Life’s Lessons

“To learn and not to do is really not to learn. To know and not to act is really not to know.” ~ Stephen R. Covey

Three years ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I can tell you there is nothing quite like the sheer terror of tottering on the edge of a deep yawning abyss and peering down with wide stricken eyes.

I remembered clawing helplessly at the remnants of my life’s best laid plans. I remembered for the first time in my life, growing old seemed such a blissful prospect. I remembered being jolted wide awake.

In such moments of rare clarity, one of the first things that flashed across my mind was the shocking awareness and dismay of my own failings. I have tried to own up and learn from those mistakes. These are some of those lessons learnt from the school of hard knocks, long dark tunnels and other unlikely places of wisdom.

1. Our greatest failures are not the wrongs we did but the everyday opportunities to do good, to master ourselves, to try harder that we let slip by.

2. Some parties are not worth attending. Especially the pity-parties where we indulge and celebrate ourselves. Stop pulling out your favourite chair to watch re-runs of your life.

3. Once in a while it is useful to stop and ask oneself this question – “What if I am wrong?”

4. Life is actually not as complicated as we make it out to be. We just need to learn to appreciate the ride.

5. The quest for God is one journey worth taking.

6. To be consumed by unforgiveness is to miss out on the whole point of being alive. Choose well what consumes you.

7. The surest way to know what kind of person you are becoming is to watch what things you are feeding your mind, your eyes, your ears and what kind of speech filters from your mouth.

8.  Like a pebble in the shoe, it is the little things that ultimately wear us down.

9. Live one day at a time…and strive to make it the best day you ever lived.

10. It is sobering to realise that most of life’s stress is centred on rather small, petty concerns.

11.The singlemost powerful thing on earth is the power to choose a thought, a response, a habit, a life.

12.To soar at the song of a blackbird at twilight must surely be news worth sharing.

13. Live from the inside out. Live from roots planted deep in eternal truths and wisdom.

14. Hiding your gifts and talents so others may not feel threatened is to hide a fragment of God Himself.

15. Even the simplest of acts can be sacred when performed in the spirit of mindfulness and perfection. I learnt this while watching my 86-year old grandmother fold the laundry.

16. “If only” must surely be one of life’s most tragic words.

17. One of our greatest failures is making ourselves victims of the failures of others.

18. If life is a gift, then the simple act of chopping tomatoes, brewing a cup of tea, even getting down on my knees to clean is a sacred act of service I can render.

19. Laugh! Laugh often! One of the names of God surely is the Great Humorist.

20. Get some perspective. It really could have been worse.

21. There is a time to grow up. Now is the time.

22. Stop. Wait. Rest. Listen. Sometimes that is the best kind of doing.

23. Take good care of your body. It is the temple of your soul.

24. One of the great skills of life is learning to sacrifice the important for the most important.

25. Gratitude and contentment are indeed the beginnings of a good life.

Since the earth-shattering news that day in December 2009, followed by mastectomy and chemotherapy, it has been an intense journey of healing and recovery. A healing that transcends the physical body. It has been a journey of inner healing and change.

It is quite impossible to describe the paradigm shift from which I once operated and that which I find myself living from today. I am humbled by life’s tough lessons yet I am grateful for second chances.

Don’t wait to set things right in life. If you had to come face to face with that dark abyss, what is the one thing you would do right now (that you haven’t done) which you know would improve your life?

Do it. Don’t wait for wake-up calls.

“If it be Thy pleasure, make me to grow as a tender herb in the meadows of Thy grace, that the gentle winds of Thy will may stir me up and bend me into conformity with Thy pleasure, in such wise that my movement and my stillness may be wholly directed  by Thee.”

~ Bahá’u’lláh