This is a tough topic for me, and that’s a good thing, because I have been influenced by so many different ways to live and attitudes towards life from organized religion to pop culture. I try to live one day at a time, to change the things I can and accept the things I can’t, to let go and let God and to live and let live. I think of that as just the way I’m wired now, not a guideline anymore. Attempting to put a creed or commandments into some kind of order really made me see what STUCK (besides the obvious, stated above) and what I thought was important but have left behind somewhere down the path.
So, I present to you, in no order of importance, my 10 Commandments:
1. Say what you mean, mean what you say, don’t say it mean. People don’t know what we’re thinking unless we tell them. Our primary way to connect with others is through speaking. Speaking can draw us closer to people or push them away. Even if I’m rejecting someone’s clumsy advances, I can do so with kindness and compassion. This is a totally selfish move, by the way: I hate ruminating over things I’ve said in haste and anger and these things can’t be taken back. I’ve skated around the truth, didn’t mean things I’ve said and have said mean things in a mean way, and it doesn’t feel good. I keep this in mind so that I can live with no regrets and practice one of my values of not causing any harm to any sentient being. I don’t get this right 100% of the time, but I try.
2. When in doubt, do nothing. This is about allowing things to be uncertain. How many times I have bungled something because I was desperate for resolution at any price? I’ve pushed and caused fights JUST for closure, even if the outcome was something I didn’t really want JUST so I could stop the agony of **NOT KNOWING WHAT’S GOING ON**. It’s about trusting and letting go and having faith that the right thing to do will make itself clear given a little time. I’m learning to be okay with doubt and uncertainty. One of the greatest causes of suffering is trying to get some kind of “ground” under my feet, trying to MAKE things happen instead of doing my part and letting go of the outcome and agreeing to not being in control of every single thing. When I don’t know what to do, I sort of sit back and pause and see what unfolds and when I feel deep in gut that I know the right thing to do, I do it.
3. Keep the channel open “There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. If you block it, it will never exist through any other medium. It will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable it is, nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.” Martha Graham.
4. Stay curious and open. The longer I stay alive the more I realize I don’t know anything. But I want to! I think learning new things and keeping an open mind about people I don’t know anything about keeps me fluid and flexible about life. I personally think that once people start to think they know everything, they close their minds and refuse to hear any new evidence that proves them wrong. As if being “wrong” is a problem. When the ego cares more about being RIGHT than being open, this is where prejudice begins. The ego FEARS change, differences, being “wrong”, looking “foolish” – and it causes people to close ranks and well, just look at everybody in the Middle East. They are KILLING people that they think are wrong because they’re different from them instead of being open and curious enough to allow them to believe differently from them. More about this in commandment #7.
5. Don’t be afraid to look like an a***ole. Another one about the ego 🙂 It’s okay to not know how to do something or to feel awkward. In Zen Buddhism they call it “Beginner’s Mind”, how can you learn anything if you already know how to do everything? You can’t. I don’t know where humans pick up all this shame about “looking stupid” — maybe in grade school? I went to a Catholic High School for one torturous year where if you dropped a tray in the lunchroom, everyone literally pointed at you and chanted, “DICK! DICK! DICK! DICK!” — very traumatizing. If I were smart, I would have broken out into a song and dance number instead of standing there, frozen and shocked by all this humiliation, feeling like a total freak…until it happened to someone else the very next day and I realized it was a “thing” and not about ME personally. If I don’t know how to do something, or about a current event, book, movie or band other people are talking about, I admit it. I’d rather “look stupid” then try to pretend I know something about a subject when I don’t. If I don’t know, then I can learn! And I’ve mentioned, I love to learn!
6. If you don’t have the cash, do not buy it. Our consumerist society is out of control. Identifying who we are with a brand is the ultimate marketing manipulation, and marketers WANT US to think we **NEED** things that are totally unnecessary to part us with our money. I’ve been in debt, it’s horrible. It was fun buying whatever I wanted when I wanted despite whether I could afford it or not. Until I realized that with the interest the cards were charging I was paying almost three times the original amount of what I wanted just to have it *NOW*. Now if I want something, I save up for it or budget the money for it. My husband and I have been working our way towards being totally debt-free except for our house. We have a little emergency fund so we don’t ever have to use a credit card. And most importantly, we’ve stopped buying stuff we don’t want with money we don’t have to impress the people we don’t like. It’s not about “stuff” anyway. There’s NO outside solution for a spiritual problem, it’s an “inside job”.
7. There is no one right way to God I was raised to think that Lutherans were the only ones who were right about God, and it was our responsibility to bring unbelievers to the Lord. We paid money through offerings and special projects to missionaries to go to places like Papua, New Guinea so the “unbelievers” can learn about Jesus through the filter of the Lutheran Church. And be SAVED! However, I don’t think God really cares how we get to Him/Her/Them/It/Whatever — I think God just cares that we try. I have seen that when we reach out to the universe, the universe reaches back. I don’t think it matters if it’s through a Sufi whirling dervish dance or a prayer in a pew. I don’t think it matters what name we call God, that God is ALL and responds to all names. God just wants us to call. This is why I don’t understand that what someone else calls God can piss another group off so much that they feel like they have to KILL them. I don’t think God likes that very much.
8. Don’t judge a person by their Sun Sign Geminis are flighty, Tauruses are stubborn, Leos are attention whores, Cancers are possessive, blah blah blah. Sun signs merely SCRATCH THE SURFACE of a personality. There’s so much more going on besides a sun sign. So too, we can’t judge people by their facebook posts, by polite small talk and chit-chat. People present one thing to the world. There’s always more going on. If I compare my insides to other people’s outsides, I could start feeling like I’m a huge loser with a lame life. I might not know that they are suffering a crippling depression they’re not talking about, or that they are on the verge of divorce, their job is killing their soul, they are caring for a parent with Alzheimer’s. Unless I take the time to get to know someone, I do not know them, so I can’t presume to think I do. Snap judgments hurt both parties, but especially ME if I’m keeping myself from forging a great friendship with someone based upon what I THINK I know about them, or worse, beating MYSELF up because I feel “less-than” compared to them. Commandment 8 1/2: COMPARE AND DESPAIR — I need to only look at myself and my own life, comparing myself to others will ALWAYS end up making me feel like crap. I don’t want to feel like crap.
9. You can ALWAYS walk away If the job is wrong, if the dress isn’t quite right no matter how great the sale price is, if someone is being verbally abusive, if you just KNOW it’s wrong for you, WALK AWAY. It can be scary! It can be a logistical pain in the ass, but we are hardly ever truly STUCK in a situation (unless we’re in the La Brea tar pits, and in that case, someone is going to have to hire a crane) and we can do what needs to be done so we can be free of it. Life is short. Years of your life can go by when you’re stuck with the wrong person. A relationship that should have been two months long TOPS can last SIX PRECIOUS YEARS (this happened to me!). It would be a tragedy to stay doing something you don’t love, to stay with someone who treats you abhorrently, to tolerate the intolerable in order to not “rock the boat.” Sometimes the BOAT NEEDS ROCKIN’. The hardest thing I have ever done in my life was move back to CT from New York City when the lemons on the slot machine of my life lined up, but life had become beyond difficult. I walked away. It led me to meet the love of my life and all kinds of great things after that. Had I fought to stay with the wrong man, the wrong job, the wrong broke-ass lifestyle even though the city felt right? I can’t even imagine. Sometimes it is really hard, but it can be the best thing to do.
10. Say “YES” to Life We are only here as our current incarnation this one time. I will never be “Laura” again. I need to “get busy living or get busy dying.” Joy is out there as well as pain, and you can’t have one without the other. “We are here to ruin ourselves and to break our hearts and love the wrong people and *die*.” I have made STUPID mistakes, screwed things up, fell on my face and have cried and cried and cried because of rejection or heartbreak or disappointment. That can suck, but I think it’s far worse to never try. To try to protect myself to never feel anything bad, it doesn’t work. I used drugs, alcohol, and practiced contempt prior to investigation to keep myself from getting hurt and it doesn’t work. Now I’d rather get hurt because I put myself out there than suffer silently from wishing for things I’m too scared to do because I don’t want to fail Failing is AWESOME! Failing shows us what doesn’t work and leads us to what does. Failing isn’t permanent indictment of our personality, it’s a minor event in a large string of events. Like one burned out Christmas light no longer kills the whole string. So if I’m given an opportunity, I’m saying Yes. Or at least MAYBE. What’s the worst that can happen? I cry again? Big deal, I’m keeping Kleenex in business, they need me. That’s the upside of being hurt/rejected/failing: it becomes less of a huge deal. I feel my feelings and then I keep going. My YES to life is a yes to the pain and a yes to failure because without those, how would I know when I’m succeeding? How would I know that I’m truly happy without drama? Yes to all of it. Yes, yes, yes!
and a bonus commandment, it’s a two parter…..