The most important lessons of life… from a man more wise than I

On the way back from the European Yoga Festival in the Loire Valley, France yesterday, I had the pleasure of sharing the train journey back with a most wonderful and wise man in in prime of his later years. Our conversation touched on so many areas of wonder and mystery, and yet his views on the important things in life are so simple to be followed by any one. I asked him to share his thoughts on what were the most important things he had learned in his life.. here was his response:

  1. To be open minded. When we judge we create resistance, not in other people, but in ourselves. To do so is to deny ourselves the opportunity to learn any more. To be open minded gives us the opportunity to learn something about ourselves that we have missed our whole lives
  2. To have integrity. It is much easier to agree with others that to stand by the principles of our heart. But the only way to succeed in our our personal journey is to have integrity in all that we do. Nothing else matters. It does not mean we need to disagree. Sometimes silence is golden.
  3. To be unbiased. In translating a story from one person to another we act as a conduit of information & knowledge, but we also distort our story with our own “wisdom” and opinion. Often, we end up realizing that our distortions to the story is the only part that people remember, and thus the whispers of illusion begin.
  4. To see fascinating places places while we still can. Never in the (known) history of man has it been so easy to travel, discover and learn about fascinating places. Many are disappearing as modernism strips away ancient culture. Never has it been so cheap and easy to travel to the four corners of the world.
  5. Learn a foreign language and use it. Choose a living language. wallow in it. learn the structure. keep a notebook and add to your vocabulary every day. Make an effort to use these tools, or find an alternative resource if the word is missing. Listen to your choosen language on radio, internet, CD, become a part of it, and when you are ready, travel to it’s homeland and use it. You will be deeply rewarded
  6. To realize that sometimes you’ve got to let things go. Everything we have, everything we own becomes a part of us. And in doing so, we hold on to it for the valued possession that it it. Sometimes, when we let it go, that part of us returns within us, and makes us more complete. We grow.
  7. Fix things as soon as you can. I think the Dalai Lama said this too. I just find that I sleep much better when I fix things as soon as I can.
  8. To realize that sometime, things fix themselves. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we don’t have the capability or the resources to fix things ourselves. So I don’t give it too much attention, in case I might make it worse, sometime if you can’t fix things, you may find that things fix themselves. I suppose balance here is really the key
  9. Avoid dogma. On my journeys across the world, I find for every great culture and every great religion, there are people who want to tell you what you do. If they tell you that you must do it, it’s probably not required. If you put your heart and soul into any act, then that act becomes your way.

..and with that, the journey finished. We shook hands, exchanged first names, and both left the train to continue our own personal journey. Probably to never meet again. But today, as I recalled looking into his eyes and saying good-bye, I had a deep feeling that it was not our last encounter, or our first…

Note: This article was first posted on August 8th, 2009 here . Reposted today, as it seems more relevant than ever.