April 12, 2015 – Tonight, we were blessed by another opportunity to listen to John Dear, now in a more intimate setting. Thanks Maryann and John Schmidt for hosting.
John emphasized that his message is very simple: respond to the challenges of life as Jesus would. Learn the ways of the nonviolent Jesus. Study and apply the teachings contained in the Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount. Imitate Jesus. Follow Jesus.
My take: Committed inner work leads to a deep personal transformation. Persistent and diligent inner exploration leads to a higher degree of awareness, which leads to the experience of oneness, which leads to empathy and compassion, which leads to selfless living and nonviolent activism to establish justice and peace.
If you feel that you are not there yet, please consider cultivating mindfulness in silence and solitude. This will inevitably awaken in you the desire to serve others and lead you to work nonviolently for justice and peace. The world needs your contribution. We need each other’s help to bring about a more peaceful and just world.
We better pause and think… What are we doing here? What is life? Did we come here to work, make money, buy, consume, and accumulate? Is this the main purpose in life? Is this what life is supposed to be? Apparently it is, since human beings — the vast majority, at least — spend more time working and acquiring stuff than in any other activity.
Well, is this, then, the right way to spend our lives?
What do you think?
I believe we can live better lives by engaging in the process of exploring and trying to figure out what the ultimate purpose of life is. I believe we can live better lives by organizing ourselves to live on this planet in gentler ways. I believe that, to begin with, we must learn to be mindful of the world around us, and notice the beautiful garden and wonderful playground in which we live. By doing so, we will be constantly amazed by the magic, mystery and miracles that surround us, and this will develop in us a sense of immense appreciation and gratefulness for these gifts that were freely given to us. This awareness will open up the doors for a new realm where we will live much more joyfully.
But in order for us to manifest this new way of living, we will have to abandon some of the old ideas that we have always accepted. We will have to take a good look at those beliefs that are deeply ingrained in our minds and that we have never questioned, such as our beliefs about work and success. So, let us do that for a few moments.
We were brought up to believe that we must work hard and accumulate material wealth. Unconsciously, we feel that if we are not working hard, we are violating some sort of sacred or moral principle, and are, therefore, committing a transgression, a highly reprehensible offense. But is this so? Should we feel as if we have sinned because we haven’t worked really hard? Should we feel that we have failed in life if we haven’t amassed great wealth? We have to pause and question our obsession with hard work, consumption, and accumulation. We have to ask ourselves, “Do I really need to work as much and as hard as I do? Do I need to consume and accumulate as much as I do? Do I need to have so many possessions? Is it right to generate so much waste as I do?”
It is also important to consider some fundamental questions, such as, “Who am I? Is my individual value determined by what I do and what I have? Am I what I do? Am I what I have? Am I a human-doing and a human-having, or am I a human-being?” These are important reflections because they can lead us to rethink who we are, what we do, and the ways we have organized ourselves to live on this planet.
“Our excessive possessions (and obligations) are not making us happy. Even worse, they are taking us away from the things that do. Once we let go of the things that don’t matter, we are free to pursue all the things that really do matter.”
“Sometimes, minimizing possessions (and obligations) means a dream must die. But this is not always a bad thing. Sometimes, it takes giving up the person we wanted to be in order to fully appreciate the person we can actually become.”
~ Joshua Becker, The More of Less
Consider the following: we don’t even think about it, but today we are conditioned to work, make money, and exchange that money for goods and services. But what will happen when the demand for labor dwindles? As we all know, technology and machinery are replacing human labor, and if the need for human work shrinks down considerably, or even eventually disappears, the possibility of exchanging work for money may also shrink and disappear. What will happen then? Will the reduced need for human labor create a situation where a vast contingent of human beings will find themselves unable to find work, and, therefore, unable to earn money, unable to provide for themselves and their loved ones, unable to survive?
Since we are moving to a new reality where the demand for human work will diminish, we better start thinking of new ways we can collaborate to create a new world society where everyone will have all their basic needs met, independent of work. Let us envision a new global social arrangement where everyone will work less and enjoy life a lot more. Let us bring about a new society where everyone will have more time to pursue their dreams, do what they love, and help others.
I believe this is possible.
I believe that there is great abundance in this world, and that there is more than enough for everybody to live good lives. I believe that if we develop new social arrangements based on a deep sense of solidarity, we will bring about a new reality where everyone will be able to live with dignity and without the fear of not having enough. In fact, I believe we can, for good and forever, completely eradicate this damaging fear.
I believe that if we reach a deep understanding of the real purpose of life, we will develop the ability to control our selfishness and greed. This will allow us to create a whole new world where all sentient beings will be properly taken care of. I believe we have all the means and resources necessary to take care of all people in the world, and for everyone to have dignified and thriving existences. I believe we have all the means necessary to support every child and young adult during their formative years, and that we can mentor them to follow their dreams, engage in careers that match their talents, and do what they love. I believe we can support them to be the best that they can be, so they may be able to give their best contributions to the world.
I believe that if we remain open to consider new possibilities, we can create a better world for all. I believe that we will find out that Heaven is here, if we want it to be!
What are we doing here? What are we being here? Which is the right question?
You are not alone in feeling weird and alone. – I used to think I was the strangest person in the world, but then I thought about how there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels weird and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine him or her, and imagine that he or she must be out there thinking of me too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and reading this, you now know that, yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you. I often feel and think and struggle much like you do. I care about many of the things you care about, just in my own way. And although some people do not understand us, we understand each other. YOU are not weird and alone!
Everyone you meet serves a purpose in your life. – We meet no ordinary people in our lives. If you give them a chance, everyone has something amazing to offer. They may not be what you expected or wanted, but their presence is important. Some people will test you, some will teach you, and some will bring out the very best in you. So be thankful for everyone in your life. Yes EVERYONE! It’ll be hard sometimes, but do your best to be grateful for the rude, difficult people too. They serve as great reminders of how NOT to be.
You can best serve yourself and others by giving yourself what YOU need. – That’s right, your needs matter more than you can imagine. Don’t ignore them. Sometimes you have to do exactly what’s best for you and your life, not just what seems best on the surface for everyone else. Decide this very minute to never again beg anyone for the love, respect, and attention that you should be showing yourself. Today, look at yourself in the mirror and say, “I love you, and from now on I’m going to act like it.” Because the truth is, when we practice self-love and self-respect, we give ourselves the opportunity to be happy. And when we are happy, we become better friends, better family members, and better lovers. (Read Loving What Is.)
You were born with the ability to change someone’s life. – Don’t ever waste it. Be kind. Be present. Be someone who makes a difference. In a gentle way, you can shake the world. Truth be told, the purpose of life is not just to be happy in your own little bubble; it is to be helpful, to be honorable, to be compassionate and kind, to have your life make some kind of difference that you have lived and lived well. Go ahead; leave the world a little better than you found it.
The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts. – The mind is your battleground. It’s the place where the greatest conflict resides. It’s where half of the things you thought were going to happen, never did happen. But if you allow these thoughts to dwell in your mind, they will succeed in robbing you of peace, joy, and ultimately your life. You will think yourself into a nervous breakdown, into depression, and into defeat. You are what you think. You can’t change anything if you can’t change your thinking. A beautiful day begins with a beautiful mindset. When you wake up, take a second to think about what a privilege it is to simply be alive and healthy. Breathe onto the bathroom mirror, just to see how amazing your breath looks. The moment you start acting like life is a blessing, I assure you it will start to feel like one. (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Happiness” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
Those who complain the most, accomplish the least. – It’s always better to attempt to do something great and fail than to attempt to do nothing and succeed. It’s not over if you’ve lost; it’s over when you do nothing but complain about it. If you believe in something, keep trying. Don’t let the shadows of the past darken the doorstep of your future. Spending today complaining about yesterday won’t make tomorrow any brighter. Take action instead. And regardless of what happens in the long run, remember that true happiness begins to arrive only when you stop complaining about your problems and you start being grateful for all the problems you don’t have.
There will always be more tough changes to make. – Growth is painful. Change is painful. But in the end, nothing is as painful as staying stuck somewhere you do not belong. Again, you’re not the same person you were a year ago, a month ago, or a week ago. You’re always growing. Experiences don’t stop. That’s life. It takes a great deal of courage to admit that something needs to change, and a lot more courage still, to accept the responsibility for making the change happen. But doing so is worth every bit of effort you can muster.