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Advice is a dime a dozen, and most of it is not worth that.
But every once in a while you get a juicy tidbit that really does seem to lighten you up or set you free. I’d like to share three of those gems with you. The first from my therapist, the second from my girlfriend, and the third, well, we’ll see.
I’ve only talked to my therapist on the phone, never in person. But with some extended breaks I’ve been talking with her many Mondays at 11:00 am.
At one point she suggested I read Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. I tried, I really did, but what that book taught me was to forgive my therapist for suggesting it. If you liked the book, great. It wasn’t my cup of tea.
But about two months ago, as I was experiencing a difficult break-up, my therapist suggested that I put a picture of myself as a young boy where I would see it often. She went on to suggest that when I look at it I ponder how innocent and gentle I was and still am.
When we are little, we are only innocent, totally lovable and loving. But things happen—loss of a parent, a bad break-up, misunderstandings. As an adult we are likely to be more defensive and less open. But that isn’t really us.
Under that hard candy shell we are still innocent. In fact, it is innocence that drives us to love more, connect more, open more. Looking at that picture of myself at a more obviously innocent time reminds me that I am still innocent. I still want to love and be loved, I strive for a world that works for all of us.
That reminder warms my heart, and opens me when I want to close and comforts me into feeling again—more than ever before. You were strong, brave and endlessly optimistic before you got hurt and tossed around. Opening again as an adult returns you to the power of youth with the wisdom of your years—outrageous, present and loving at any age.
Offering your adult self the company of your innocent self, the “I can do anything, be anything, climb anything” philosophy offers you the fountain of youth and a new lease on life, while turning over a new leaf. I dare you to look into the eyes of a baby, or of the photo of yourself at a young age: there you will discover that you are still innocent, still on fire, still open. There you will find power, energy and the magic that turns you on fully.
Post that picture, it will give you the best of company: the inspiration of you.
While my therapist has offered many great suggestions, like learning to embrace moderation and being easier on myself, putting that picture up really made a positive difference. The picture is still on the kitchen table, my younger self makes great company for me now.
Advice from my girlfriend:
Antero Alli, an obscure author, wrote, “communication is only possible between equals.” Taking that to heart, I consider the people around me equally brilliant. So the other day when my girlfriend said “you can’t really change anything outside yourself,” my ears perked up.
I thought of times I have tried to change my adult kids. Those weren’t the good times. Better times were when I loved them unconditionally—trusting who they dated, how they spent their time and their life decisions.
I have a checkered history of trying to improve the lives of my romantic partners. But looking back, relationships, romance and intimacy really flourished when I loved them just the way they were. The more I tried to change them, the dicier relationship became and the more immanent was a break up.
It sure seems to work better when I keep my nose in my own business, being present and available to people I love and care about and attempting to live the best life I possibly can.
Third piece of advice:
The third piece of advice started out as a quote from a book called Spiritually Incorrect Enlightenment: “Virtually anything you ever wanted from enlightenment can be gotten by growing up.”
I read that quote over and over.
It returned my focus from lofty, esoteric consideration of enlightenment to the everyday events, like fixing breakfast or showering: how I could find much greater presence in those simple things. And how, when one of my kids didn’t do homework or had a dirty room I could meet them with love, empathy and compassion instead of the immature response of getting angry or upset.
Perhaps growing up right where we are really does make a profound contribution to our lives. It certainly has to mine.
While the quote knocked me out, it didn’t take on the personal nature of advice until I received an anonymous email responding to my invitation for people to proof read my new book.
The e-mail was brilliant and I quickly sent out sample chapters. They came back with the most astute edits I have ever seen. It wasn’t until several emails later that the anonymous emailer revealed himself to be Jed McKenna, the recluse writer of my favorite books on enlightenment.
Googling Jed reveals that nobody really knows who he is. Lots of people speculate. But this wily character remains a mystery.
Well, almost a mystery.
Here is what Jed said in an early email to me, before he revealed who he was: “You have been a significant part of my learning experience in this world. Best wishes on your new book. As I read the forgoing over, I marvel at how wonderful my life is. Thank you for your (unwitting) part in it.”
It turns out that my work had served as advice to him as his was to me. It’s such a treat when two like minded authors or people meet and recognize each other.
If you have great advice to share I promise to read every comment you make to this blog. Who knows, maybe we will end up making this world a better place by sharing what matters to us.
Author: Jerry Stocking
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photos: Author’s Own
This is all Buddhists want: