like to be the Light!”
“But you already are the Light,” God repeated, smiling again.
“Yes, but I want to see what that feels like!” cried the Little Soul.
“Well,” said God with a chuckle, “I suppose I should have known. You always were the adventuresome one.”
Then God’s expression changed. “There’s only one thing…”
“What?” asked the Little Soul.
“Well, there is nothing else but the Light. You see, I created nothing but what you are; and so, there is no easy way for you to experience yourself as Who You Are, since there is nothing that you are not.”
“Huh?” said the Little Soul, who was now a little confused.
“Think of it this way,” said God. “You are like a candle in the Sun. Oh, you’re there all right. Along with a million, gazillion other candles who make up the Sun. And the sun would not be the Sun without you. Nay, it would be a sun without one of its candles…and that would not be the Sun at all; for it would not shine as brightly. Yet, how to know yourself as the Light when you are amidst the Light -that is the question.”
“Well,” the Little Soul perked up, “you’re God. Think of something!”
Once more God smiled. “I already have,” God said. “Since you cannot see yourself as the Light when you are in the Light, we’ll surround you with darkness.”
“What’s darkness?” the Little Soul asked.
God replied, “It is that which you are not.”
“Will I be afraid of the dark?” cried the Little Soul.
“Only if you choose to be,” God answered. “There is nothing, really, to be afraid of, unless you decide that there is. You see, we are making it all up. We are pretending.”
“Oh,” said the Little Soul, and felt better already.
Then God explained that, in order to experience anything at all, the exact opposite of it will appear. “It is a great gift,” God said, “because without it, you could not know what anything is like. You could not know Warm without Cold, Up without Down, Fast without Slow. You could not know Left without Right, Here without There, Now without Then.”
“And so,” God concluded, “when you are surrounded with darkness, do not shake your fist and raise your voice and curse the darkness. Rather be a Light unto the darkness, and don’t be mad about it. Then you will know Who You Really Are, and all others will know, too. Let your Light shine so that everyone will know how special you are!”
“You mean it’s okay to let others see how special I am?” asked the Little Soul.
“Of course!” God chuckled. “It’s very okay! But remember,’special’ does not mean ‘better.’ Everybody is special, each in their own way! Yet many others have forgotten that. They will see that it is okay for them to be special only when you see that it is okay for you to be special.”
“Wow,” said the Little Soul, dancing and skipping and laughing and jumping with joy. “I can be as special as I want to be!”
“Yes, and you can start right now,” said God, who was dancing and skipping and laughing right along with the Little Soul.
“What part of special do you want to be?”
“What part of special?” the Little Soul repeated. “I don’t understand.”
“Well,” God explained, “being the Light is being special, and being special has a lot of parts to it. It is special to be kind. It is special to be gentle. It is special to be creative. It is special to be patient. Can you think of any other ways it is special to be?”
The Little Soul sat quietly for a moment. “I can think of lots of ways to be special!” the Little Soul then exclaimed. “It is special to be helpful. It is special to be sharing. It is special to be friendly. It is special to be considerate of others!”
“Yes!” God agreed, “and you can be all of those things, or any part of special you wish to be, at any moment. That’s what it means to be the Light.”
“I know what I want to be, I know what I want to be!” the Little Soul announced with great excitement. “I want to be the part of special called ‘forgiving’. Isn’t it special to be forgiving?”
“Oh, yes,” God assured the Little Soul. “That is very special.”
“Okay,” said the Little Soul. “That’s what I want to be. I want to be forgiving. I want to experience myself as that.”
“Good,” said God, “but there’s one thing you should know.”
The Little Soul was becoming a bit impatient now. It always seemed as though there were some complication.
“What is it?” the Little Soul sighed.
“There is no one to forgive.”
“No one?” The Little Soul could hardly believe what had been said.
“No one!” God repeated. “Everything I have made is perfect. There is not a single soul in all creation less perfect than you. Look around you.”
It was then that the Little Soul realized a large crowd had gathered. Souls had come from far and wide ~ from all over the Kingdom ~ for the word had gone forth that the Little Soul was having this extraordinary conversation with God, and everyone wanted to hear what they were saying. Looking at the countless other souls gathered there, the Little Soul had to agree. None appeared less wonderful, less magnificent, or less perfect than the Little Soul itself. Such was the wonder of the souls gathered around, and so bright was their Light, that the Little Soul could scarcely gaze upon them.
“Who, then, to forgive?” asked God.
“Boy, this is going to be no fun at all!” grumbled the Little Soul. “I wanted to experience myself as One Who Forgives. I wanted to know what that part of special felt like.”
And the Little Soul learned what it must feel like to be sad. But just then a Friendly Soul stepped forward from the crowd.
“Not to worry, Little Soul,” the Friendly Soul said, “I will help you.”
“You will?” the Little Soul brightened. “But what can you do?”
“Why, I can give you someone to forgive!”
“Certainly!” chirped the Friendly Soul. “I can come into your next lifetime and do something for you to forgive.”
“But why? Why would you do that?” the Little Soul asked. “You, who are a Being of such utter perfection! You, who vibrate with such a speed that it creates a Light so bright that I can hardly gaze upon you! What could cause you to want to slow down your vibration to such a speed that your bright Light would become dark and dense? What could cause you ~ who are so light that you dance upon the stars and move through the Kingdom with the speed of your thought–to come into my life and make yourself so heavy that you could do this bad thing?”
“Simple,” the Friendly Soul said. “I would do it because I love you.”
The Little Soul seemed surprised at the answer.
“Don’t be so amazed,” said the Friendly Soul, “you have done the same thing for me. Don’t you remember? Oh, we have danced together, you and I, many times. Through the eons and across all the ages have we danced. Across all time and in many places have we played together. You just don’t remember.”
“We have both been All Of It. We have been the Up and the Down of it, the Left and the Right of it. We have been the Here and the There of it, the Now and the Then of it. We have been the male and the female, the good and the bad; we have both been the victim and the villain of it.”
“Thus have we come together, you and I, many times before; each bringing to the other the exact and perfect opportunity to Express and to Experience Who We Really Are. And so,” the Friendly Soul explained further, “I will come into your next lifetime and be the ‘bad one’ this time. I will do something really terrible, and then you can experience yourself as the One Who Forgives.
“But what will you do?” the Little Soul asked, just a little nervously, “that will be so terrible?”
“Oh,” replied the Friendly Soul with a twinkle, “we’ll think of something.”
Then the Friendly Soul seemed to turn serious, and said in a quiet voice, “You are right about one thing, you know.”
“What is that?” the Little Soul wanted to know.
“I will have to slow down my vibration and become very heavy to do this not-so-nice thing. I will have to pretend to be something very unlike myself. And so, I have but one favour to ask of you in return.”
“Oh, anything, anything!” cried the Little Soul, and began to dance and sing, “I get to be forgiving, I get to be forgiving!”
Then the Little Soul saw that the Friendly Soul was remaining very quiet.
“What is it?” the Little Soul asked. “What can I do for you? You are such an angel to be willing to do this for me!”
“Of course this Friendly Soul is an angel!” God interrupted. “Everyone is! Always remember: I have sent you nothing but angels.”
And so the Little Soul wanted more than ever to grant the Friendly Soul’s request. “What can I do for you?” the Little Soul asked again.
“In the moment that I strike you and smite you,” the Friendly Soul replied, “in the moment that I do the worst to you that you could possible imagine ~ in that very moment…”
“Yes?” the Little Soul interrupted, “yes…?””Remember Who I Really Am.”
“Oh, I will!” cried the Little Soul, “I promise! I will always remember you as I see you right here, right now!”
“Good,” said the Friendly Soul, “because, you see, I will have been pretending so hard, I will have forgotten myself. And if you do not remember me as I really am, I may not be able to remember for a very long time. And if I forget Who I Am, you may even forget Who You Are, and we will both be lost. Then we will need another soul to come along and remind us both of Who We Are.”
“No, we won’t!” the Little Soul promised again. “I will remember you! And I will thank you for bringing me this gift ~ the chance to experience myself as Who I Am.
” And so, the agreement was made. And the Little Soul went forth into a new lifetime, excited to be the Light, which was very special, and excited to be that part of special called Forgiveness.
And the Little Soul waited anxiously to be able to experience itself as Forgiveness, and to thank whatever other soul made it possible. And at all the moments in that new lifetime, whenever a new soul appeared on the scene, whether that new soul brought joy or sadness–and especially if it brought sadness–the Little Soul thought of what God had said.
“Always remember,” God had smiled, “I have sent you nothing but angels.”
The amount of love we can have is determined by the spaciousness we allow in our heart; how we relate to the stuff that happens to us in life.
Imagine taking a very small glass or water and putting
into it a teaspoon of salt. Because the glass is so small, the teaspoon of salt is going to have a big effect on the water.
However, if you put that same amount of salt into a much larger body of water, such as a lake, it will not have the same intensity of impact, because of the vastness and openness of
the container receiving it.
Even when the salt remains the same, the spaciousness of the
container changes everything.
We spend a lot of our lives looking for a feeling of safety or protection–we try to change the amount of salt that comes our way, and sometimes think we can avoid it. Ironically, the salt is the very thing that we cannot do anything about. Life changes and offers us repeated ups and downs.
Our true work is to create a container so immense that any amount of salt, even a truckload, can come into it without affecting our capacity to receive it.
Salt and Water By: Sharon Salzberg, Loving Kindness
Who doesn’t love it when someone comes to their home bearing gifts? Whether they were invited or not, if someone comes to my home with a present for me, I want to welcome them in and serve them my finest tea! What a thoughtful gesture! The kindness should definitely be returned!
But what about those uninvited guests that bring gifts that you aren’t quite sure you needed or even want? Even worse, what if they didn’t bring anything, or brought you something that made you uncomfortable!? Can you still be grateful? Can you still show the same kindness?
Circumstances in life are like guests in our home. The good circumstances, like landing an awesome job, or getting a promotion, getting married, winning a competition, having a family, etc., are usually welcome and invited. While they come with hard work, the gifts they bring are usually joy and happiness (just to name a few). The bad circumstances, however, like losing a job, getting rejected, getting divorced, etc., are not as welcome. In fact, they are oftentimes violently rejected. We can take it quite personally and offensively. What we easily forget in those times is that although we may not have wanted that circumstance, it is still a gift.
The wrapping it came in may seem horrendous, but what if you took that gift graciously and unwrapped it? Play with it. See what you can do with it. On the outside it seems pointless, but if you give it a chance, you might be surprised at the real gift inside!
Some people sit around waiting for circumstances to change so that they can finally be happy…They throw away all the gifts from their uninvited guests, mumbling, grumbling, waiting for them to leave already! “Well, I didn’t invite them,” “I didn’t ask for that,” and “They should know I don’t like that or need that…” They sit there in their misery celebrating only when guests bring them gifts that they like and appreciate- things they “think they need”. Anything else is NOT welcome.
I have a friend who is always laughing and joyous, and way back when (during my divorce) I spoke to him of my woes, he would always say the most annoying thing, “Just be happy!”
I would get so upset when he said that. I would think, “but you don’t understand what I’m going through! How can I be happy when such and such is happening to me!?”
His response was always the same: Just be happy!
For the longest time, as much as I cared for him I secretly resented it and wondered if he was really not happy and just putting on a show about being happy. I would secretly look for clues as to his unhappiness. I saw him go through loss and insecurity but he would just float through it as if it hadn’t phased him.
I began to assume, he must be a fake! How could anyone be that happy in times of trouble?
I justified my sadness saying, “When crappy stuff happens you’re supposed to feel crappy! You’re supposed to talk about it and process the emotions! I WILL be happy! Just not now…” When my uninvited guest (a.k.a. “circumstance”) leaves…
Then I realized… Being happy isn’t dependent on circumstance. Happiness doesn’t come and go. It’s always there. It’s always inside. Every day is a welcomed gift, even if it comes disguised in something that looks like something we don’t want or need. We just have to choose, daily, if we want it or not. If we are willing to unwrap it and use it.
Circumstance is the uninvited guest, and whether that guest brings you a gift you want or don’t want, it is always a gift.
Unwrap it. Find the blessing.
And if you can’t find the blessing, say thank you anyway.
You will understand what its purpose was for later.
Long, long ago, human beings abused their power and divinity to such a great extent that God decided to take it away from them and hide it where it could never be found.
Where to hide their divinity was the question. So God called a meeting with all His angels to help him decide.
“Let’s bury it deep in the earth!” said one angel. But God answered, “No, that will not do because humans will dig into the earth and find it.”
Then another angel suggested, “Let’s sink it in the deepest ocean.” But God said, “No, not there. They will learn to dive into the ocean and will find it.”
Another angel said, “Let’s take it to the top of the highest mountain and hide it there.” But once again God replied, “No, that will not do either, because they will eventually climb every mountain and once again take up their divinity.”
Then the angels gave up and said, “We do not know where to hide it, because it seems that there is no place on earth or in the sea that human beings will not eventually reach.”
God thought for a long time and then said, “Here is what we will do. We will hide their divinity deep in the center of their own heart, for humans will never think to look for it there.”
All the angels agreed that this was the perfect hiding place, and the deed was done. And since that time humans have been going up and down the earth, digging, diving, climbing, and exploring–searching for something already within themselves.
I was talking with a good friend about “stuff”. About how I’ve grown and started seeing things more clearly. I talked about the challenges of my codependent behaviors and struggle to make decisions that are good for me; prioritizing my mental and physical health before others. After seeing how much damage I have caused myself for the past 35 years, I told him I was excited and ready to make changes.
His response was so simple: “That’s awesome. Today is your Day 1.”
I don’t know what it was about that simplistic response. It felt so good to know that any day can be my Day 1. Even at this age, today can be my Day 1. And if today doesn’t go according to plan, I felt relief that tomorrow can be my Day 1 also.
Every day is a choice. Just because we fail one day, or make a bad choice one day, doesn’t mean tomorrow has to follow suit.
When I was six years old, I remember getting the training wheels off my Rainbow Bright bicycle and riding alone for the first time. The feeling was exhilarating and the fact that my bike was Rainbow Bright made it magical. What a glorious moment for a six-year old. I was fearless.
Needless to say, the bike apparently wasn’t that magical as I fell off and scraped my knee. My father ran to me, scooped me up, and took me to the house. Although I was hurt, I hadn’t cried until I looked down and saw the blood. The blood horrified me. Just the look of it made the pain grow exponentially. “The blood! The blood!” I screamed. The pain, not from falling, but from seeing the blood, was unbearable. My father never let me live that down…
Now I’m 34 years old and still sensitive to the sight of blood, but it doesn’t intensify the pain. I’ve since learned that neither blood or riding a bike equals pain. I can enjoy a bike ride without fear of falling off. I can see blood and not feel immense pain.
But when we are traumatized with other horrific events, such as being betrayed by a spouse’s infidelity, everything that is connected with the infidelity becomes the “blood” that intensifies our fear. Now, whenever I pass a massage parlor, I feel pain. My emotional pain increases and I experience tension, anxiety, fear, sadness…(the list could go on). Whenever I hear my husband’s phone go off, I experience the same feelings. Whenever I am triggered (my triggers are numerous!) I fall into great despair. My emotions go into a downward negative spiral and my creativity peaks as I start envisioning all the times he acted out and was unfaithful. I create stories that may have never even happened, and somehow manage to make it the worst possible scenario imaginable. I then relive those events in my mind and heart, over and over. While the betrayal was real, and the emotional turmoil and trauma I experienced was real, the pain wasn’t something I needed to hold on to. It is natural to grieve and feel “broken-hearted”. All those feelings are natural and should be appreciated. You’ve been hurt! Hurt hurts! It’s supposed to! But it doesn’t have to last, and it doesn’t have to be recreated or tightly held on to. Even now, as we pick up the pieces of a shattered dream, there are days when I feel paralyzed by my fear of him acting out again, of being betrayed again.. and I am totally justified to feel that fear. I could even let that fear control my entire day.
It’s fear. Fear of the unknown.
Fear of ambiguity.
Fear of being hurt again.
It is insecurity. The feeling is real, for sure. But it doesn’t have to affect me unless I let it.
I could have decided, at six years old, that considering the pain involved, riding a bike was way too risky and not worth the effort, but I didn’t. My desire to experience life and all it had to offer- especially on an awesome Rainbow Bright bike (did I mention the rainbow streamers on the handle bars?) with the wind blowing through my hair as I rode down the street- was stronger than the fear of experiencing that pain ever again.
It took me a while to finally understand that massage parlors, prostitutes, other women, porn, and sex were not my enemy. They were doing what they were supposed to do. They were doing their job. It’s a reality I could not fight. To deny their existence would be a battle I was sure to lose, every single time. Every time I tried to fight that battle, I would feel more pain and more fear.
What I did learn was that not even my husband was my enemy. He was just doing what he does. He was “doing his job” too. That was his reality at the time, on his path in his life. It was his choice and there was nothing I could do to prevent that from happening, and nothing I can do to prevent it from happening in the future. In fact, even if I decided to get a new husband, lover, or partner, there’s still nothing I can do to prevent it from happening again. People will make their choices whether or not I like them, because that is reality.
Emotional and physical pain sucks. Betrayal sucks. Infidelity sucks. Lies suck. Liars suck. Reality can really suck. But in the end, it’s still reality and whether or not I fear all of that, it’s still a reality. I can choose to remain resentful, mad, angry, sad, depressed, insecure and fearful, but the crappiest reality about that is that it will only affect me in the end. Me staying resentful, mad or angry and depressed won’t affect anyone else but me. And why would I want that? Life will still play out in unpredictable ways. It will bring joy and it will bring sadness.
Since then, I’ve had a lot of bikes and I’ve fallen down a lot as well. I chose to ride again, despite the numerous crashes. I’ve learned that some falls I could learn from and take certain measures to prevent similar crashes. But there were other falls that were completely out of my control.
I can let that insecurity ruin my day, month, year, and even life. Or, I can let it go.
I’m not saying don’t feel your pain. I’m not saying don’t process your pain or deny your pain. I’m saying don’t dwell on it.
At one of the largest turning points in my life (my 2nd year of undergrad in New York) I was ready to throw in the towel and give up on life. I was flunking all my classes. I walked in on my boyfriend of 4 years sleeping with another woman. I had two jobs and still, my bank account was nearing zero. I was living off of canned tuna and rice. I was living in a basement and still couldn’t afford rent and was being evicted.
“Why try anymore? I’ve done so much already and nothing happened. It’s too much work, and I don’t know if my efforts will ever pay off. What if I’m destined to live this life? Why not just accept it?” I told myself.
Here I was, a small town girl from Idaho, living in New York trying to make something of myself, but no matter how hard I tried, I kept failing. I wasn’t smart enough. I wasn’t pretty enough. I wasn’t good enough. It’s not fair! Why does everyone else have it so easy and I have to struggle? No one loves me. No one will ever love me. I’ll always be a failure. I’ll never find happiness… “I quit! This is hopeless!” I told myself.
On what I decided was my last week of class, my professor noticed my glum attitude and asked me to dinner. That night changed my life. We talked about why I was sad, what I was so disappointed in, and why I was blaming my life and problems on external things like other people, my childhood, and “bad luck” or “destiny”. She told me:
“Everything that you have done in the past, and everything you are doing right now, and everything that you will do in the future is because YOU chose to do it. Everything that you didn’t do in the past, and everything you aren’t doing right now, and everything you don’t do in the future is because YOU chose not to do it.”
I fought back, “No! I don’t have a choice in this! I tried! I did my best! It didn’t work! It’s hopeless now….I’m not at fault! This is just life. I’m being realistic!”
She repeated what she told me, again, and again, and again, until it finally sunk in. “THIS IS YOUR LIFE, AND ALL OF IT IS YOUR CHOICE. AND YOU CAN CHANGE YOUR CHOICES AT ANY MOMENT…”
Wait… what? I can change my choices at any moment? At each and every moment in my life, I can change what I chose to do or not do…
13 years have passed since that day. The greatest lesson of my life. Sometimes I still want to externalize my disappointments. But I’m constantly reminded of her words. I learned that honestly owning up to your choices (good or bad) takes a lot of courage. I learned that if one choice didn’t put me where I wanted to be, I had to make a different choice.
So ask yourself: “Do I like where I am right now in life?” If not, “What did I do to get myself into this situation?”
Now ask yourself: “What can I choose to do now to change my situation?”
The good news is, no matter what choice you make, IT’S ALL YOURS!
The bad news is, that no matter what choice you make, the consequences are all yours too. So choose wisely…
But if you really want it, you do what it takes. Yes, the first few steps are the darkest and scariest, and it might mean leaving New York with your tail between your legs, feeling like a failure while you get into your broken down 1987 Toyota Camry in the middle of summer with no radio and no air conditioner, with one door hanging off it’s hinges, and driving across the country to move back in with your parents and starting all over until you get back on your feet… (or not! That’s just what it took for me.) The point is, no one is to blame for your life, and changing it is scary because we are essentially stepping into the unknown- out of our comfort zone – that place where, ironically, all the juiciest, yummiest, priceless payoff is waiting. Yup… A good life takes effort, work, and time.
I learned that no magic fairy dust or princess wand was going to bring bliss to me on a silver plate… (Yeah, I think I may have honestly hoped it would at that time. And why not? I deserved it! I was a good person. I had good intentions. I was a hard worker. I was nice…I thought…)
What I learned was that no one on this Earth owed me anything. What I learned was that those first steps, however scary, ultimately empowered me and served as a reminder that I AM THE MASTER OF MY LIFE. If it sucks, it’s because I let it suck.
This life is all yours. If you don’t like it, or notice you keep seeing the same disappointments, CHANGE something you are doing in your life! But your life is yours, and only yours, for the taking. It’s your birthright. Own it. Your ONE life is here for you now.
Profound wisdom from an author of one of my favorite books, “Taking Our Places: The Buddhist Path to Truly Growing Up” by Zoketsu Norman Fischer. He recently spoke at a Stanford Baccalaureate explaining why your life is not and has never been about you…
“A moment is a moment. As with all other times in life, there are highs and there are lows. Today you may be feeling high, and that is beautiful. Time passes though, and you forget about that moment. But right now, you have the skills, connections, and obligations to do great things. And this means not only great things for yourselves- you are expected to do great things for others and for the world. So let’s be honest: the future really is in the youth. And yet the truth is it is not always going to be easy to survive your promising life, anywhere in the world. There is so much competition, and anxiety about that competition, that it is possible that success won’t come easy, and it’s also possible that success won’t come at all. Or maybe it will come in abundance, but you don’t find it as meaningful as you thought it would be. Or, maybe success comes and you find it satisfying but only at first when it is still bright and shiny and exciting, and later at the state and with the implications of the successful life you have lived, it will wear you down and you will find yourself tired and confused.
It could be that as time goes on from this day, some of your personal relationships don’t work out the way you hoped they would. It’s possible that your sense of self doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. It’s possible that there will be disappointments, setbacks- some acknowledged and some buried deep within and not acknowledged. In short, it is very possible that from this day forth there is some pain awaiting you: bad love affairs, betrayals, losses, disillusions. Likely, you are going to have some seriously shaky moments. Maybe as you move through the decades it will become increasingly difficult to maintain the idealism and hopefulness that you have right now. It could be that one day you wake up and you find yourself wondering what have I been doing all this time? Who have I become?
You’ll keep busy. You’ll have a lot of things to do. And if there are such feelings, you’ll try your best not to notice them. If there is any despair, disappointment, discouragement, or boredom that you’re feeling years from today, you’ll try not to notice and I bet you’ll be able to do that- to not notice it…
I should say something encouraging.. and I do intend to do that! But, I figured I would be more convincing if I were also pretty realistic and it is realistic to say that your lives from now on will not be that easy. It is realistic to say that the skills you will need to survive may be more than, or other than, the skills that you have so far in your lives. Because the truth is that it takes a great deal of fortitude and strength to sustain a worthwhile, happy, human life over time in this actual world that we live in.
So here comes the uplifting part:
Your life isn’t and has never been about you…
It isn’t, and it has never been about what you accomplish, how successful you are (or are not), how much money you make, what sort of position you ascend to, or even about your family, your associations, your various communities, or even about how much good you do for others in the world.
Your life, like mine, and like everyone elses, has really only ever been about one thing: LOVE.
Who are you, actually? And where did you come from? Why were you born into this life? You didn’t ask for it. When this short human journey is over, where do you go next, and why and how does any of this exist? What is the point of it all? Not even your Nobel-prize winning professors know the answers to these questions- these inevitable and unavoidable questions. The only thing we know is that we are here for a while and then we are gone, and that WHILE WE ARE HERE, WE ARE HERE TOGETHER, Which is why the only thing that completely makes sense, the only thing that is completely real is LOVE.
This is not a mystery and this is not news or some great discovery. Everyone actually knows this even though we forget about it. Love is always available to you wherever you look and when you dedicate yourself to love- when you dedicate yourself to be kind to everyone you meet, not just the people on your side, AND not just the people you like and approve of, but EVERY human and EVERY non-human being, then you’re going to be ok.
In your life, whatever it brings, even if it brings a lot of difficulty and tragedy, your life will be a beautiful life. I hope that you find this uplifting…
But there’s more… HOW do you love? What does this mean? How do you make your love real so it’s not just a pretty idea? This does not happen by itself. It takes attention, commitment, and effort over time. It doesn’t come from wishing or believing or assuming. You’re gonna have to figure out how NOT to get distracted by your personal problems, by your success (or lack of success), by your needs, desires, suffering, various interests, and ALWAYS keep your eye on the ball of love, even as you inevitably juggle all the rest of it. So you have to commit yourself to love and you have to have a way- a path or a practice for cultivating love and strengthening it throughout your lifetime no matter what happens, because love is not a feeling, it is an overarching attitude and spirit. And it’s a daily activity.
When you go about this practice of cultivating love, whatever practice you choose, the most important characteristic of this practice is that it must be useless- absolutely useless. In other words, it has to be an activity that has no practical effect other than to connect you to your heart and to your highest and most mysterious purpose- a purpose that is literally unknown because it references the unanswerable questions I mentioned a moment ago.
We’ve been doing so many good things for so many good reasons. Lots of good things for our physical health, psychological health, emotional health, family life, future success, economic life, for your community, for your world… but the practice of love that you choose must be a practice that is useless. It doesn’t do anything but to touch our lives beyond all concerns. For example, you could practice gratitude. Have you ever woke up in the morning and just been grateful for another day?
Another practice might be the practice of giving. Giving doesn’t have to be money or gods. Giving can be a daily intention of just a kind word or smile. Or you could practice kind speech on all occasions even difficult ones – committing yourself to speak as much as you can in kindness, and with inclusion of others and their needs, hopes, and dreams – not just speaking from your own side.
Or you can practice beneficial action – committing yourself to intentionally acting with a spirit of benefiting someone else (For example, you could wipe the counters after you’ve used a public restroom, or you could pick up and throw away someone’s garbage in the park) .
Or you could practice identity action, recognizing that when you do anything you are not, and cannot do it alone by your own power. You’ve never done anything alone and by your own power because inevitably whatever you do involves others, and the whole world involves others in a world of support. For example, you cannot breathe air on this Earth without the trees producing oxygen.
Or you could practice compassion – which is going toward, rather than turning away from, the suffering of others and your own suffering. We all want to avoid pain so much that what we do in our lives is focused on avoiding pain- making pain disappear. But oftentimes we cannot make pain disappear- so can you go toward it rather than run away? Can you become softened or brought to wisdom by the unavoidable pain found in others or yourself?
All of these practices share one thing: they come from love. They encourage love. They produce more love. And when you do them over time, little by little it conditions your heart and you discover that you are living in a world full of love, and for your life and for our lives collectively in the times to come, of all the things we need the most, we are going to need much more love. LOTS OF LOVE.
In good times, love is lovely, and in hard times, love is absolutely necessary. Love turns tragedy into opportunity. It turns something unwanted and difficult into a chance to drive love deeper- to make it wiser fuller more glorious and more resilient.
Fenton Johnson said, “One can and should lay great plans, but life has its own ebb and flow and our first duty is to be present to that ebb and flow. We must realize that failure and success are social conceptions that can be useful but that in their conventional definitions have little to do with what really matters, which is to study and practice virtue.”
Timothy Kelly said, “How one lives one’s life is the only true measure of the validity of one’s search.”
So, please, do seriously think about it. Not in a grim way, but with a certain amount of joy and lightness. It is amazing to be alive. Amazing. Unlikely. What is really worthwhile and what is just a distraction, no matter how much another person tells you what is and what isn’t. Only one person can do that, and that is you.
I’m happy for the life you’ve had so far, and I’m congratulating you and hoping for your life a head, a life of challenge and difficulty and passion. What an opportunity.
Watch here if you want to hear it for yourself! (Starts at 29:00 and ends at 57:30).