It's been a while . . . I ran out of things to say and so I've let it ride. But about a year and a half ago, I became a first-time grandparent, and that has changed my perspective on things. Which is good. New perspective is always good.
I started thinking the other day about what I've learned over the past 60 years. If my granddaughter were to do something totally atypical of granddaughters and ask, "Gramma, tell me something true," what would I say? What advice would I offer? I decided to come up with a list of ten . . . er . . . not commandments . . . but suggestions . . . for the Way to Be.
Well, I've made my list. It is a lot longer than ten . . . and it keeps growing. None of these suggestions are original, but I like having them together in one place so that I can read through them on occasion; it is clear that these are lessons I have yet to learn myself. Maybe I should start by following my own advice. Or trying to.
The Way to Be
or the lessons I’m still trying to learn
• Be yourself fully and completely. This sounds easy, but it is not. It takes great strength, great courage, a sense of adventure, and awareness of the choices you are making. And never be less than you are -- especially not for the sake of others. Diminishing yourself does no one a favor.
• Pay attention. This one is especially difficult. It requires that you live a duality -- focusing on what is at hand while being aware of what is going on around you. First of all, pay attention to your senses -- what do you see? What do you smell? What do you hear? When you eat, focus on the taste and texture of your food. As for feeling, it seems to me that there are three levels. The first level is external -- what sensations is your skin registering? The second is internal and has to do with pressure, pain, temperature, comfort and discomfort. The third level is emotional. As observer, it is your task just to appreciate all three levels leaving aside any judgments. Then go beyond your senses and pay attention to the feelings and reactions of others. Pay attention to the choices you are making. Pay attention to your self-talk. And at the same time, pay attention to what you are doing, how you are doing it, and the possible consequences. I told you it was especially difficult!
• Be considerate. There are times when kindness is more important than truth. And there are times when truth is kindness. There are times when the needs of others will be more important than your own, and times when your own needs are more important than those of others. It will not always be easy to know the difference. So take time to consider. Be considerate.
• Be respectful. To respect is to see clearly and acknowledge true nature. To respect, one must not underestimate nor overestimate nor ascribe false characteristics. To respect a bear is to know the strengths, the weaknesses, and the wildness of bear, and to act accordingly. To respect another human is to know his strengths, weaknesses, and intentions, and to act accordingly.
• Be happy. The key to happiness is a loving, grateful heart. So be open to love -- not just human love and animal love, but love all the little things that make life a pleasure. Love the feel of wind on your cheek, the coo of the dove, the exhilaration of jumping into cold water, the taste of the first summer peach, the strength of your body. Love Mother Earth, and be grateful every day for the glorious gifts of life incarnate.
• Be the change you want in this world. I didn’t say this, Ghandi did. And it bears repeating. If you want a kinder, gentler world, then start by being kinder and gentler. If you want a more beautiful world, then start by creating and preserving beauty. Whatever you want for the future, begin by living it today.
• Do the right thing, not the easy thing. You will sleep better at night.
• Both give and receive with grace whether it be praise or help or gifts of the heart. Don’t be stingy with words of love and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.
• Let yourself be wild and crazy. Be serious when serious is called for, but dance, laugh, sing and act silly every chance you get.
• Don’t worry. Worry poisons today with fears about tomorrow. Do what you need to do and let the future unfurl as it will. Have confidence that whatever happens, you will find a way to deal with it.
• Focus on the solution, not the problem. Don’t spend time banging your head against a wall -- it’s not only painful, it’s stupid. Find a way to live with the wall, or go over the wall, or around it, or under it, or turn and go in a whole different direction.
• Don’t take it personally. Life can be hard. People can be difficult. Circumstances can be challenging. For all of us. And remember that other people are going through their own stuff even though you might not see it.
• Do the best you can with what you have, right here, right now. Wishing things were different than they are is a recipe for unhappiness.
• Take responsibility. You are the star of your own life and responsible for the choices you make.
• Reserve the right to change your mind. Changing your mind is good. It means you have grown or seen things through new eyes or gotten new information or just . . . changed your mind.
• Know that life is both an adventure and an experiment. Don’t be afraid to try new things, and don’t be discouraged if you fail. Failure and mistakes are golden opportunities to learn something new, and learning new things is critical to the adventure.
• Know that nothing is easy. And nothing is more satisfying than a challenge well met or work well done.
• Know that everything is relative. Try thinking of ‘old-age,’ ‘hunger,’ ‘health,’ ‘poverty,’ or ‘a bad day’ from someone less fortunate’s perspective and you’ll see what I mean.
• Know when to fight, when to cede, when to walk away, and when to run. Don’t fight unless you have to, but if you must fight, fight to win.
• Know that change is inevitable. So be prepared and be flexible, and remember that this, too, shall pass.
• Know that nothing is 100% true, not even this. Question everything, including what is written here. Ask yourself, "Is this true? What are the underlying assumptions and are they true? Is there a better way of doing this or a different way of seeing this?" Learn to recognize wishful thinking for what it is. And take the time to separate the true things from the seemingly true. Remember that reality is not Tinker Bell; it does not require your belief.
• Know that death is inevitable. Life is not about preventing death, it is about living fully while you have the chance. And that chance is now. Go for it!