Last week I suffered a small stroke. Called a TIA, or ministroke, it heals itself, and I am fine now. When I was in the hospital, going through the protocols, I had ample time to consider how life has a way of coming along and surprising us. While laying still in the MRI tube undergoing the twenty minutes of fact finding by the force of the strong magnetic field, my thoughts turned to how I might best live my life. I emphasize that what I was thinking was not an expression of how I have lived my life so far, but how I might live my life going forward. Perhaps you may find the three rules I came to a little too simplistic; nevertheless, in thinking about them they might cause you to come to other such ideas for yourself. For me, these three rules to live by were a gift that came to me thanks to my stroke.

Rules to Live By:
1. Live Simply
2. Be Kind
3. Repeat

Live simply – Perhaps to begin with the obvious—possessions. The Indian mystic, Sri Anirvan, stated it cogently, “To utilize for oneself the fewest possible things, which creates a freedom of space.” Having accumulated so many things, I see that there is much I have to do in order to create this “freedom of space” Anirvan speaks of. Another aspect of the rule to live simply is to spend more of my life in the place I call my home, mostly giving up the seduction of air travel and, sadly, the joy of so easily visiting friends who live far away. On another note, I am already not so quick to respond to an email or text. There will be time later today, or tomorrow, or next week. The days are much fuller, without a need to constantly have my existence validated by a message on a screen. Most important of all, to discard the wishing that things should be different than they are, unless I am in a position where I might actually help to make a change for the better. This practice of acceptance seems to me to be the surest path towards a life lived simply.

Be kind – The great Jewish teacher, Hillel, when asked for a summary of the Torah that was so distilled that it could be stated while standing on one leg, replied “Love your neighbor as yourself, everything else is commentary.” I think his response might be correct for any of the wisdom tradition teachings. To actually be kind, to love your neighbor as yourself, while in the midst of the difficulties of life is, of course, the rub. The best advice I have ever read about how to practice being truly kind in the midst of life was Gurdjieff’s, who wrote of the necessity of keeping in the forefront of my mind the fact that all those I come into contact with will someday die, and so will I. He called it our only hope. After last week his words seem to cut a little closer to the bone for me, but we shall see how long this new understanding I have of his words will last!

Repeat – The most difficult of all. One can hardly overstate how challenging this rule is to live under. Live simply, yes. Be kind, of course. But then, to always repeat these two rules without fail as we live out our lives is beyond any of us. Perhaps in our failure to follow this rule we at least can see our own similarity to all those around us, and, in seeing this, realize that we have been given the insight of failure so that we might gain the desire to try again.

As always, your comments are welcome.

 

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6 Comments

  1. My dear friend, your post just came across at the moment I opened my email. I’m so glad you have journeyed through another new experience and can grace us with these words and insights.
    I like your three rules and in fact they are essence itself. We are all being distilled down to essence, drop by drop. May your distillation into the finest substance be joyous, expansive, and fully met. My heart is very much with you.

  2. Dear Dennis:

    Looking around my little office, this hits me between the eyes.

    Jim

  3. Dear Patti, I love everything you wrote, but especially what you wrote about being distilled down to essence, drop by drop. This journey is the whole point, not the destination, and the fact that I have known such friends as you makes it all so beautiful.
    Thank you.

  4. Dear Jim,
    In one short sentence you say much and mean even more.
    Thank you, my friend.

  5. Dennis,
    Thank you for including me in your personal journey for what is true through the postings of your blog. They have given me pause and inspired my own personal reflection however difficult at times. I hope you are well and hugs to you and Karen.
    Nancy

  6. You are most welcome, Nancy. And thank you for your thoughtful comments over the past year.
    Best wishes, Dennis

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