My 60th Birthday

Today I am 60. What have I learned about life?

Despite the progress I’ve made I have much more work to do, a lifetime at least, just to try to reach the same understanding as some of the brightest who have gone before me.

Each one of us has our own unique view of the world based on our own unique set of experiences. There is no single objective reality. When a close friend hurts you, or feels you have hurt them, try to understand because that is how they feel and it is genuine even if you see it differently.

We fight because we don’t know or understand our enemies. This is often because we don’t speak the same language and have little or no opportunity to get to know them. When humans can communicate they soon realize that we are all the same. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said “If we could read the secret history of our enemies we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.”

There is a huge pressure placed on each of us to conform. e.e.cummings said “…to be nobody-but yourself-in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else-means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.” Each of us must listen to and follow our heart despite the enormous pressure we feel from our family and friends. Joseph Campbell said “Is the system going to flatten you out and deny you your humanity, or are you going to be able to make use of the system to the attainment of human purposes?”

The hardships we face in life are meant to help us grow. Robert Schuller said “Every hardship is a blessing”. John Keats: “Do you not see how necessary a world of pains and troubles is to school an intelligence and make it a soul?” And Scott Peck: “The quickest way to change your attitude toward pain is to accept the fact that everything that happens to us has been designed for our spiritual growth.”

Focusing too much on possessions and materialism prevents us from growing. Henry David Thoreau said “Most of the luxuries and many of the so-called comforts of life are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind.”

Spiritual and mental growth are one and the same. It comes from an understanding of the unity of all living things, indeed of all things. We are not alone. Walt Whitman said “Every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.”

True happiness only comes when we stop thinking of ourselves and focus on how we can help others. Joseph Campbell: “When we quit thinking primarily about ourselves and our own self-preservation, we undergo a truly heroic transformation of consciousness.”

Our thoughts run through our mind like a drunken monkey. We are not our thoughts, we are the thinker. We must nurture a quiet, self-aware mind. Meditation helps. Stop for 30 minutes once a day and focus on your breath. It is your connection to the cosmos. When you have a thought, return to your breath.

Live in the present moment. We waste too much time regretting the past and worrying about the future. The past is gone and can’t be changed; the future is unknowable. The only thing that matters is the present. If we look after the present moment, the past and future take care of themselves.

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