Malcolm Radio Show

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Life Lessons

While attending the Monterey Institute of International Studies I have noticed that I consistently give advice to the people around me, much of which include the phrase “As with all of life…” I worry that this advice is just the ramblings of a naive twenty-something, particularly at a school with students of all ages. The way I see it, everyone you talk to has lived a different life, has a unique set of experiences, and has learned lessons that applies to everyone’s life. Sometimes this wisdom is found in books, other times it comes from a conversation with someone from China, Russia, Pakistan, Egypt, Haiti, or one of the other 50 US states. I started listening what people had to say, reading books ripe with lessons, and taking in every moment as a chance to grow. Below is a list of some of the lessons I’ve learned and try to live by. Expect the list to grow and develop as we do every day. And remember that this is my list, which works for my life. Try writing your own life guide!

I have lived a life full of ups and downs, lefts and rights, ins and outs, highs and lows, and just about everything in between. I am not a master or an expert on life, but I am happy and I try really hard. You are awesome!

  1. Live in the moment. One of the biggest turning points in my life is when I started living in the moment. I had heard the advice, but I thought nothing of it initially. It wasn’t until reading You Are Here by Thich Nhat Hanh that I realized how powerful the living in the present moment can be. For as long as I can remember, my mind has wandered from imaginary worlds, future fantasies, reattempted pasts, and a whole range of not nows. I probably spent more time up there than I did with school or rowing combined. I’ve committed to living in the present moment, as much as I can, and it has made every individual moment precious. My mind still wanders from time to time, but as soon as I bring myself back, I see more clearly, I hear more keenly, and I feel more deeply.
  2. Smile. The science is out and it shows that the act of smiling helps you feel you happier. Smiling releases endorphins and serotonin, which are responsible for happiness. And there are two unique features of smiling that make it even more powerful. First, smiling is free. Zoloft, Lexapro, and Prozac are all quite pricey and have undesirable side effects (zombification anyone?). That’s not to say that smiling can cure chronic depression, but it certainly can make that one moment better. And if you are living for the moments… Second, smiling is contagious. What happens when you see a baby smile? What happens when you see your friends smiling? What happens when a stranger walks by and gives you a smile? You smile! You can share a smile with everyone you meet, they will appreciate it and so will you.
  3. Give everything 100%. I always get asked how I am able to do so many things in and around campus and not get overwhelmed. Yes, I am a superhuman and only require a few hours of sleep, but I spend a lot of those extra hours reading for pleasure, meditating, and giving my mind a chance to wander. When I am sitting in class, conducting a StuCo meeting, working on sustainability initiatives, blogging/podcasting, or hanging out with friends I give 100% for that activity. There is no reason to give a half-hearted effort for anything in life, particularly when your name is on the line. This harkens to the first lesson, because sitting in class while thinking about student council makes both activities subpar. Plus, when you give everything 100%, everything stops feeling like work and starts feeling more like fun.
  4. Don’t hold back/Release Fear. In the same nature of giving 100% to what you are doing is to not hold back. Everyone experiences some sense of reservation before embarking on an adventure (of any kind) and usually it is that fear of the unknown that stops one from fully experiencing something new. From a new relationship to a new hobby, there will always be fear of what could (or couldn’t), should (or shouldn’t), would (or wouldn’t) be. By releasing your fears and giving into your intuition and your emotions, every experience becomes more enlightening and much more pleasurable.
  5. Love, love, love, love, love. And love some more! If there is one thing that you can’t ever do enough of it is love. Love your friends, love your family, and love everyone you meet. When someone else feels your love, they feel great. When you share your love, you feel great. When everyone shares their love, everyone feels great. Love you strengths, love your weaknesses, and love your self. You are awesome, this is a fact, and there is no excuse not to love you. Love isn’t always easy to share, but with practice everyday, you’ll start to see love everywhere you look.
  6. Have faith. Being hopeful is not enough in the universe we live in. You can hope that your life will get better and it might. Or you can have faith that it will and it will. Faith goes beyond a wish or a desire, which all of us have in some form or another. But faith is the belief that the wish or desire will, without a doubt, come true. Once you start having faith in small parts of your life, it becomes easier to have faith in everything you do. From your future profession, to your current commitments, faith guarantees that everything will happen exactly as it is supposed to. This doesn’t require acknowledging in a higher power, but knowing that God, the universe, source, etc. has a plan for you makes every single day a lot easier and much more enjoyable. Faith is now.
  7. Let it go. Letting go is applicable to many different situations. Lao Tzu said “When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” This becomes more true everyday when we begin to cling on tightly to who we are, or who we think we are. Letting go and giving yourself the opportunity to grow and change, can be difficult and demanding, but you will begin to experience who you are meant to be. Buddah said “You can only lose what you cling to.” We all tend to hold onto our feeling, our preconceived notions, our prejudices, our material possessions, and even our relationships. By letting go, which doesn’t mean giving everything away, but by letting yourself accept the impermanence of all things, not only does lose become easier but the preciousness of what we do have is heightened. Don Miguel Ruiz said “Letting go of the past means that you can enjoy the dream that is happening right now.” And the dream really is NOW.
  8. Stop and listen. For most of my life I would constantly be barraged with thoughts, fantasies, and general distractions in my mind. These thoughts took me away from what was going on regularly, from not paying attention in class to missing out on a heartfelt conversation. It was only recently that I started to stop and listen to everything that was happening around me. Active listening at all points of the day can make your relationships more full and can provide an insight into others that is unmatched. It is also necessary to stop and listen where ever you are, especially when you are in nature. While hiking, I like to just take a second (or 60) to listen to all the sounds around me. The birds, the trees, the breeze, and the sea all have their own language for those who take the time to listen.
  9. No worries. This lesson is one that I continually remind my friends and acquaintances, since most people are prone to repeatedly say “sorry.” Have you ever read the definition of the word? Regret, sorrow, grief, etc. are the associated words. When someone says sorry to me for something that is not really sorrowful, I remind them that there is nothing to be sorry for and there is no need to worry. Going through life constantly being sorry for your actions sounds like the definition, tragic. There really is nothing to worry about, your friends don’t need to hear that you are sorry for being 5 minutes late, no worries, life will still go on, we will all still be happy, and no one needs to be asked for forgiveness.
  10. Be mindful. How many people did you walk past on your way to work this morning? Do you know the number of times you chewed each bite of your breakfast? Are you aware of every in-breath you take? Mindfulness is one of the most rewarding practices one can undertake. Similar to living in the moment and stopping and listening, being mindful takes you out of your head and puts you right here, right now, which is the only place/time you will ever be at/in. For years, I would scarf down food like it was going to run away, attributing this to habits I developed as a child. Mindful eating took me out of my comfort zone and gave me a chance to enjoy and savor every single little mouthful of delicious food I consumed. Being mindful when you walk will tune you into what is happening around you, from the trees to the people you pass by (don’t forget to smile at them). The easiest way to start is with this simple koan: “As I breathe in, I know that I am breathing in. As I breathe out, I know that I am breathing out.” Welcome to the here and now.
  11. Lose yourself to dance. Or lose yourself to song, sport, or life! Have you ever had a moment where nothing else in the world matters but what you are doing right there and then? Rowers feel this as they fly down the race course, climbers feel this as they tackle a challenging climb, and everyone can feel this when they just give in and enjoy doing something fun (or silly). When my favorite song (or one of the 100s of them) comes on, I stop what I am doing and shake my tail feathers. There is no better feeling than the release one gets from such a moment.