This is the third in a series of posts called, “Life Lessons from Our Elders.” We’ve covered “Be Present for Your Life” and “Appreciate What You Have, but Don’t Be Attached to It.”
In Lesson #2, I suggested taking a look at your life to see what you are grateful for. In doing so, you may have encountered some aspects that aren’t quite working for you. These are asking for your attention.
I worked with one elderly man who didn’t live the most ethical life in the world. He was dishonest in his business dealings and had numerous affairs while being married. Faced with the end of his life, he was consumed with regret. It was painful to watch as the insights poured in.
The lesson here is: don’t wait. You are going to die. If you don’t die unexpectedly, you will be reflecting on how you lived. Everyone does it. You will be looking back to the time you are living right now. So how are you doing?
The lesson here is to first contemplate what you want your life to be about, then have the courage to take the appropriate action. If you complete all your unfinished business now and keep it completed, you get to live the rest of your life feeling fulfilled and happy.
What are your priorities, really? What do you really want? Take the time to contemplate and find out. Your answers to these questions may inspire you to begin making changes. These changes may be in your circumstances, but they start with yourself. What is being asked for is self-reflection. It is a blessed step to turn your attention inside, to explore all the inner nooks and crannies, to discover how you limit and confuse yourself. This choice to look inside is critical. If, for example, you are in an unhappy marriage, before jumping to a divorce, see what you can change about yourself so you become a better partner. If your job isn’t right for you, see if you can approach it in a different way before leaving. And if you leave, have your next move be from clarity rather than fear.
Maybe you have a bucket list – something you always wanted to do but haven’t gotten around to doing – before you kick the bucket. Perhaps you feel called to a spiritual path or service to others. Maybe you haven’t yet discovered your passion in life. Now is the time to give these longings your loving attention.
You may find that you need to clean things up. Maybe literally. Is your place a mess? Are you slacking off? Is your to-do list getting longer? The message here is to take care of all the things that are cluttering your mind and your environment. Step up and be responsible. Enjoy yourself, but don’t procrastinate endlessly. Let go of blaming things you cannot control, and do what you need to do so you can live in peace. Remember, one of these days you will be looking back at this time. Do you like what you see?
Maybe what needs to be cleaned up are your relationships. Do you need to let go of a grudge or express your gratitude and love to someone? Do you need to walk away from a person in your life even if it’s painful to do so? I have learned from my elders to approach situations with wisdom and consideration. If you are deeply listening to yourself, when it’s time to make a move, you will know.
A word here about forgiveness, with more coming in a future post. Ultimately, forgiveness doesn’t have to do with others; it is an internal letting go. You are the one who hurts most from holding on to a grudge, and you are the one who will feel most at ease when you let it go. A grudge is a story of victimhood and suffering that you repeat to yourself over and over. So when the time feels right, investigate the story from a fresh perspective, and allow your heart to soften.
Finally, what is the feeling tone of your everyday existence? If your overriding experience is fear, anger, frustration, or unhappiness, if life seems empty and lacking, now is the time to address these concerns. If you need help, have the intelligence to seek it out. Imagine that this very moment is your last, and take the steps to make it a joyous one in every way.