May We Live In Interesting Times

December 8, 2015

There’s an old Chinese saying: “May you live in interesting times.” Never has that been truer. With political upheaval, fundamental extremism, violence at every turn, hatred and division, climate change that can no longer be ignored, we have all chosen to live in interesting times.

Is there really anything to celebrate at this magical time of year?

You can be sure there is. Each and every one of us has the power to change the world, beginning with ourselves and letting that change vibrate through our families, communities, cities, countries and the world.

I was listening to an interview recently with Matthieu Ricard, a former scientist and now Buddhist monk whose latest book, Altruism: The Power of Compassion to Change Yourself and the World, is an extremely well-documented and elegantly argued plea for altruism, kindness, and compassion to address the primarily human-inflicted suffering and sorrow in this world.

He says that altruism is a cultivatable skill, a way of being that can and needs to be chosen to optimize our wellbeing as individuals…and as a species. Even little bits from this book will blow your mind and inspire you, as Matthieu puts it, to change yourself and the world.

One of the points he makes is that people who meditate are happier, more peaceful and more prone to compassionate living than those who do not. Years ago, I would have rolled my eyes at that thought. But a wise doctor and dear friend of mine worked hard to encourage me to meditate. I’ll be honest. I really sucked at it. I grew distracted easily. I lost my breathing rhythm. I struggled with the time I was wasting when I could be working. But I stuck with it and one day, I easily settled into it and 15 minutes later, I felt renewed and my life was in perspective. I have given a minimum of 15 minutes to meditation every  day (almost…) since that day. I can attest that it has changed me; it has changed how I move through the world and how I interact with circumstances that come my way. It has made me happier and kinder.

Before you say that this is the absolute worst time of life to begin a meditation practice, stop and consider. I’m not saying we won’t have stress in our lives.

I’m saying there’s a better way to manage the frenzy of our days. A mere 10-15 minutes each and every day spent in quiet contemplation  can change your entire being. And before you say that you have no time because of family, work and other commitments, I thought that too. I thought I was too busy to meditate. I didn’t have the luxury of that time. I was wrong.

Now that I do, I have more time in my day…or so it seems. I have more time for those I love; I have more patience and tolerance. I have more space in my heart than I thought possible. My compassion has grown bigger than I thought possible.

We live in interesting times. We must come together as a species to put an end to the divisive hatred that threatens our very existence. I’m not going all “Kumbaya” on you, but the reality in which we currently live doesn’t work. Anger, resentment and divide have not served us as humans.

Let’s try compassion and see where that leads us. I’m in. Are you?

I wish you all the happiest and most peaceful of times, even when they are interesting.