It's often difficult to move beyond habitual patterns of behaviour even if they are self-sabotaging or self-destructive. But surely the path to human happiness and fulfillment lies in reflecting on our past mistakes or experiences so that we can move ever closer to the goal of realising our full potential. As the year draws to a close, I find myself not only reflecting on the politically seismic national and international events of 2016, but also reflecting on the somewhat turbulent trajectory of my own life. This begs the question, if I were to meet a younger version of myself - say the man I was at thirty - what advice would I give him?
Follow the advice of Lebanese-American poet, Khalil Gibran, who says 'beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart.' Of course, when it comes to the dating game, physical attraction is important but charm and good looks only go so far. If they are not matched by an inner beauty which, at the very least, encompasses kindness to others and a positive outlook on life, you should definitely walk on by. And, in doing so, you will not only be honouring your own self-worth and moving closer to an even greater version of yourself, you will also be paving the way for someone you really deserve to walk into your life.
Allow yourself to be guided by life itself. Certain people who may cross your path, opportunities that may come your way unexpectedly - be open to what they can teach you. If you are too wilful, it may actually take you longer to get to where you need to go than if you enter into a more 'receptive mode of being.' The older I get, the more I see life in an organic, non-linear sort of way with its own cycles, patterns and occasional loops back onto itself. Be open to what psychoanalyst Carl Jung referred to as 'synchronicity' - those moments in life which are full of meaningful coincidence.
Do not compare your path or life journey with any other. That kind of stuff will get in the way of you living the life you were truly destined to live. In the words of Joseph Campbell, 'follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls.'
If life sends you a massive curve-ball do your utmost to ensure that it makes you rather than breaks you. How we respond to apparently negative events in our life will ultimately determine the outcome. Losing a job, a relationship, our reputation, or even all three, is tough. We can feel nailed by life. Why me? It can feel like there is no escape. But, viewed in a certain way, it can be an opportunity to reassess our situation and make different choices in the future.
Perhaps it is better to think in terms of acting beautifully, or creating beauty, rather than being ethical or moral. This is a more inspiring way of looking at things, especially perhaps for those of a more creative persuasion. And certainly for those of us who have been at the receiving end of moral crusading, prejudice and bigotry - all of which is often justified in the name of religion.
What we call 'home' is much more than a beautiful apartment with a great view. It is so much more than bricks and mortar. It is feeling comfortable in your own skin. It is discovering your passion and finding your place in the world. Above all, it is finding your people, your tribe. Although, on one level of course, we all belong to the same tribe - the human race.
When in doubt, listen to that quiet voice of conscience. It is usually right.
If you open your heart and someone won't love you back, don't despair or indulge in bouts of self-recrimination. Take heed of poet Dean Atta's words of wisdom from his poem How To Love Yourself. 'There are many reasons someone may not be able to love you that are not about you. Their reasons are not your faults. Not your reflection. Their reasons belong to them.'
Love comes in many guises. Romantic love is just one of its faces. Working in a job or a field that brings healing, inspiration, support or joy to others is a form of love. It is love in action. Love is also present when someone close to us dies before we got the opportunity to say goodbye. It is there when we honour how amazing and beautiful we really are. And it is there when we show small acts of kindness to those beyond our immediate circle of friends and family. I sometimes think that perhaps life itself is a series of lessons in what 'love' actually is.
Meditation is a great way to start the day. The practice of meditation also makes us gradually aware of the nature and power of our thoughts. In the words of The Buddha: 'As the shadow follows the body, as we think, so we become.'