September 12, 2011

Advice for Myself, 10 Years Ago. ~ James MacAdam


Photo: Icrontic

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

Photo: Ron Simbilon

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.

Photo: InaFrenzy

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 twitterfacebook, and on his blog.

You must be logged in to post a comment. Create an account.

Chris Lemig Sep 13, 2011 3:08pm

Nice article, James. I was actually just talking to a therapist friend the other day about doing this kind of "retroactive Tonglen" practice. It's good to send the past you all the love, compassion and encouragement you can muster. It's not just new-agey mumbo-jumbo, but a really good way to cultivate a strong sense of self worth in your present life.

Read Elephant’s Best Articles of the Week here.
Readers voted with your hearts, comments, views, and shares:
Click here to see which Writers & Issues Won.

elephant journal

Elephant Journal is dedicated to “bringing together those working (and playing) to create enlightened society.” We’re about anything that helps us to live a good life that’s also good for others, and our planet. >>> Founded as a print magazine in 2002, we went national in 2005 and then (because mainstream magazine distribution is wildly inefficient from an eco-responsible point of view) transitioned online in 2009. >>> elephant’s been named to 30 top new media lists, and was voted #1 in the US on twitter’s Shorty Awards for #green content…two years running. >>> Get involved: > Subscribe to our free Best of the Week e-newsletter. > Follow us on Twitter. Fan us on Facebook. > Write: send article or query. > Advertise. > Pay for what you read, help indie journalism survive and thrive—and get your name/business/fave non-profit on every page of elephantjournal.com. Questions? Send to [email protected]