When was the last time that you laid on the ground and stared at the night sky? There is something unavoidably wonderful about this simple reminder of our connection to a vast universe. It challenges the tendency to view ourselves as the most important thing in the world and to get caught up in petty, daily "earthly" concerns. Sure, it may seem a bit disconcerting to confront the truth that we are so small and temporal in comparison, but why not revel in our connection to the universe and all of its beings? No one is alone; we are here together, inextricably connected. Explore and embrace the world, nature, animals and other people to enrich and support your life. They are eagerly waiting for you. Your "problems" will seem unimportant and your heart will sing.
We visited the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo on July 2, but in the current environment of contentiousness, it was a refreshing reminder of the notions of freedom that the 4th of July was intended to celebrate. The gallery of Peace Prize recipients was awe inspiring, as it cited their accomplishments - each battled forces of hatred, repression or tyranny to try to move the world toward peace, kindness and humanity, All of us can similarly live our lives for the same purpose. It won't take any grand gestures. Small acts of caring and kindness are the simple building blocks for universal love, for a society in which hatred and oppression cannot survive. The power of fairness, justice and love can overcome the love of power. As Elie Weisel said in his 1986 acceptance speech, we are not free until everyone in the world lives in freedom. It is our duty to help make it happen.
You don't have to face the world alone. As we grew up, we constantly leaned on and learned from family, friends and teachers to begin to understand and gain skills to navigate our young lives. Why do so many adults believe that they now must tackle obstacles by themselves? Do they really feel so equipped to handle everything?
Why not recognize that we are (or at least should be) constantly learning and improving ourselves - our sense of self, emotional intelligence, life perspective and interpersonal skills? If others can help you address an issue, there is so much to be gained from enlisting their help - appreciating your own vulnerability, giving another an opportunity to help a friend, deepening interpersonal connections, working with others toward a common goal. We can't do it all, nor should we want to be able to. You've grown and become more capable, but you are loved by friends and family that are always ready to lend a hand if you need it. Ask... and face your challenges bolstered by the love of others.
Adventure and travel are good for the soul. Go someplace you've never been. Try something you've never tried. Take on a physical challenge that you have to train for and aren't sure you can complete. Meet people who live, think and view the world differently than you do. To grow intellectually, physically or emotionally, you need to get outside of your comfort zone. Do it as often as possible, then reflect on the experience and work to repeat and retain all of the positive lessons that you have learned.
Life is a journey, a series of moments. As we make plans, we too often forget that our plans will succeed only if we make the most of the moments along the way. The same is true of our efforts to make ourselves better people, more giving, more loving, more compassionate, more comfortable in our own skin. It won't happen overnight; it will take time and practice. Look at each moment as an opportunity to do something to improve yourself. These moments will add up to the changes you desire. Don't be too hard on yourself if you say or do something that you wish you had handled differently. Recognize it, make amends if needed, and commit to do better next time. One small habit building improvement at a time, moment by moment, you are forging a wonderful life journey.
I've written here about the importance of spending time with people with qualities that you admire and aspire to. My close friend Tim Wheeler is one such "mentor" to me, and he recently told me of sage advice from one of his mentors, his father, Dick. "You always see yourself as one age for your entire life, so choose it wisely." Dick was a real character, whom even in his 80s, always had the spunk and verve of a teenager. Why not? As we age, and get wiser about life; why not channel the energy of our youth at the same time? Realize that the choice is yours, despite any physical or other impairments that you may face. This is not about external aesthetics - your quality of life will come from the work you do to improve your mind, your mental aesthetics. Thanks R.D.