50! I had stopped counting at 25, but the turning of the calendar year after year reminds me that time is passing. Today I complete 50 years on planet Earth. Ah, a birthday! That splendid day when one is the undisputed monarch of the calendar, awash in well-wishes, as if the sun is doffing its hat in one's honor.
During this period, I have survived 14 near-death experiences, the last of which I am living now. These have included being lost in a jungle, falling from a two-story building, and surviving. My gratitude would rival that of a nightingale serenading the moon. No, life has not been easy, but here are some of the most important lessons I have learned.
Control: We wish to regulate and control our lives. We wish for outcomes, nay, we strive to achieve them. In reality, we have no control over what happens in our lives. I could persuasively argue about how my brother and I negotiated our way out of a jungle where the inhabitants wanted to kill us. Sure, we did speak and make our case. But was the outcome in our hands? I think not. The outcome was whatever it was and could have easily been different. We truly have no control over what happens in our lives. The sooner we accept it, the happier we will be.
Compassion: Life is difficult. When it is, the justification to lack compassion for others comes easily. You can run a million scenarios in your head to explain your point of view. You feel entitled, even justified, for not caring. A large number of people and circumstances have caused you hurt and pain. But compassion is for you, not for the other. You may feel you are being compassionate to the world, but compassion is actually your own personal asset. It allows you to engage with the world without losing your sense of self. Find compassion for others in your most difficult moments. You will be better for it.
Forgiveness: The Godfather taught us that if someone pulls out a gun, you should pull out two. But hatred is a vicious, unending cycle. Look for reasons to forgive instead of reasons to perpetuate. For those who believe in karma, there is probably some history. For those who do not, you will be happier in this life if you forgive.
Purpose: We all want to be happy and content. Unfortunately, life has other plans. The balance of nature suggests that if we were happy all the time, it would lose meaning. So I learned that my purpose was to achieve stillness. The ability to experience everything life sends my way with equanimity, kindness, compassion, and forgiveness. In stillness, you will find happiness.
Gratitude: I am grateful every day. I am grateful that I woke up breathing. I am grateful for whatever happens during the day. Most of all, I am incredibly grateful that I was given the opportunity to serve. To help thousands of people feel better and be better, to transform. The blessings I get in return every day fill my life to the brim.
Gratitude often confronts the harsh reality of life. Perhaps life has been difficult and you don't feel so grateful. Good and bad are terms we assigned when we learned schemas. Schemas are self-taught interpretations of our experiences. You will interpret schemas depending on what you were taught not what is. Learn to recognize the schemas that control your life and make you lack gratitude for what you have.
50 years have not been easy. But I am grateful that I got to live it amidst all of you, to learn and grow from my experiences and interactions with all of you. I wish a long and healthy life to each and every one of you!