Wednesday, December 2, 2015

turning 42

TEN THOUGHTS on the last day of my forty-second year on Earth: 

     1) Scolding or shouting at a person never helps your cause and rarely changes anyone’s mind. In fact, it often accomplishes the opposite. If you want to express your opinion and have it truly be heard, add humor, humility or kindness to your message, and it will be well received. Better yet, embody the virtues you wish to see in the world, and let that be your message instead.
      2) Flexibility — both mental and physical — is the most important thing you can cultivate as you get older. We tend to settle into habits. It’s easier than forging new paths. Our postures harden with time, and so do our attitudes. Staying open to new ideas and new activities, swimming against the currents of our habits, takes constant effort.
     3) As a creative person, don’t wait for anyone’s approval or applause. Be a servant to the work you’re creating and not your own ego.
     4) It’s easy to view religion or the spiritual path as the enforcement of a set of rules — if you do these things and don’t do these things, then you’ll get some kind of reward. It’s much harder to view religion or the spiritual path as the practice of selflessness and compassion, with no guarantee of reward, which is closer to the truth.
     5) Our constant search for entertainment is the cause of much suffering. The food we eat needn’t entertain us. The clothes we wear needn't entertain us. Our politicians needn’t entertain us. Our relationships needn’t entertain us. Our minds want to be constantly entertained, and corporations are always happy to keep providing us with entertainment options. The way to break the cycle is by not taking the bait.
     6) We live in an age of aggression. Drivers are aggressive. Shoppers are aggressive. Sports spectators are aggressive. Facebook users are aggressive. Internet commenters are aggressive. Not to mention all the violence in our communities around the world. Aggression clouds our perception of reality, and cultivates further aggression. The only antidote is gentleness.
     7) What separates those who accomplish great things from those who don’t is rarely a matter of natural talent. Just keep working and be patient. So-called talent is the transmutation of discipline into the appearance of magic. There are no short-cuts.
     8) When people think of the mind, they think of the brain, but the mind is much more than the brain. The mind is the body — our face, our mouths, our arms, our hands, our legs, our sense organs — and the way we use our body. The mind is also the environments we find ourselves in, and how those environments influence us.
     9) We are increasingly distant from Mother Earth, and it’s taking a toll on us. Touch in from time to time. Feel water and soil. Notice plants and animals. And appreciate the weather, even when it’s unpleasant.
     10) Kindness is the highest wisdom. At the end of the day, no one really cares how smart or wealthy you are. Be kind-hearted always. Even the hardest person has a soft spot somewhere.