At the ripe old age of 35, I have noticed that my life is much better now than it was ten years ago.
Things still get chaotic, but it’s nice to have a steady job, a wife and emotions that aren’t threatening to tear apart the very fibers of my being. I like to
think that some of this betterness has to do with my own efforts of the past decade—therapy, meditation, yoga, mindfulness, etc.—but it’s possible that my body just got tired of all that crisis-level cortisol and mellowed things out on its own.
I wish I could go back and put an arm around younger me’s shoulders, and give him the following advice:
Do everything you can to make a difference in others’ lives. Seeing the effect you have on others will teach you that what you do and who you are absolutely matters.
Waste as little time as possible doing things that you are not truly doing for yourself. When considering jobs, friends, nights on the town, whatever—live as close as possible to what is true and right for you. Do everything you can to locate and understand what is true and right for you. Remember that what is right for you will change.
You will need to learn to discriminate between #1 and #2. That is, your authentic need to serve others, versus your small egoic need to ingratiate yourself with others.
Do not worry. You will find your way. You will find love, peace, happiness, and of course you will find disappointment, anxiety and depression. But there is an order to it, and it gets progressively better if you stick with it. Don’t worry about finding the right woman, the right job, about doing it right. Follow what you love as best you can.
A little bit of effort done regularly goes a very long way. Never (or as little as possible) don’t practice, exercise, love, or do what you know to be right, just because you don’t have a lot of time or the larger goal seems impossible. Little efforts add up in ways that you cannot possibly comprehend.
Now that I look at it, this is pretty good advice for right now. Perhaps it is the wizened 45-year old James who has his arm around my shoulders at this moment.
James MacAdam is a Renaissance Dude. He spends much of his time working with NGO Watershed Management Group to green cities across the Southwest U.S. He has studied widely and deeply across various spiritual traditions including yoga and Zen, is a (currently inactive) certified Anusara Yoga instructor, and has found major health challenges to be one of his most powerful teachers. He is a tree-hugging nature buff. James writes a monthly column with an integral perspective on sustainability and the green movement, entitled “Thinking Beyond Green” for The New Southwest. Links to his most recent columns are here. James lives with his wife Rachel and their miniature poodle Teddy in Tucson, Arizona. You can find him on twitter, facebook, and on his blog.