Namaste. As I’m sure many of you can relate, I tend to go in search of a few chuckles now and then by digging into the comments section on controversial posts that pop up on my grand’ole Facebook feed. Last Tuesday, I found myself a spectator in what I can only describe as a full blown comments war. The insults were flying, man. Memes thrown across the cyber-trenches like grenades. Feelings had been hurt and many a mother insulted. What started such a rage-fueled keyboard free-for-all?
Well, an article was posted by a large online news blog stating that Pope Francis allegedly denied the existence of a literal hell. Now, my research concluded the report was a hoax, but the flames of fury had nonetheless already been lit and the argument had escalated quickly. On one side you had those arguing that heaven and hell exist as real places, and on the other were those who say they are but metaphors. Others argued that they are tools used throughout history by those in power to dissuade the breaking of the rule of law, religious or man-made. There were, literally, thousands of comments from people truly furious at each other, angry at names on a screen that meant nothing to them. Angry to the point of letting their rage ruin their day…..all over over a fake post on heaven and hell.
So, on to my point.
This brought to mind another old zen parable that I would like to share with you, The Samurai and the Monk.
A big, tough samurai once went to see a little monk. “Monk,” he said, in a voice accustomed to instant obedience, “Teach me about heaven and hell!”
The monk looked up at this mighty warrior and replied with disdain, “Teach you about heaven and hell? I couldn’t teach you about anything. You’re dirty. Your blade is rusty. Why you probably couldn’t cut a branch with that sword! You’re a disgrace! An embarrassment to the samurai class!”
The samurai was furious. He got all red in the face and was speechless with rage and anger. He pulled out his sword and raised it above him, preparing to slay the monk in retaliation.
“That is Hell,” said the monk softly.
The samurai was overwhelmed. He slowly put down his sword, and filled with gratitude, bowed to the monk.
“And that”, whispered the monk, “…is Heaven.”
This little story teaches a huge lesson. No matter what you believe, the front lines of “heaven and hell” start deep within us, where the greatest battles are fought between love and hate, anger and joy, fear and hope, happiness and sorrow, self-importance and humility. The ultimate choice as to which we chose to manifest in our everyday lives is our own, and so we must be ever mindful of the power we give our emotions to lash out into the physical world to become reality. While it is healthy to express our feelings to others, there is a difference between a feeling and an emotion. When we give in to our primal emotions like anger or fury, we shift out of focus with the principles of mindfulness practice and become reactive to that which is created around us instead of being active in creating our own circumstances. Next time you’re on the verge of an angry argument with your significant other, your parent, your boss, or even a random troll in cyberspace, remember it is up to you to create more happiness than anger, more communion that division, more heaven than hell.
You know how you can hear something a hundred times in a hundred different ways before it finally gets through to you? The ten truths listed below fall firmly into that category – life lessons that many of us likely learned years ago, and have been reminded of ever since, but for whatever reason, haven’t fully grasped.
This, my friends, is my attempt at helping all of us, myself included, “get it” and “remember it” once and for all…
1. THE AVERAGE HUMAN LIFE IS RELATIVELY SHORT
We know deep down that life is short, and that death will happen to all of us eventually, and yet we are infinitely surprised when it happens to someone we know. It’s like walking up a flight of stairs with a distracted mind, and misjudging the final step. You expected there to be one more stair than there is, and so you find yourself off balance for a moment, before your mind shifts back to the present moment and how the world really is.
LIVE your life TODAY! Don’t ignore death, but don’t be afraid of it either. Be afraid of a life you never lived because you were too afraid to take action. Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside you while you’re still alive.10 Be bold. Be courageous. Be scared to death, and then take the next step anyway.
2. YOU LIVE THE LIFE YOU CREATE FOR YOURSELF
Your life is yours alone. Others can try to persuade you, but they can’t decide for you. They can walk with you, but not in your shoes. So make sure the path you decide to walk aligns with your own intuition and desires, and don’t be scared to switch paths or pave a new one when it makes sense.
Remember, it’s always better to be at the bottom of the ladder you want to climb than the top of the one you don’t. Be productive and patient. And realize that patience is not about waiting, but the ability to keep a good attitude while working hard for what you believe in. This is your life, and it is made up entirely of your choices. May your actions speak louder than your words. May your life preach louder than your lips. May your success be your noise in the end.
And if life only teaches you one thing, let it be that taking a passionate leap is always worth it. Even if you have no idea where you’re going to land, be brave enough to step up to the edge of the unknown, and listen to your heart.
3. BEING BUSY DOES NOT MEAN BEING PRODUCTIVE
Busyness isn’t a virtue, nor is it something to respect. Though we all have seasons of crazy schedules, very few of us have a legitimate need to be busy ALL the time. We simply don’t know how to live within our means, prioritize properly, and say no when we should.
Being busy rarely equates to productivity these days. Just take a quick look around. Busy people outnumber productive people by a wide margin. Busy people are rushing all over the place, and running late half of the time. They’re heading to work, conferences, meetings, social engagements, etc. They barely have enough free time for family get-togethers and they rarely get enough sleep. Yet, emails are shooting out of their smart phones like machine gun bullets, and their day planners are jammed to the brim with obligations. Their busy schedule gives them an elevated sense of importance. But it’s all an illusion. They’re like hamsters running on a wheel.
Though being busy can make us feel more alive than anything else for a moment, the sensation is not sustainable long term. We will inevitably, whether tomorrow or on our deathbed, come to wish that we spent less time in the buzz of busyness and more time actually living a purposeful life
4. SOME KIND OF FAILURE ALWAYS OCCURS BEFORE SUCCESS
Most mistakes are unavoidable. Learn to forgive yourself. It’s not a problem to make them. It’s only a problem if you never learn from them.
If you’re too afraid of failure, you can’t possibly do what needs to be done to be successful.6 The solution to this problem is making friends with failure. You want to know the difference between a master and a beginner? The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried. Behind every great piece of art is a thousand failed attempts to make it, but these attempts are simply never shown to us.
Bottom line: Just because it’s not happening now, doesn’t mean it never will. Sometimes things have to go very wrong before they can be right. (Read The Success Principles.)
5. THINKING AND DOING ARE TWO VERY DIFFERENT THINGS
Success never comes to look for you while you wait around thinking about it.
You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do. Knowledge is basically useless without action. Good things don’t come to those who wait; they come to those who work on meaningful goals. Ask yourself what’s really important and then have the courage to build your life around your answer.
And remember, if you wait until you feel 100% ready to begin, you’ll likely be waiting the rest of your life.3
6. YOU DON’T HAVE TO WAIT FOR AN APOLOGY TO FORGIVE4
Life gets much easier when you learn to accept all the apologies you never got. The key is to be thankful for every experience – positive or negative. It’s taking a step back and saying, “Thank you for the lesson.” It’s realizing that grudges from the past are a perfect waste of today’s happiness, and that holding one is like letting unwanted company live rent free in your head.
Forgiveness is a promise – one you want to keep. When you forgive someone you are making a promise not to hold the unchangeable past against your present self. It has nothing to do with freeing a criminal of his or her crime, and everything to do with freeing yourself of the burden of being an eternal victim.
7. SOME PEOPLE ARE SIMPLY THE WRONG MATCH FOR YOU
You will only ever be as great as the people you surround yourself with, so be brave enough to let go of those who keep bringing you down. You shouldn’t force connections with people who constantly make you feel less than amazing.
If someone makes you feel uncomfortable and insecure every time you’re with them, for whatever reason, they’re probably not close friend material. If they make you feel like you can’t be yourself, or if they make you “less than” in any way, don’t pursue a connection with them. If you feel emotionally drained after hanging out with them or get a small hit of anxiety when you are reminded of them, listen to your intuition. There are so many “right people” for you, who energize you and inspire you to be your best self. It makes no sense to force it with people who are the wrong match for you.
8. IT’S NOT OTHER PEOPLE’S JOB TO LOVE YOU; IT’S YOURS
It’s important to be nice to others, but it’s even more important to be nice to yourself. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world. So make sure you don’t start seeing yourself through the eyes of those who don’t value you. Know your worth, even if they don’t.
Today, let someone love you just the way you are – as flawed as you might be, as unattractive as you sometimes feel, and as incomplete as you think you are. Yes, let someone love you despite all of this, and let that someone be YOU. (Read Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It.)
9. WHAT YOU OWN IS NOT WHO YOU ARE
Stuff really is just stuff, and it has absolutely no bearing on who you are as a person. Most of us can make do with much less than we think we need. That’s a valuable reminder, especially in a hugely consumer-driven culture that focuses more on material things than meaningful connections and experiences.
You have to create your own culture. Don’t watch too much TV, don’t read every fashion magazine, and don’t read too many newspapers. Find the strength to fill your time with meaningful experiences. The space and time you are occupying at this very moment is LIFE, and if you’re worrying about Kim Kardashian or Miley Cyrus (most obvious examples) or some other famous face, then you are disempowered. You’re giving your life away to marketing and media trickery, which is created by big companies to ultimately motivate you to want to dress a certain way, look a certain way, and be a certain way. This is tragic, this kind of thinking. What is real is YOU and your friends and your family, your loves, your highs, your hopes, your plans, your fears, etc.
Too often we’re told that we’re not important, we’re just peripheral to what is. “Get a degree, get a job, get a car, get a house, and keep on getting.” And it’s sad, because someday you’ll wake up and realize you’ve been tricked. And all you’ll want then is to reclaim your mind by getting it out of the hands of manipulative media that wants to turn you into the perfect consumer that buys everything that isn’t needed to impress everyone that isn’t important. It’s a hamster wheel, think about it.
10. EVERYTHING CHANGES, EVERY SECOND
Embrace change and realize it happens for a reason. It won’t always be obvious at first, but in the end it will be worth it.
What you have today may become what you had by tomorrow. You never know. Things change, often spontaneously. People and circumstances come and go. Life doesn’t stop for anybody. It moves rapidly and rushes from calm to chaos in a matter of seconds, and happens like this to people every day. It’s likely happening to someone nearby right now.
Sometimes the shortest split second in time changes the direction of our lives. A seemingly innocuous decision rattles our whole world like a meteorite striking Earth. Entire lives have been swiveled and flipped upside down, for better or worse, on the strength of an unpredictable event. And these events are always happening to someone else right this second.
However good or bad a situation is now, it will change. That’s the one thing you can count on. So when life is good, enjoy it. Don’t go looking for something better every second. Happiness never comes to those who don’t appreciate what they have while they have it.
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What else would you add to this list? What important life lessons do you often forget? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.