It seems rather odd to refer to any of what follows as secrets. For one thing, the word “secret” implies that something is hidden and the wisdom below is anything but secret. In some form or fashion, you could find these in virtually any spiritual tradition. Second, “secret” implies that the spiritual wisdom that would lead one to the life he/she really wants is really only accessible by a few. And, the unfortunate tendency is not to regard your self as one of the select few. But, of course, you are.
The spiritual wisdom expressed below has not only been around for centuries but is available to anyone. The key is to know it for yourself and this kind of knowingness is more than head stuff. It is the kind of knowing that could only eer be fashioned in the crucible of your spiritual practice. In other words, to live the life you really want means you must make the following wisdom your spiritual practice. Daily.
- Know your real purpose in life. Leo Tolstoy said, “Without knowing what I am and why I’m here, life is impossible.” Your purpose has nothing whatsoever to do with career or calling, your profession or position. Virtually everyone looks for it in such things because our culture is wired this way. We tell people that there’s some grand purpose that only they can fulfill and that their first task is to figure out what it is. Unfortunately, however, most people who believe this nonsense spend the greater part of their lives searching for this purpose but seldom finding it. You showed up for one purpose—to know and to walk in oneness with the Divine, in self-unity and oneness with all that is. I describe all of this at length in The Enoch Factor.
- Question all of what you hear and most of what you think. Why? Until you question what you’ve been taught or learned by osmosis, it cannot be yours—really yours. Also, most of what we think is not accurate anyway, which is why Byron Katie counsels people in whatever situation they’re in or whatever the thoughts they might be having about the situation, to do “the work,” as she calls it. The “work” is a series of questions you should ask yourself: “Is what I’m thinking true?” “Can I be absolutely certain it’s true?” If you’re honest, you’ll admit to yourself at this point of self-inquiry that you cannot be absolutely certain about much of anything. Then, given that reality, there’s the question, “What do I feel or think, or how do I react, whenever I believe this thought is absolutely true?” And, finally, “Who would I be, or how would I feel, if I gave up this thought?” What Katie calls “the work” works. Euripides said, “Question everything; learn something; answer nothing.”
- When Saint Paul said, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 4:13-17), he was not suggesting that we kneel continually or lock ourselves in some synagogue, temple or church and recite prayers all day. He’s talking about a way of living, a kind of meditative practice…what easterners would describe as “mindfulness.” So, meditate at least twice as often as you medicate. The former is foreign to most westerners; the latter isn’t. Furthermore, most of us could use a whole lot more of the former and a lot less of the latter. What’s the point of mediation? Pema Chodron answers that best: “We sit in meditation, not to become good meditators, but to become more awake in our lives.”
- “For all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these: ‘It might have been’,” or so wrote the abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier. In other words, Let go of your regrets. When asked if they’d change anything were they to have the opportunity to live their lives over, those who say, “No, I would change nothing,” are lying. Everyone has regrets. And, most of us have many of them. Regrets are normal. But, to carry them around like one would tote a backpack is not. Think of regrets as Divine reminders of what’s needed now—some kind of action, as in first and foremost self-forgiveness. Write the letter. Make the phone call. Instead of waiting on their apology, reach out to the person who offended you. Take action and do it now.
- Do unto yourself as you would have your self do unto you.” Slightly different twist on an old truth. Jesus said, Judge not (Matt. 7:1). Make no mistake. He’s not suggesting you never exercise discernment or make choices or even judgments about what’s right for you. Instead, he calls for an end the incessant fault-finding, complaining, and finger-pointing that’s so characteristic of many interpersonal relationships. You do to others what you do to yourself. You do to yourself what you do to others. So, do unto yourself what you’d have your self do unto you. Try it and see what happens, both in your relationship to yourself and in your relationship to others.
- There’s something else Jesus said, “Love your enemies” (Matt. 5:43-48), which means, have no enemies. The Buddha put it like this: “My enemy is really my friend.” These are radical teachings, which is why they’re almost universally ignored. To live like this, however, is transformational. And, what is transformed is YOU.
- When you have the choice of being right or being kind, choose kind. Can’t remember who said this but I’ve never forgotten it. It’s the key to avoiding needless arguments and debates and the resulting division that too frequently occurs between people. Words are like arrows. Once released, they can never be reclaimed. Their harm can be almost irreparable, too. So, choose to be kind. Kindness is always a choice.
- Know that there are no accidents. Saint Paul said, “All things work together for your good…” (Rom. 8:28). Know that everything in your life is not a coincidence but a Divine-cident. This is why, in A Course in Miracles, the question is asked, “How would you live if you but knew that everything that happens to you is planned by One who has nothing but your best intest at heart?” Or, to state it another way, as it is in The Enoch Factor, “All events in life, though they may seem coincidental or random, are actually conspiring together to bring you into unity with the Divine.” The more you come to know this, the less you will resist what is. Or, in the words of Pema Chodron, “Nothing you are experiencing disappears until you learn the lesson it was sent to teach you.” When you learn the lesson, the consequence of that kind of knowingness could only ever be tranquility and peace.
- Think about death at least as often as you think about life. Does that sound morbid? If you deny, or simply disregard the reality of death—your death, it will. Woody Allen once quipped, “I’d like to achieve immortality through not dying.” Cute, but the fact is, death is your destiny—your only real destiny. So, work on knowing for yourself what Leonardo de Vinci said. “All my life I’ve thought I was learning how to live; now I realize I’ve really been learning how to die.”
- Be For-Giving. There are two ways to understand this. One is to be on the side of generosity—that is, to be for giving. Why? It’s the secret of happiness. You will never meet a genuinely generous person who is, at one-and-the-same-time, an unhappy person. The two realities cannot coexist in the same person. Miserable people are miserly people. The other way to understand the words, “Be for-giving,” is to be forgiving—that is, to practice the art of forgiveness. What I’ve learned is that the deeper your experience of forgiveness, the higher your capacity to be forgiving. If you cannot forgive, know that there’s something inside of you that you’ve never forgiven.
These are the secrets to living the life you’ve always wanted. But again, they’re not really secrets; instead, simple wisdom to the pathway of living. So, think of yourself, as Ernest Hemingway put it, “as an apprentice in a craft where you could never become a master.” Life requires practice. Daily.