What I Learned on My Journey So Far

What I Have Learned on My Journey – So Far

During the past few months, I (Gord) have been ruminating over the accelerated speed and passage of time (this being sparked by a recent landmark birthday). In reflecting back over my journey so far, I decided to commit to paper some of the things I believed I had learned about life.

This self-reflective exercise was not someone else’s theories or experience, it was a review of things I have found to be true for me, my life, and my values. They are a lived and felt sense of the reality I had somehow created and co-created throughout my increasing and surprising longevity to date.

The first part of my ruminations was published in the November 2014 newsletter of Transformational Arts, which maintains an archive of previously published articles. I invite you to visit and read our collection; the address is at the end of this article.

What follows is a sampling of my thoughts on what I have learned on my journey – so far.

Taking Responsibility

Having experienced the consequences of not taking ownership, I have learned the importance of personal, complete responsibility for my adult life. While none of us could control our childhood and the forces that shaped us, we can now choose, and thus change, how those influences continue to affect us as adults. By taking ownership of our actions, and no longer blaming our past for our present situations, we can enjoy the power of self-determination and choice. We can shape our lives from this point, here and now.

I also have learned that no matter what or how we do anything – right or wrong – someone will disapprove. Discovering this simple truth led me to this life rule: Do whatever makes you happy – as long as doing so places neither yourself, nor others, intentionally in harm’s way.

We are in charge of our own happiness. Now, to accept that thought is to accept a big responsibility. Happiness occurs when we allow what is on our inside to be shared with what is on the outside. We all possess both a private and a public persona, and they are often at odds with one another. Peace comes when both the public and the private are in harmony.

How we experience life rests solely with our attitude, and our attitude is established before an event occurs, through pre-judgement and pre-conditioned thoughts. Understanding that we do actually choose our attitude means that, with some awareness, we can also choose to positively experience any event.

The Negative Thought Cycle

I have seen how negativity zaps us of our energy, making us feel lethargic and withdrawn. Whether the negativity comes from our own thoughts, or from outside via other people, events or media, it all has an impact on our energy.

I have learned that thoughts are random bits of imagery and circuitry running through our brains, most are meaningless snippets of which we pay little heed, to nor do we want to. We may have an idea, a thought, and discard it because we like to change our mind. Sometimes though we grab on to one of these snippets, perhaps because it is similar to a familiar life situation and the race is on as our mind fills with ideas, warnings and cautions. If we allow this process to pick up speed and circulate within us we release a series of emotional triggers including fear, irritability, and worry. We have now moved into survival mode so that every one of our senses is escalated into a heightened state of stress, and vigilant to stop any outside invaders.

For many, this negative thought cycle is the norm and any change to this cycle is vehemently rejected in favour of the status quo. As most of us will admit though, 90 percent of what we worry about never actually happens.

Steps to Regaining Happiness

If we can change our minds, we can change our thoughts and attitudes – from negative to positive, from a state of misery and hopelessness to embracing possibilities. Yes, I have learned it is hard work. We often find ourselves in a situation that doesn’t match what we imagined, and we are faced with reconciling our fantasy with reality. It is through learning compassion for ourselves that we are able to extend it to others.

Research studies have shown over and over that the act of helping others is very high on the list of things we do that make us feel happy. It helps us to focus on something and someone other than our own problems. The act of compassion is not about sitting at home or in your office feeling sympathy, it is necessary to have empathy and a true desire to make a difference, to be of service. Many who help others in service industries – from medical to counseling – have made a valuable contribution to the public good, of that there is no doubt. But to do things for others without regard to what compensation, if any, will be paid moves you into the realm of true spiritual compassion.

As the Dalai Lama said: “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
Research has also shown that meditation and mindfulness, combined with the practice of cultivating empathy and compassion, can offer a wide range of health benefits. Compassion training programs have proved to be effective in protecting healthcare professionals, caregivers, and teachers from the effects of stress and burnout, and enhancing their ability to care for others.

Life is fragile and fleeting. Any number of things – from financial problems to illness to accidents – can change our status quo in a heartbeat. Be mindful of the gift of Life, and how quickly that life can be taken from us. Live your life compassionately – for yourself and for others.

Every human being is on a spiritual path that, whether we understand it or not, is not for us to judge. We cannot know the soul learning journey of another. Most do not know the soul learning journey of our self.  A life lived in gratitude, and with compassion for all, is truly a life well lived.

Gord Riddell and Kathy Ryndak are co-founders of the Transformational Arts College of Spiritual and Holistic Training. The College offers professional training programs in Spiritual Psychotherapy, Spiritual Director, Holistic Health, and Coaching. For more information or for a course calendar, call 416-484-0454 or 1-800-TAC-SELF, or visit www.transformationalarts.com. To receive their monthly e-newsletter, email marketing@transformationalarts.com

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