Here I condense all my years of seeking and studying, exploring and reaching the occasional realization, into 36 convenient points.
Of course, decades of meditation practice cannot be replaced by reading articles with numbered lists.
Still, if you are just beginning on the spiritual path, I hope this will inspire you to continue.
Many of you have probably crossed paths with at least a handful of these lessons.
Each one of these lessons/teachings have helped open my heart and expand my consciousness immeasurably.
The first half are adapted from my most popular article, 18 Spiritual Teachings that Blew my Mind Wide Open. Recently, I wrote the latter half, as a reflection upon my adult life thus far and the most essential things I’ve learned on the spiritual path since age 19.
I’m celebrating my 36th birthday, and this is my gift to you, dear reader.
May these jewels of wisdom from many amazing traditions be of benefit.
1. Everything we need is already within us.
2. We create our lives.
3. All things must pass.
4. Beliefs separate us.
5. Faith is letting go and letting in the ever-unfolding experience of life as it presently flows.
6. All meditation is good meditation. Integrating meditation into daily life is as important as formal practice on the cushion.
7. Give love, friendliness and kindness. (Practice metta.)
8. All we have is now.
9. Don’t believe everything you think.
10. There is no self.
11. Suffering is the result of clinging.
12. Worry is useless.
13. Friendship is the highest form of love.
14. Difficult people are our best teachers.
15. Be grateful to everyone and everything.
16. You are here now. Embody mindfulness.
17. Breath is life.
18. Make your mind as vast as the sky.
Our bodies may be Earthbound, but our minds can become vast, boundless, open and awakened through the practices of meditation and the inner yogas. Practice. The path is the goal. Never give up. Love life.
19. There’s nothing like travel to expand our consciousness.
I spent the fall of my sophomore year of college—September to December 1999—studying abroad in London. That trip opened my eyes to the enormity of the planet and gave me confidence and grit as a budding human adult.
Travel. Travel when you’re young, travel when you’re old. Keep on seeing new sights, taking in exotic cultures, realizing that our similarities outnumber our differences.
20. Life keeps getting better.
I remember freaking out more than a little bit when I turned 20. I remember thinking, “Now I’m grown up.” And I did not like it one bit. Turns out, I was not grown up. I will never be grown up.
Now, I’m four years from 40, which is crazy, because I still feel young on the inside. I hope this is always the case.
Own your years. As we get older, we generally get wiser and more balanced. Move gracefully through life, surrendering some aspects of youth. Keep laughing.
21. Everything in moderation.
Take the Middle Way.
“The middle way is wide open, but it’s tough going, because it goes against the grain of an ancient neurotic pattern that we all share. When we feel lonely, when we feel hopeless, what we want to do is move to the right or the left. We don’t want to sit and feel what we feel. We don’t want to go through the detox. Yet the middle way encourages us to do just that. It encourages us to awaken the bravery that exists in everyone without exception, including you and me.
Meditation provides a way for us to train in the middle way—in staying right on the spot. We are encouraged not to judge whatever arises in our mind. In fact, we are encouraged not to even grasp whatever arises in our mind. What we usually call good or bad we simply acknowledge as thinking, without all the usual drama that goes along with right and wrong. We are instructed to let the thoughts come and go as if touching a bubble with a feather. This straightforward discipline prepares us to stop struggling and discover a fresh, unbiased state of being.”
~ Pema Chodron
22. Life is full of paradoxes. Embrace them.
23. Uproot yourself every so often.
Relocate. Take a long journey. Do something spontaneous. Start fresh.
24. Jesus loves you.
Jesus loves everyone. Jesus is love. And so am I, and so are you.
25. Kundalini awakening and brain illnesses have some things in common.
“Though the temporary unbalance precipitated by such a crisis may resemble a nervous breakdown, it cannot be dismissed as such. For it is not a pathological phenomena but a normal event for the gifted mind in these societies, when struck by and absorbing the force of the realization of ‘something far more deeply infused’ inhabiting both the round Earth and one’s own interior.” ~ Ken Wilber
26. “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt
Fall 2006. I was an earnest, caring new elementary school teacher with an alternative certification. I felt like I was inspiring children. Now, my views on traditional schooling and classrooms are quite different, but at the time, I did the best I could in spite of the system I was in.
I tried my best—what more can we do? We are where we are, and each of us has to put our tiny grain of sand into the jar.
27. Realize not all relationships are meant to last.
Sometimes, we meet someone and get together and it’s just so amazing, until it’s not. They trigger us, teach us lessons, help us process age-old habits. We may not need to stay with them forever. Enough lessons learned? Accept it if it’s time to move on. Also, be careful not to have kids unless you’re looking for a lifelong relationship.
28. There’s as much enlightenment in the Himalayas as there is in Central Texas.
“Zen is not some kind of excitement, but concentration on our usual everyday routine.” ~Shunryu Suzuki
29. Take the plunge.
It’s not called a leap of faith for nothing. Don’t wade in—dive!
30. “The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.” ~ Albert Einstein
Learning is great. Never quit. Also, avoid falling prey to the mind-trick: “Now I’ve attained ________.” There are no levels of enlightenment. There are no exact steps or procedures to be followed. Life is a beautiful experiment.
31. When in doubt, try your best, then give up, let go and follow your heart.
“Do not hurry; do not rest.” ~ Goethe
32. Love is a practice.
Love is energy. Love is a verb and a noun. Love is.
33. Children are amazing and precious teachers. Parenting is life’s great gift and challenge.
Cultivate patience. Play. Follow the kid’s lead, get into beginner’s mind with them. Be open, curious, excited. Being present is our gift to them (and to ourselves).
34. Marriage is a practice.
Maintaining a long-term relationship, partnership or marriage is a moment-to-moment, daily choice. A relationship is never exactly 50/50, there is always give and take. And that is a beautiful thing, but it’s not always easy. Being conscious, connected and compassionate in our primary relationship is a spiritual practice like none other.
35. Live intuitively.
Strive to live a healthy, natural lifestyle. Get closer to the Earth and farther from the system. Unplug. Reconnect.
“We have broken up the Earth as yours and mine—your nation, my nation, your flag and his flag, this particular religion and the religion of the distant man. The world, the Earth, is divided, broken up. And for it we fight and wrangle, and the politicians exult in their power to maintain this division, never looking at the world as a whole. They haven’t got the global mind. They never feel nor ever perceive the immense possibility of having no nationality, no division, they can never perceive the ugliness of their power, their position and their sense of importance. They are like you or another, only they occupy the seat of power with their petty little desires and ambitions, and so maintain apparently, as long as man has been on this Earth, the tribal attitude towards life. They don’t have a mind that is not committed to any issue, to any ideals, ideologies—a mind that steps beyond the division of race, culture, that the religions man has invented.
Governments must exist as long as man is not a light to himself, as long as he does not live his daily life with order, care, diligently working, watching, learning. He would rather be told what to do. He has been told what to do by the ancients, by the priests, by the gurus, and he accepts their orders, their peculiar destructive disciplines as though they were gods on this Earth, as though they knew all the implications of this extraordinarily complex life.
Sitting there, high above all the trees, on a rock that has its own sound like every living thing on this Earth, and watching the blue sky, clear, spotless, one wonders how long it will take for man to learn to live on this Earth without wrangles, rows, wars and conflict. Man has created the conflict by his division of the Earth, linguistically, culturally, superficially. One wonders how long man, who has evolved through so many centuries of pain and grief, anxiety and pleasure, fear and conflict, will take to live a different way of life.”
~ J. Krishnamurti
36. “There is no death, only a change of worlds.” ~ Chief Seattle
Fear not the end of life. Prepare for it by living fully, practicing love, gratitude and meditatation.
“This human body that you possess is not owned by you.
It is borrowed, and you will not possess it for an indefinite period.
While you have the opportunity to do something worthwhile,
Don’t you think you should make use of it?
Please turn your mind within and reflect on this.”
~ Precious Sun, Padma Karpo’s Spiritual Advice
Author: Michelle Margaret Fajkus
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock