Wisdom To Carry Past Graduation

[adapted from a Commencement Address at St. Peter's College in Jersey City, NJ

Wisdom can be learned and then practiced. In doing so we can live more meaningful, fulfilling and joyful lives. So here is my crash course on wisdom:

Live mindfully in full awareness of the present moment and get beyond "busyness," the supreme distraction of the modern age. It takes practice, but the rewards can be astonishing. Sit quietly for one minute and pay attention to your breathing, leaving all other distraction aside. Start by closing your eyes and breathing slowly. Then count to ten and do it again. It's that simple. Just once a day! When performed repeatedly, what once was a life force taken for granted will be a life force to replenish any moment.

Live acceptingly of yourself as a wonderful, unique and special person with gifts to offer the world. Embrace your strengths and your weaknesses equally, making friends with both, regardless of how unlikely this may sound. It is a sobering experience to hold what you would prefer to let go. We cannot right every wrong or overcome every hardship; we simply do not have all the answers but must trust a wider plan for creation.

Live gratefully and recognize that our achievements come to us through the sacrifices and work of so many other people. We never really accomplish anything alone, though we'd like to think we do. Living gratefully means celebrating life itself as a gift, awakening to the realization that every breath we take is a gift from the Divine Gift Giver. It's a wonderful defense mechanism against a large ego.

Live inclusively, remembering you're a member of a family, a community, a nation and a citizen of Planet Earth. Don't stop there. Each of us is a living being, sharing life with other living beings. Ultimately, each of us is a son or daughter of the Creator, linked with all the creatures of the universe. As we widen this circle of inclusiveness, fewer people, fewer beings, will remain outside to threaten us. Buddhism teaches that a self-identity [me alone] is a false identity, an illusion and the source of our suffering. Christianity similarly tells us we lose ourselves in order to find our true selves. We must empty our souls to all so as to be filled with the Spirit.

Live compassionately. It has been written [and I believe this to be true] that when we feel compassion for another human being, we are getting in touch with our real self. At times, compassion requires forgiveness. The world is not perfect; neither are we. Without forgiveness we can get stuck on our journey. You have heard it said: "Follow your bliss." Yet to be compassionate also means to follow your heartache, being there for others to help them carry their pain and suffering. We cultivate compassion by protecting the weak and the vulnerable, by combating injustices, by opposing violence and by sharing tears.

Now go out to be the change you wish to see in the world!

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