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“Truth is within ourselves; it takes no rise
From outward things, whate’er you may believe.
There is an inmost center in us all,
Where truth abides in fullness.” ~
Robert Browning (exceprt from Paracelsus) …
What is truth? For many of us, it is knowledge and understanding that has been taught us from others–parents, relatives and siblings, professors and teachers, religious leaders, mentors, and our peers and friends. But here we are told that truth “takes no rise from outward things,” and thus can only come from within us; and it is important that we recognize this or we might spend countless days of our lives seeking it outside of ourselves and never truly find it.
Most of us have never really taken the time to visit within ourselves long enough to discover our own truths, much less live by them. And if we were to do so, those truths may frighten or worry us, for there is a good chance that the truths we have adopted from our exposure to outward things–the ones most of us have come to depend on for security, assurance, confidence, and comfort–are really not valid at all. We might instead discover that the truths within us are much more compassionate, kind, caring, forgiving, understanding, loving, and purposeful. For instance, many of us who have been hurt by others in the past, have put up walls to prevent others from getting close to us and to keep us safe. And while we may believe we are safe, the truth is quite the opposite: our isolation actually increases our hurt, sadness, loneliness, misery, and suffering. As Robert points out, “There is an inmost center in us all.” But sadly, it is all too often a forgotten place; a place that many of us simply do not choose to visit or explore, and some may never go there at all. And that is truly a shame, for it is there where love abides; and in love, truly unconditional love, we have more authentic truth available to us than in any other aspect of our lives, for in it there is no concern with outward things.
What we believe to be the truth, and what is actually is the truth, are not necessarily connected. For instance, I used to feel that life was a competition–society had impressed upon me the belief that we are in a constant struggle with one another for wealth and possessions, acceptance and love, recognition and glory, power and influence, and so on down the line. And yet through the years I have come to discover that life is not about competition, but cooperation, and that this is how we find the fullness of life, this is how we practice love and spread it throughout the world.
Take some time to search for your truths in life.
Questions to consider:
Why do most of us consider our truths to be the ideas and ideals that lie in the outward things of our lives?
What would be the benefit of uncovering our truths rather than continuing to depend on our beliefs?
Why do most of us not take the time to go inside and actually try to uncover the truths that lie there, waiting for us to find them?
For further thought:
“There is no path to truth. Truth must be discovered, but there is no formula for its discovery. What is formulated is not true. You must set out on the uncharted sea, and the uncharted sea is yourself. You must set out to discover yourself, but not according to any plan or pattern, for then there is no discovery. Discovery brings joy–not the remembered, comparative joy, but joy that is ever new. Self-knowledge is the beginning of wisdom in whose tranquillity and silence there is the immeasurable.” ~ Jiddu Krishnamurti, Commentaries on Living
“I cannot believe that the purpose of life is to be “happy.” I think the purpose of life is to be useful, to be responsible, to be honorable, to be compassionate. It is, above all, to matter: to count, to stand for something, to have it make some difference that you lived at all.” ~ Leo Rosten, Passions & Prejudices: Or, Some of My Best Friends are People …
When we seek only to bring happiness to ourselves, we often find that it is fleeting and eludes our grasp; yet when we seek to bring it to others, it finds us and becomes a permanent residence in our lives. The reason for this is because we were made for so much more than living for ourselves–a fact that is revealed through our desire deep within to make a difference in the world and in the lives of others. This is perhaps one of the deepest yearnings of our heart and soul, and it is something that is natural and simple for us–at least until our rational minds and our egos start convincing us that we are missing out on something new and worthwhile, or that what we are doing is not really making a difference and that we are wasting our time being useless. In each case, our rational minds and our egos seem to need constant reinforcement if they are to be satisfied with life as it exists and believe that our efforts are of great importance and worth.
And yet, whether or not we actually choose to stand for something, the possibility is always there, as is the opportunity to stand for something wholesome, positive, and uplifting and not just something that is commonplace or safe. And when we do the latter, it definitely makes a difference that we have lived, even if we cannot see it or are unable to quantify it, for we have lived beyond ourselves. Our living “big” is often times a necessary piece of the puzzle for others, who may not even recognize the positive influences we have had in their lives.
I have an amazing friend who goes around giving pens to strangers that have printed upon them, “Jesus loves you.” He once shared with me a story in which he offered one such pen to a woman in line at the cash register. At first, the woman seemed a little perplexed, but accepting of the gift, until she noticed the words on the pen. She then said, “You can have your pen back sir, I don’t believe in God,” to which he replied, “Oh, that is ok, you can keep it; he believes in you.” She kept it and left without saying anything else. Maybe it made a difference, maybe not–though it really matters none–for what he did offer her was something much bigger than a gift–he gave to her a slight change in perspective; something that we all can do for others. We can empower one another to be kinder, to be more positive, and to show happiness and compassion to those around us. We can always encourage each other to be the best version of ourselves.
We all can create positive contributions in the world and make a difference in the lives of those around us, even if we do not always receive recognition or positive responses. As long as we shine forth the healing and wholesome light from within–compassion, love, kindness, mercy, empathy, forgiveness, gratitude, joy–and allow that light to rest upon ourselves as well, we will find that our days are much brighter and more fulfilling. Even if our contribution is but a single candle flame, the light of the world relies upon each and every single candle, and no candle is worth less than any other is.
Be confident in your positive contributions to others and the world around you.
Questions to consider:
Why is it hard sometimes to think that we are making positive contributions in the lives of others?
Why do we sometimes think that our contributions have to be major and quantifiable in order for them to be “significant?”
How might you find new ways to make a difference in the world?
For further thought:
“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Keep me away from the wisdom which does not cry, the philosophy which does not laugh, and the greatness which does not bow down before children.” ~ Khalil Gibran, Mirrors of the Soul …
I find a truth in Khalil’s words that resonate in my soul, for acumen, reasoning, and nobility are nothing if they are not the very essence of our being–if we cannot empathize with it, feel it and understand it, or respect it in humility and reverence. In truth, wisdom, philosophy, and greatness can enrich our lives and the world around us in truly amazing ways, but it must be practical and take into account humanity and the needs of all people if it is to be so–for once we divorce them from emotions and compassion, they become worthless and void of substance.
“Wisdom which does not cry” might come in the form of us responding harshly or indifferently to hearing about a friend that suffered a great loss in their family. Maybe we tell them that they are strong enough to get by on their own, or that they are better off now as a result. And perhaps this is true, but such wisdom lacks true empathy, compassion, and concern, for it seeks only to assert itself and does not take into account the emotional needs of the individual at this juncture in their life.
And “philosophy which does not laugh” might come in the form of us taking life too seriously, of us lacking emotion and a true connection with the world around us. With the endless amounts of information floating around, it is easy for us to learn and understand new concepts, theories, and ideas, but it is also easy for us to separate them from our humanity and forget that we are still spiritual beings at heart. And what good are philosophy and reasoning if it does not help others? The best doctors are those who understand what their patients are going through. The best teachers are those who see and feel the needs of their students. And the best counselors are those who know the struggles of their clients.
And what about “the greatness which does not bow down before children?” Greatness is something to aspire to, but such traits and pursuits need to serve our fellow humans–especially the least and most vulnerable among us–or they can easily become warped into selfish endeavors that consume and take but give nothing in return. To be great is a noble calling, but we must seek to be truly humble in our greatness, to realize that there are greater things in the world than our own actions and achievements and that everything we do, we do to improve the world for our children and for others.
We should seek to study, learn and grow in wisdom and understanding; we, too, should cultivate traits that help us to develop and expand in greatness and nobility. But we must never do so at the cost of serving others.
As you share your wisdom today, do so with compassion.
Questions to consider:
How do pursuits such as philosophy lose their usefulness in our lives?
Why do so many people feel that knowing something is enough, without ever trying to find applications of their knowledge in their own lives and in the lives of others?
How might we find ways to apply the wisdom that we have attained in our own lives?
For further thought:
“We believe just as little or as much as we please of those things in which our will can be supposed to interfere; and it is only by setting aside our own interests and inclinations on more general questions that we stand any chance of arriving at a fair and rational judgment. Those who have the largest hearts have the soundest understandings; and he is the truest philosopher who can forget himself.” ~ William Hazlitt, from his essay titled “Belief, Whether Voluntary?”
“When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble, most of which never happened.” ~ Winston Churchill, The Finest Hour …
In our pursuit to avoid mistakes, many of us become the source of our stress, anxiety, and misery. We worry and fret over things that we fear could happen, yet have not. And perhaps this tendency would be laughable if not for the amount of pain, sadness, and heartache that it causes. We can learn a tremendous amount of wisdom–and lessons about life–from those who have already faced similar situations and experiences and have made it through them, and this story is one such reminder: things that have not come to pass may never happen… and there is simply no good in worrying about such things. Imagine how many relationships might have been saved, how many friendships might have grown deeper, how many children might have received more attention, and how many more nights of blessed rest we might have realized if we only had been able to remember that those things that we are worrying about will more than likely turn out ok.
And yet we often expect the worst, which means that most of our thoughts are on what can go wrong. If we are in a financial crisis, we worry about what will happen when our money runs out. If we are having difficulties in our relationship, we worry about what will happen if our significant other moves out, or moves on. And while thinking about such possibilities is definitely natural and ok, worrying about them is not–it is unhealthy for our entire being and negatively affects those around us. Most importantly, worrying will do nothing to make our finances or relationships any better–only careful planning, positive attitudes, and focused action can change our situations. If we are in financial trouble, we might budget better, watch our spending, save up more money when applicable, and possibly find new ways to bring in additional resources. If our relationship is in trouble, perhaps we need to devote more time, energy, and love towards healing, or try to be more compassionate, forgiving, merciful, and just; maybe an attitude adjustment is all that is necessary to change our hearts and demeanor.
It is ok to recognize the things in our lives that are not going right and to take the time to think, plan, and act towards resolving them; it is also ok to think about the potential problems we may face in the future and to seek to avoid such pitfalls in our words and actions. But we should avoid worrying about such things, as worry is useless and only adds more negatives into our lives and the lives of those we love. This road leads to misery, unhappiness, and stress, whereas, if we plan for them and do our best to prevent them, we will find our days are much more productive and enjoyable. And if we ever find ourselves traveling down the road of worry, we can simply remind ourselves that “even if we have to pass through unexpected obstacles, and experience some difficult times, things will turn out alright.”
Set aside your worries and search out positive action and reinforcement for your problems.
Questions to consider:
Why is it so easy to worry that the worst will happen in so many situations in our lives?
How many of the things about which you have worried never have come to pass? Did your worrying do any good?
Why do so many older people tell us that the time they’ve spent worrying in their lives has been time wasted?
For further thought:
“Worry not about the possible troubles of the future; for if they come, you are but anticipating and adding to their weight; and if they do not come, your worry is useless; and in either case it is weak and in vain, and a distrust of God’s providence.” ~ Hugh Blair, Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles-lettres
“The old woman I shall become will be quite different from the woman I am now. Another I is beginning.” ~ George Sand, Isadora …
Our lives can be broken down into chapters–childhood, teenage years, young adulthood, adulthood, parenthood with young children, parenthood with older children, post-parenthood, and so on down the line. And although the idea of ending one chapter of our lives and beginning a new one might be frightening for some–for many of us grow accustomed and comfortable with who we are, what we know and believe, what we like and do not like, how we react–it can also be very liberating and inspiring as it means that we never have to cease growing and becoming.
No matter what our condition may be–even if we are stuck in a rut or living in self-destructive, ruinous, and harmful ways–we can always choose to start anew. But we must be open to learning, growing, and changing in positive ways, which is actually quite simple; we can constantly reinvent ourselves in ways that are healthy and uplifting and make a difference in our lives and the lives of those around us. The old me of a year ago is not the same me today, and I fully expect the me of next year to be significantly different as well. After all, I learned a lot over the last several months and I will learn even more in the coming few, and I truly hope that those lessons will have a strong positive effect in my life.
This is perhaps one of the strongest reasons that we should not hold grudges against others; people change, and something hurtful done to me several years ago does not necessarily apply today. In truth, there really is no excuse for us to be angry at that younger version of someone, who more than likely has learned from his or her mistake and no longer harbors ill feelings towards us anyways. Of course, holding grudges is also a poison that usually affects us alone, as often times the other individual is living their life unaware of our feelings of anger or resentment.
Be open to learning and growing at all stages of life. No matter where you are now, challenge yourself to adopt new thoughts, ideas, beliefs, and ways of being. I still have a difficult time keeping my workspace tidy and cleaning up after myself, but I am constantly working on becoming better at it. At the same time, I am also trying to become more accepting of my messiness and seeing as an extension of my creativity, and so I am becoming new in spite of my continued messiness. If we truly desire to leave this Earth a more compassionate, loving, merciful, forgiving, humble, balanced, generous, and wiser individual, then there is no better time than now to begin taking beneficial steps, and making positive changes, to who we are.
Find some areas for positive improvement in your life.
Questions to consider:
What is so frightening about changing who we are and what we think?
In what ways might we go about looking for and finding areas in our lives that are ripe for change?
Do you want to be exactly the way you are now when you are older?
For further thought:
“Development can indeed continue beyond childhood and youth, beyond midlife, up to and beyond the seventies. It can continue until the very end of life, given purposes that challenge and use our human abilities; given exercise of that individuation, that autonomy, that can be ours at childhood’s end. . . . In sum, our development does not necessarily end at any age. We can continue to develop into our eighties, even to our nineties. We can use our own unique mix of human energies and abilities for purposes we now have to find for ourselves, as long as our environment permits it, until a short period just before death.” ~ Betty Friedan, Fountain of Age
“Real development is not leaving things behind, as on a road, but drawing life from them, as from a root. Even when we improve we never progress. For progress, the metaphor from the road, implies a man leaving his home behind him: but improvement means a man exalting the towers or extending the gardens of his home.” ~ G.K. Chesterton, The Victorian Age in Literature …
Trees offer us so much–shade from the sun on a hot day, oxygen necessary to sustain life, even parallels with which we can observe and draw life lessons from, which Gilbert does here by stating that the real development of a tree can be witnessed in its roots. The roots are the source of nourishment–drawing up the necessary nutrients and water needed to live. They are the source of strength and stability–providing a solid foundation in the Earth in which the tree can grow and develop to its full capacity. And like a tree, we must have strong roots in which we can build upon and grow from, roots that can nourish and sustain us through all that we experience in life. For if we were to reject those things of our past–our education, our experiences, our friendships, our relationships, and even many of our possessions–then we are casting them off, leaving ourselves without nourishment and strength for when we experience difficulties in life, and without a solid foundation that can offer us stability and balance in our lives.
Several years back, I had bought my first lawn mower at a garage sale. That mower is still with me in the form of an important lesson that I learned–I bought it because it was the cheapest I could find, and I was short on money. Unfortunately, it was a horrible buy, and I almost spent more time fixing it than I did using it. I had to completely take apart the carburetor to clean out moisture, the back wheels fell off it after a couple months, I had to sharpen the blades because they could barely cut cheese, and on and on. Instead of getting a great deal on a used mower, I ended up having to buy a new one the next year and ended up with both a new mower… and a broken one that no one wanted to buy or take.
As with much of life, “we get what we pay for.” If we want our lives to be rich experiences, then we have to be willing to seek improvement in them–and that means building upon the past and extending our skills, abilities, relationships, things, and understanding of life. For if we choose to completely forget the past, then we also choose to forget what we learned from it, and the ways in which we grew and changed as a person. This also means we forget what we gave to other and put forth into the world, and the kinds of good, healthy, uplifting, and positive things we created and gifted.
We need strong and healthy roots to keep us steady and balanced in life, roots that will allow us to bend, but not break, in the winds of the storms that will pass through our lives. Of course, these winds will still add difficulties and hardships into our lives, but they might also allow us to develop into stronger individuals over time if we allow them. And although we might not be comfortable with our current circumstances–our relationships, our spirituality, our education, our possessions, or the ways in which we treat others–we do not have to reject them or toss them aside, usually, all that is necessary is a slight adjustment. If we are faced with adversity, or we encounter people, things, and beliefs that do not align with ours, we can use those things that we wish to change as the base for a new direction in our lives–as new roots from which we can draw life to grow taller and stronger and improve ourselves.
Find importance in a few things that you are uncomfortable with in life.
Questions to consider:
Why do we so often feel that our best strategy is to reject those things that we are not comfortable with?
How should we distinguish between the things that we should cast away and the things that we should use to draw life from?
What kinds of experiences and possessions in your life make up the roots that hold you steady and give you life?
For further thought:
“What we call wisdom is the result, not the residuum, of all the wisdom of past ages. Our best institutions are like young trees growing upon the roots of the old trunks that have crumbled away.” ~ Henry Ward Beecher, Life Thoughts
“Warm, eager, living life–to be rooted in life–to learn, to desire, to know, to feel, to think, to act. This is what I want. And nothing else. That is what I must try for.” ~ Katherine Mansfield, Stories …
How many of us have actually sat down and came up with a list of what we want in life? Such a thing would really make things simple. If we know that “this is what we want… and nothing more,” we could make all our decisions based off of what we have already considered and decided–no more indecisions, no more second guesses, no more regrets. And the ways in which we live our lives could be more aligned with helping to bring our desires to fruition here during our lifetimes.
And most likely your list would not be the same as mine or anybody else’s, and that is ok. For it is personal and unique–authentic to who we are at our very core and therefore should consist of those things that define us and our happiness; it is not the words that are important, but the fact that we take the time to form a basis in which to live our lives. If this list were mine, the first thing I would do is add “to love” in it somewhere, and then perhaps “to grow, to inspire, to give, and to add and produce things of great beauty for this world.” Of course, Katherine might have had this in mind when she used words such as “to act, to feel, and to learn.”
It is also safe to say, that we change, so will our lists. If my list included “to help my children through school,” then once they have completed school, I would need to make some revisions. Or if my list included “to save up $1,000 in an emergency fund,” once I had the necessary money I would need to revise it to something else, perhaps to keep the fund above a certain level throughout the year.
One key thing to note here is that Katherine chose to say, “That is what I must try for.” We should not expect that we will accomplish everything we want or desire to in life, nor should we base our happiness or worth upon our ability to do so… we should simply seek to try–to give it our best shot. After all, it is in the trying that we become the person we are meant to be–succeed or fail–and it is important that we never lose those opportunities.
Create your list of what you want in life.
Questions to consider:
What are the things that you most want? Have you ever written them down?
What would such a list look like for you?
Why do we not tend to look at life from the bigger picture perspective, instead focusing on the minute details of our day-to-day goals?
For further thought:
“The reason most people never reach their goals is that they don’t define them, or ever seriously consider them as believable or achievable.” ~ Denis Waitley, The Winner’s Edge: The Critical Attitude of Success