“A man is not old until regrets take the place of his dreams.” ~Proverb
When Lori wrote her list of thirty-three lessons she’d learned in life (one for each of her years) to celebrate her recent birthday, she gave us some amazing insights (thirty-three to be exact) for someone so young.
It got me thinking of what wisdom I could possibly add to the list from the extra years of life I’ve led, eleven extra years to be exact. (Did I just admit that!)
As someone still so young (well, sort of), I’m still learning too, and hope to keep learning up until the day I die (preferably as someone very old, but still young at heart). In the meantime, I offer the lessons I’ve learned to go with the wrinkles.
So following on from Lori’s astute final observation that “what we do matters,” here is my list of extras:
1. What we think matters.
We can let our thoughts control our lives, or we can choose not to attach to them and listen to our gut instead. Our thoughts will keep us small; our inner wisdom is rather large!
2. Pain is mostly in our heads.
Of course we can suffer terrible physical pain and losses that seem unbearable. Without discounting this suffering, it’s the stuff we manufacture for ourselves in our minds that is often most painful— guilt, resentment, bitterness. We relive pain over and over in our heads. Pretty silly. Enough.
3. There really is no black and white.
The yin yang symbol may be black and white, but each segment of the circle is constantly merging into the other. We perceive dark because of the absence of light; night becomes day—they are complements, not opposites. Without one we could not appreciate the other. And then there is hot, warm, cool, cold, tepid, freezing etc. Look for the degrees in life (the shades of grey if you like).
4. Be kind to yourself.
I have spent too many of my forty-four years not being kind to myself. I made my life more miserable than it needed to be with my high expectations and harsh judgements of myself. I recently read a wise piece of advice (on Tiny Buddha of course): “Think of how you would treat a good friend in the same situation.” It’s likely to be much kinder, and you should show yourself the same understanding. You deserve it.
5. Self-love is not selfishness.
Perhaps it was the good old Catholic indoctrination of guilt, but it took me a long time to understand that I needed to fully love myself in order to love others fully. Actually, I’m still grappling with this one. It’s not selfish to love yourself; it’s the only path to giving abundantly of yourself. Self-esteem is good; selfishness is ego—big difference.
6. Children are our greatest teachers.
I had to wait a long time to learn from my own kids (our adopted kids). Children remind us of joys we’ve forgotten and things that are always simpler than we make them. They give us a reason to be selfless and forgive our selfishness. They can be loud, annoying, and demanding, and make us bone-achingly weary at times. But they are worth it. Spend some quality time. As much as you can.
7. Loss transforms to gain.
There is an alchemy that transforms loss into gain, if we are willing to let the magic work. In fact, we only truly appreciate gain when we have lost. We gain strength, learn lessons, and learn to appreciate gain anew when loss comes around again, as it inevitably will.
8. There's beauty in impermanence.
Things are rendered more beautiful by the very virtue that they are fleeting. Experiencing snow days really taught me this. Usually the snow soon melted or washed away, but I chose to savor the joy while it lasted and appreciate the sense of peace that remained. We experience joy in moments. The trick is to have lots of them.
9. We are all connected.
My experiences adopting our children from overseas, and then living overseas, have reinforced my firm belief that we are all connected. There is a Chinese legend of a red thread that joins those who are destined to meet regardless of time, place, and circumstance. It may stretch or tangle, but will never break. I like to think of the ends of the thread joining to form a circle of love.
10. We are all one.
Not only are we all connected on the universal way, but in essence we are all one. Others like Lao Tsu and Eckhart Tolle express this truth far better than I can. But I know it for sure when I see the light of our oneness shining through our differences, and most especially when I look into my children’s eyes.
11. Contentment is found in balance.
There will be joys and sorrows, losses and gains. There will inevitably be change. Our challenge is to embrace acceptance, to be content. We don’t chase it like happiness or success (futile really), but if we are still and peaceful, we can find it in the core place of balance in our beings, in the perfect energy of love.
Wishing all Tiny Buddha readers many more happy birthdays.