What Is Life About? Heart Advice From Parent to Child
What have you learned about life?
Write a letter to yourself when you were young. Or perhaps write a letter to kids (to a young person that you're close to) about life. Review the following areas of life and share what you've learned. What advice would you give? For the letter:
Note: These questions were given by Thubten Chodron to our discussion group at a recent retreat. The retreat focused on developing inner wisdom in our lives. For additional teachings from Thubten Chodron explore the Various Meditations section. Below I share what answers I came up with for myself as a little boy.
To Little Bobbie, I LOVE you!
I don't have all of the answers, but I will share with you what I have learned.
Sweetheart, life is an amazing, awesome, and sometimes very challenging schoolroom. Everyone is here learning lessons. We are really stewards of everything. Everything is on loan to us. We came into this earth owning nothing, and we will leave it in the same way.
Parents, teachers, and family will share their knowledge with you and support you as you grow and learn. We are all imperfect and will make mistakes. We might sometimes harm you in some way. We will get confused, overwhelmed, and say or do things that we later regret. You will also. Help us nurture forgiveness.
Just because you MAKE a mistake, you aren't a mistake!
You are always worthy of LOVE.
Life is a series of lessons. Growth is a process of trial and error, experimentation. The "failed" experiments are as much of the process as the experiment that ultimately "works."
We learn to walk by falling down and getting back up.
What you make of your life is up to you. You will be provided with many tools and resources that you need. What you do with them is up to you. The choice is yours. You have within you an AMAZING potential. It is like a "seed" in a garden that is planted. To help that seed grow it will require regular tending: water, fertilizer, weeding, and patience.
You have a precious human birth which includes a body. It needs many things to keep it physically healthy. You also have mental, emotional, and spiritual needs as a part of your sacred existence.
To figure out what YOU need to keep you well--in all dimensions--is an experiment. Although there are some wonderful guidelines and suggestions in each area to follow. I will share with you what I know.
Your answers to your life's challenges and questions lie INSIDE of you!
Practice daily quiet reflection and study.
The world will tell you that SUCCESS is having lots of $$$, status, education, possessions, a certain job, lots of friends, and great influence. It will put LOTS of pressure on you to achieve, to acquire "things," to "be somebody rich and famous," and be really busy...
I say, take time each day to develop your "most precious inner seed." Your body is small now, but it will grow stronger and bigger. You will develop all kinds of abilities (physical and others) and then your body will gradually get old. It will age: 10--> 20--> 30--> 40--> 50--> 60--> 70--> years old and then, you will die. You may live that long if you're lucky. Many people die much sooner.
So sweetheart, what then is the most important thing in your life?
It is your POTENTIAL for complete development into an extraordinarily kind, generous, thoughtful, wise, loving, and compassionate person. So really, the most important thing you can learn about is your inner spiritual education and practice. For me, this PATH has provided incredible answers to life's mysterious deepest challenges and explains the path or process from inner confusion to complete inner well-being. For me, that blessing and gift is to be shared with all other people. The goal: harm no one, bless everyone (including you!).
With that said (about inner education and spiritual development), you will also need OUTER education to develop your multiple talents and skills. Again, as you learn all of these outer things--I encourage you to go inside. Set your motivation--the reason why you are doing something. Keep in balance as much as possible, which is at times very challenging, since life is ALWAYS changing (impermanent). We can't frequently CONTROL outer things, just your response to them.
I would encourage you to find a job (your right livelihood) that uses your talents, that helps you learn and grow, that provides a valuable service to the world, and as a consequence, provides you $$$ to meet your financial needs. Choose a career that is a blessing to the world and harms no one.
Self-discipline (guided inner, flexible structure and ethics) is an essential practice for you to achieve your highest dreams.
You will benefit greatly from PLANNING for your life's choices. This includes using $$$ wisely. Providing for your (and perhaps your family's) reasonable needs. Consider also being generous: supporting those in need, spiritual groups, and those who are struggling. I encourage you to practice not just financial generosity, but also be generous with your time, support, listening, sharing knowledge, spiritual insights, and volunteering. Discover the joys of working together!
Oh sweetheart, all of life is about relationships.
Everything is interconnected and depends on everything else. This is true from the galaxy to the smallest atom. From the whole world, to our family. We don't do anything alone.
Although you can care deeply for the whole world and each individual family member--each person is the owner of their own happiness. They create what they experience. You create what you experience. You are the owner of your own choices. Your (and my) happiness and unhappiness arise out of your (my) actions of body, speech, and mind, and choices in attitudes and perceptions--and NOT from outside forces. These causes exist within me and you and others. Everything unfolds according to the law of Karma (sowing and reaping). Everything is changing constantly.
Honor the suffering of each person and what it teaches them. It is not your job to fix the world. You can care for all people, and share your gifts, talents, resources--but THEY have to choose to do something. If they consistently practice harmful choices, you have the right to NOT be in relationship with them.
Each person is a collection of healthy and harmful patterns.
Each person has strengths, weaknesses, and limitations.
The area of intimate, personal relationships will be one of the most challenging areas. I have needed to seek advice from trained counselors, and have read many books to help me understand the wisdom of how to create healthy relationships. The Dharma (spiritual teachings) is also a wealth of wisdom. Intimate relationships are wonderful gifts of support and sharing--with family and friends. We practice: generosity, ethics, kindness, open and honest communication, acceptance, setting healthy limits, forgiveness, loving support, and patience.
Treat others in ways that would make YOU smile and feel deeply cared for.
Treat them in the same way as you would yourself--
with compassion and complete respect!
Oh dear one, all things are cyclical and impermanent. The success you experience is due to your efforts and many supportive factors and the help of others. Offer the success up as a benefit to others. You will have cycles of failure--when things end, fall apart, or don't go your way. Just let it all go.
Again, remember your ENLIGHTENED potential. Remember that you own nothing, and are not what you own or accomplish. These are NOT your real identities. So I encourage you to plan time for self-reflection to contemplate your life's lessons. Contemplate generosity, ethical behaviors, karma (cause and effect), wisdom, ethics, calming down your mind, and the joyous effort of celebrating your life!
A spiritual teacher (and community) should be a role model for all of the principles that they teach. We need the regular support of others to grow spiritually. Use your wisdom and intelligence to choose a path that feels right for you. I love the Buddhist path (for me, it has been like spiritual cognitive therapy and explained life's problems and how to transform them). But--check it out--any path out. Don't just believe me. Use your intelligence to see if these teachings feel right for you. Different faiths fit different people. They have similar goals: to increase love, compassion, kindness, growth in ethics and morals, and universal responsibility.
As you daily practice living each day, remember you will someday die. Consider that it's a natural cycle. So, practice each day with the principles that I have shared with you. That will increase people's TRUST in you. Your words and intensions will match your actions! That will increase people's confidence in you. They will know that they can depend on you. You will be a blessing to the world.
Gently remember sweetheart, that you aren't perfect. So, when you goof, just admit it. Figure out what happened, and make plans not to repeat that action (choice) again in the future. That practice will repair people's trust for you in the future.
So in conclusion, if you choose to live according to all these ideas that I have shared with you, when you die you will have no regrets and your life will have been a blessing to many people. You will die with peace and contentment. You will have used this life well in the continual evolution of your "subtle consciousness" (soul) to the development of your "enlightened seed potential" for the benefit of your fellow travelers in Earth's schoolroom.
HUGS and love to you! Your fellow traveler, BIG BOB.
Pay a visit to Bob's story, The Emotional Area
Eight Aspirations of a Great Being
The VIA Classification of Character Strengths
discusses KEY mental strengths that promote life-long mental and
emotional well being. It is VERY comprehensive and insightful. Visit it
The VIA Classification of Character Strengths discusses KEY mental strengths that promote life-long mental and emotional well being. It is VERY comprehensive and insightful. Visit it here: http://www.viacharacter.org/www/Character-Strengths/VIA-Classification
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