12 Things Worth Striving For
I like things that make life more awesome. The below are my "life hacks" for awesomeness. These are things I strive for, knowing that I will not achieve perfection, but that my striving will point me in the right direction.
Most of these are taken directly from one or many spiritual traditions, or from individuals who I admire. Others are just my way of articulating common sense in a way that feels meaningful to me.
Without further ado:
1. Always be loving more. As far as awesomeness goes, love is where it's at. Love is about as awesome as it gets in this life so I think it's worth striving to always love more.
Who has had the problem of too much love in their life? Can you imagine that? Like, "Man, the problem in my life is I just have too much love and it's terrible!" Have you ever heard of anyone complain about this? Of course not! The more we are able to feel, experience, and express love the better.
This may seem really obvious, but how often do we actually push away love? How many times have you seen someone intentionally, or subconsciously push love out of their heart? How many times have you done it yourself?
Of course, when I use the word "love" I'm opening up a Pandora's box of the different interpretations of the word. I'm also surely reminding the reader of idiotic, irrational, and terrible things that people have done in the name of "Love" (or what they thought it was). So let me be clear that I am not condoning obsession, or letting others walk all over you, or always-being-nice. I'm talking about embracing the incomprehensible, magical joy and peace that we experience through someone (or something) that we truly love.
When I write "Always be loving more", I mean, be someone who experiences and radiates that incomprehensible joy. This means set boundaries, work hard, stand up for what you believe in, honor thyself, and do it all with love.
This "life hack" actually encompasses all the rest of the "life hacks" to follow. They are merely situational (but important) expressions of this first one. It is that simple, and that powerful: Always be loving more.
2. Cultivate a more genuine and powerful version of YOU. Miles Davis once said, "It took a long time to learn to sound like myself." This is what I mean: to know thyself is a process of creation, and it takes time.
This also means that you don't try to be a good copy of someone else. This includes, the Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed (peace be upon him), or any other awakened being. You have to follow your own path, find your unique connection to the magic of the universe.
As the Buddhist saying goes, "It's better to follow your own dharma, however poorly, than another's, however well."
3. Care for your spaceship. Your body is a complex, and nearly magical spaceship that your consciousness uses to navigate human experience. And it's the only one you get for this life.
So take care of it! Use it well; feed it wisely; upgrade it; test it; cultivate it; care for it's decay; and be grateful that you were given such a unique model.
4. Take full responsibility for your emotions and actions. How you feel and what you do are never someone else's fault or responsibility. This may seem obvious, but so often I see or hear of people doing awful things because someone else made them mad.
But it doesn't matter what other people do. Each individual is responsible for their own thoughts and feelings.
Two people can have the same experience but feel widely differently about it because of each person's unique conditioning. For example, if my first girlfriend drove a red Volkswagen Jetta, then every time I see a red Jetta, I might feel joy or heartbreak (depending on how the relationship ended) while another person might hardly notice the car. In this case, two people, same experience, widely different results.
While the actions of others may be kind or cruel, just or unjust, how we feel is our responsibility. What we do is our responsibility. No one can "make you" do anything. You own and control your spaceship. So take full responsibility for your emotions and actions.
5. Avoid violence and harm to others (and yourself). Ultimately, hurting other's hurts you. It hardens your heart, and disconnects you from the magic of the universe.
We all have an innate knowing that hurting others is wrong. But when we do it, either intentionally or unintentionally, there is a tendency to say "They deserved it!" or "They should have done a better job of protecting themselves." But that kind of reasoning is destructive and regressive.
No one deserves violence (physical, verbal, otherwise). Violence always creates resentment at a minimum and more violence far too often (unless the other has the awakened ability to transmute violence into love, i.e. Jesus level human).
Punishment of conscious adults is simply counter productive. Revenge is always escalating. Violence creates enemies rather than creating brotherhood and community.
6. Avoid shaming yourself or others. Shame is a block to love, mercy, and forgiveness. It is a form of violence. It is a block to godliness.
To avoid shame does not mean you don't take responsibility for your mistakes! It just means that you refrain from self-hatred, and hatred of others. You can seek understanding for your mistakes and the consequences of your actions while still holding yourself and others with of loving kindness. You can repent and repair with a loving heart.
7. Look beneath your craving and aversions. Most human action is driven by either obsession (craving) or fear (aversion). Sometimes these thoughts and actions are blatantly fearful or obsessive. Other times they are more subtle, like the stress at work because you are afraid (at some level) that you will be fired.
There is always something below the craving and aversion; a deeper longing, something that pulls you away from craving and aversion. Look for that "pull" and where it takes you. This process is to bring your subconscious mind into your conscious mind. It's extremely difficult.
*This one was drawn from my Vipassana training. I highly recommend everyone do a 10-day Vipassana course. It is invaluable training for becoming aware of, and taking ownership of your mind and the innate human tendency towards craving and aversion.
8. Strengthen your mind and soften your heart. Human intellect is magnificent, and the most powerful defense against fanaticism and folly. There will always be liars, con-artists, idiots, and lunatics who would wish you to join them in their delusions. It is your responsibility to discern and deconstruct these poorly formed ideas to protect yourself and others from their spread.
But do not let the strengthening of your mind harden your heart. Every increase in the strength of your mind must be met by a corresponding softening of the heart. Otherwise, we risk becoming heartless machine-beings who only calculate the value of a person and dismiss them in the name of efficiency. The epitome of strong mind and hard heart is the Nazi regime. The epitome of weak mind and soft heart is exemplified by cult followers who carry out murder or "drink the coolaide".
*This one was pulled directly from the words of Dr. Martin Luther King in his book "Strength to love" (highly recommended).
9. Work for the dignity of all people. There are no villains. There are only corrupt systems and confused participants. We all make mistakes. We all fail. We all harm others whether we like it or not. Maintaining dignity for all paves the way for friendship and the beloved community. Dignity is a bridge over shame and into love.
*Again this is pulled from the words and actions of Dr. Martin Luther King who worked for the dignity of those who sought to oppress, block, and kill him.
10. Serve and care for everyone (especially yourself). Caring for self and caring for others; they are not two things but one. If you neglect yourself, you decrease your capacity to care for others, if you neglect others, you decrease your care for yourself. Seek the option that creates more love and life energy for everyone.
This one is really hard, AND it is definitely worth striving for.
11. Let your truth be known. First, be honest with yourself. What is important to you? What hurts? What do you long for? What mistakes do you regret making? Next, share this with those who should know. As a friend once told me "Don't let those who matter get used to someone who doesn't exist." Invite the humility of being upfront with your shortcomings. Let your expression of truth be an act of love for yourself and for others.
12. Trust that things will work out. The great philosopher Bob Marley once said "Baby, don't worry about a thing, because every little thing is going to be alright." Beyond staying away from fear and aversion, this is an active practice of trusting that things will work out. You can only do what you can do, and the world will be as it is.
This does not mean you don't stand up for what you believe in! On the contrary, you stand up even more boldly because you know that good will prevail!
As Dr. Martin Luther King often said, "The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice."
*What did I miss? What would you add to this list. Comment below or shoot me a message.