I’ve gleaned a lot of wisdom over the past two years, most of it the hard-earned, head-shaking kind. During this time period, coincidentally [or not], I recommenced a daily mindfulness meditation practice. You wouldn’t think that sitting on a pillow at 4:45am for twenty minutes, doing nothing but observing the rise and fall of your breath, along with the coming and going of your thoughts, would make a difference. I get up early to write; why steal from my most productive work time? Indeed, that was why I stopped my efforts, a dozen years ago. I was restless; I told myself just sitting there, wrestling with thoughts, was counterproductive. Writing novels was much more important.
Well. Life has a way of letting you know what’s most important.
Lo and behold, something has been working of late. Call it life lessons, reading the right books, or sitting on that cushion each morning making peace with the not-peace that is my restless mind. Whatever. Something has given me some really cool clarity.
Of course, just because everything is crystalline clear one relaxing morning while sitting, doesn’t mean it is going to stay there like some cosmic umbrella over my head, keeping the shit from raining down on me. So I’m doing this list, for myself as much as for you, dear reader. Maybe more for myself. Because it helps me to be reminded of these wise bits every day.
Here you go. I hope these bits of wisdom speak to you as they’ve spoken to me. Maybe they’ve been obvious to you all along, and you’ll scratch your head and mumble to yourself, boy, you mean she’s been resisting that concept? Ah well, there it is. We are all at different places on the journey.
10 Bits of Wisdom [to self] for 2016
- Understand that everything changes. The bouts of instability and uncertainty that punctuate life are the way it’s supposed to be. Stop thinking you need to make it go away.
- Comparison is the thief of joy. Catch yourself the instant you go there and gently self-redirect.
- Be here now. And now. And now.
- Breathe in, breathe out. By the way, this is a nifty thing to focus your attention on, because it will always be there for you. It’s one certainty (the only one?) you can trust.
- We suffer when we resist what is unfolding before us right here, right now.
- No matter what’s going on, no matter how crappy it is, know that “this, too, belongs.”
- Fail fast, fail often. A Silicon Valley-attributed quote, which I misquoted back to my Silicon Valley husband as, “fail bigger, fail better.” Which made us both laugh. And then I decided I liked my misquote. So, hey. Keeping ’em all.
- Be kind to everyone; each person is fighting a battle we know nothing about.
- Keep art in your life. Breathe in the wonderful feeling that being surrounded by the arts [or nature, or gardening, or photography, books, what have you] brings. These things, the positive energy surrounding them, are our sanctuary in an uncertain, unstable world.
- You can’t shoo or threaten away the gremlins in your head, your heart, so you might as well invite them in. You don’t have to nourish them or cater to them. They are like squatters. Trying to force them out is a hell of a battle. Just hold your own ground, focus on healthy things you value, and let the gremlins stay as long as they see fit. They’ll get bored that you’re not paying attention to them. If you don’t nourish them, they’ll leave. (This works for unwelcome house guests, too.)
And now, a few quotes from books I read in 2015 that really spoke to me…
The Pocket Pema Chödrön (Amazon link HERE)
“Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”
Phillip Moffitt, Dancing With Life (Amazon link HERE)
“To voluntarily receive the distress of life and mindfully bear it with consciousness and compassion is a critical threshold for spiritual development. It is the vital first step and it empowers all further unfolding. It is both absolutely ordinary and mystically transforming.”
Karuna Cayton, The Misleading Mind (Amazon link HERE)
“Ultimately, whatever happens in life, how we respond is our responsibility. We take responsibility for our own happiness by getting control of our mind. Or, put differently, we increase our happiness by understanding how our mind works and learning to recognize when aversion and attachment are running the show.”
Cyprian Consiglio, Prayer in the Cave of the Heart; The Universal Call to Contemplation
No current quote from this one yet, but I love, just love, the accessible, universally spiritual (multi-denominational? Non-denominational? Christian mystic-based?) message this Benedictine monk, speaker, writer, songwriter and performer imparts. Amazon link HERE.
Happy 2016 to all of you, dear readers and friends. May your year be full of things that nourish you, and may you also find room on your plate to be okay with the things that don’t nourish you. All of it will come and go, come and go, like waves on a beach.