Recently I was invited to participate on a senior’s panel for a class of students studying psychology. It was an extremely interesting and enjoyable experience sharing reflections on the gifts and the challenges of aging and being asked all kinds of interesting questions.
One question has stayed with me, “what would you like to have shared with your younger self?” At the time I quipped, “I doubted my younger self would have listened”. However the question has been haunting me since then. I realized that there are so many things that could have helped me on the journey. Two of us on the panel deeply regretted having no sage mentors to offer such counsel. So here is some of mine.
I am not sure which of these I could have heard at the time however now they all make much great sense. Here they are – in no particular order.
1) This too shall pass – the wise reminder that everything – the good, bad and indifferent will change.
2) Do not make assumptions and do not take it personally. (Two of Don Miguel Ruiz’s Four Agreements.)
3) Know thyself – inscribed in the Temple to Apollo in Delphi. To understand who we are and why we react the way we do is priceless and has become a twenty-year passion of mine.
4) You are better looking and more interesting than you realize. (I was terribly challenged by lack of self-esteem and shyness.)
5) Be curious about everything that happens in your life.
6) When a door closes always look around for the door that may be opening rather than batter on the one that is closed.
7) The other two agreements – do your best and be impeccable to your word.
8) Meditate every day – I did not start until I was 50 and wished I had begun earlier.
9) Read poetry, it speaks to a deeper part of who we are.
10) Find music that touches you deeply and listen to it often,
11) Accept that in life you will win and lose – do both gracefully.
12) Learn to recognize that there is a gap between the stimulus and the reaction. (Steven Covey)
13) Don’t drink so much; you are not as funny as you think; it is an escape.
14) Learn the difference between being alone and feeling lonely – you don’t have to go out on a Saturday night.
15) Always remember the four immeasurables (from Buddha) – Compassion, Loving Kindness, Equanimity and Sympathetic Joy. (Enjoying the success of others)
16) Attachment is not necessarily bad but it will eventually end in suffering. (Buddha)
17) When someone upsets you look inside before you react outwards. A psychological truism is that “it is never about what it is about.”
18) You don’t have to be religious to acknowledge the wonderful principles of the great wisdom traditions. How can you argue with “Love One Another”?
19) Our close attractions are normally projections of some part of ourselves that is unfulfilled or unrealized. We project our inner gold on other people and need to reclaim it. (Robert Johnson)
20) Your parents did the best they could – forgive them.
21) Look for patterns in your life they come to teach you something.
22) We wake up each morning with two gremlins at the end of our bed – they are fear and lethargy. (James Hollis)
23) Pay close attention when you develop an instant dislike to someone, they normally represent something we don’t like in ourselves. (We all have shadow and light)
24) Anxiety is a nebulous free flowing child state, when you are anxious try to ascertain what the underlying fear is, it will reduce its power over you. (Sometimes anxiety is unconscious and shows up as mindless diversions and distractions.)
25) Forgiveness is about the self not the other however to forgive you do not have to condone.
I am sure more will come to me but this seems like a good starting point.