Among the many books we were given after the birth of our first child was one entitled "The Blessing of a Skinned Knee." Almost 30 years later, in the age of the "helicopter parent", the book's message is as powerful as ever. Adversity and failure are our most powerful teachers. Not only will new experiences add spice to our lives, but they will challenge us to learn and appreciate new thoughts and skills and, perhaps most importantly, remind us that we DON'T know a whole lot more than we know. If you (or your kids) have never extended yourself into situations in which you might fail, then how can you have confidence that you can overcome obstacles or adversity in the future, and summon the tenacity to face and work through challenges? To be best prepared for life, don't shelter yourself from failure, but be fearless in facing it.
The "mind-body connection" is often mentioned to emphasize the healing power of positivity for one's physical health. Less often mentioned is what I'll call the "mind-mind connection" to help improve our mental health. When our mind engages in negative or destructive thoughts, we can direct it to change course toward positive and constructive thoughts and behavior. The first step is to recognize your negative thoughts, then to identify the source as your perception of actual events (not the event itself, which is always neutral), to tell your mind to think differently, and then to diligently follow through - which you may have to do within a minute or less, and then several times. So, if you want to be a calm, caring and compassionate person, but find yourself acting in contrary ways and regret it later - then, see your thought and correct your attitude before you act. Positive and optimistic people live happier and more effective, tranquil lives, and their attitude enriches the lives of others.
"A life is not important except in the impact that it has on other lives" - Jackie Robinson. I admire #42 as one of the most courageous figures in the history of sport, but perhaps more, the insight that he offered after retirement. As you work to find meaning in your life, consider that you are the only one that will remember the things that you do for yourself. The help, kindness, compassion or inspiration that you give to others will be remembered and appreciated exponentially. Perhaps most important, though, is warmth of heart that you give to yourself by offering it to others or for their benefit. Even your small acts of goodness may or courage mean the difference in the quality of another's day. They certainly will fill yours with more meaning. There is no limit to your love, and we all know that the world could use more.
There are several variations of this quote around, but in essence, the message is that you can't go out to find happiness and peace, you must internally generate a life of happiness and peace. The "Way" comes from inside you. OK, so how do we get on that path? We will each have our own views of a meaningful life, but many suggest that we: (1) overcome and avoid any unwholesome, negative thoughts or actions, (2) emanate goodness and caring, (3) let go and just be – open, unconditional, unguarded, trusting without the armor of ego self-protection. It's easier said than done, of course, but when you live this approach, no person or event can frazzle you or disturb your inner tranquility. That's peace and happiness, that's the Way.
It's now been a year since my first blog post here. I am so grateful for all of your kind words in response. I write the blog to reinforce my own practice and habits of presence, positivity, vulnerabiilty, nonjudgment and unconditional love. Self-improvement is slow and challenging. It requires diligence and dedication, but don't be hard on yourself. Find a way to celebrate each day - we don't get them a second time. Appreciate even small steps that you make toward inner peace. Give your time and your heart. Love and you will be loved. There is nothing others can do to deter you from this path, from the person you want to be.
What shows a human being at her or his finest? I believe that it is one who does the right thing in the face of personal hardship, challenge or consequence. The right action or reaction is rarely easy, but it is always the right thing to do. If you aspire to virtue and integrity, then resist the temptation to ever do anything else. Do what's right, without the need or desire for any recognition. You are watching - that is enough.