The Gift of Life

Inscribed on wooden boards, outside many Zen Monasteries, are the following words:

Great is the matter of birth and death
Life slips quickly by
Time waits for no one
Wake up ! wake up !
Don’t waste a moment

Translated Brad Hunter

The Zen Buddhist recognition that we are impermanent, temporal beings heading for an inevitable demise could send a huge tremor down our backs. In disbelief and bewilderment we may challenge this process. We may argue of injustice and unfairness. We may start becoming fiercely entrenched to reject, deny or repress this thought but the natural tide of life does appear to eventually turn and sweep everything away – including you and me. This is a harsh thought to grapple with but one that we have to confront in a universe that is scientifically acknowledged as being in a permanent state of constant flux. So what can we do? How do we proceed given our finite limitations? How should we live our lives?

For myself, the knowledge and acceptance of death has brought me the greatest wake up call I could ever receive. It has made me realize the brevity of my life and the need to use it in the most inspiring way. Each of us is on a unique journey of adventure and discovery that can be truly exhilarating and wondrous if we engage with it wholeheartedly and steadfastly giving of our very best. The finest we can summon up, strong in the belief that we all have so many hidden capabilities that need to find the light of day – if we dare try…..

My belief is that in any positive, sustainable future that we may desire there are a number of key elements which must be recognized as providing the foundations. I can summarized these as follows:

• Believe in yourself and the extraordinary inner power you can harness to transform your life.

• Don’t allow negative people to influence the work you have to undertake.

• Work hard and always give of your very best. Don’t pull back – go that extra mile.

• Accept the fact that you will make mistakes – how we deal with them is the crucial point. Always see mistakes as learning tools to get us back on track.

• Make it a regular practice to be nice to people – even difficult ones that contest the way with you. No one is perfect; we all have imperfections. Leave your judgemental mind behind because it slows our progress down. A mind that avoids judgement is always open and available for fresh input.

• Don’t think small all the time. The greater the risk the greater the reward.

• Don’t take yourself self too seriously, retain a sense of humour as you journey through this rich life.

• Constantly review your plans and objects to see that they still hold value for you. They are not set in concrete so change may have to be considered.

• Time is precious and like currency we must spend it carefully and wisely.

• Every day is a learning day in the school of life – keep going forward, keep open, keep learning.

• Take time out to RELAX. By over reaching yourself you can become tired, and worse, exhausted which serves no one. Balance is the key word.

• Cultivate simplicity. In life it’s not only your efficiency and effectiveness that needs attention but your spirituality as well.

• Don’t squander any talents you may have. Always allow them full expression, full voice.

• Spend quality time with your family and friends. We are not self-regulating machines but human beings who need to be closely connected to others.

• Make certain you get the right levels of quality sleep. Disturbed patterns often suggest deeper, unresolved psychological states that need our attention. Sleep deprivation, over time will make us sluggish and irritable preventing us from achieving efficient and effective work.

• Be positive, generous and kind to others, and yourself.

• Never push yourself forward at the expense of others. Always go for co-operation rather than competition.

• Listen to others. Allow yourself to be persuaded by well backed up, contrary arguments that may be presented but never become a disciple of anyone. Stand in your own light with faith and confidence in yourself. Never allow anyone to over-shadow you and your innate talents – your unique contribution to the world.

• Dare to be different. Add something new to life by trying to be original, innovative and groundbreaking in your thinking and behaviour.

• Always keep hold of your dreams and aspirations for they will sustain you in moments of doubt and uncertainty to guide you gently back on course.

• Cultivate and express love for without it we are diminished and reduced as individuals.

Our life journey does not always follow a straight path, it takes many twists and turns for which there are no route maps to guide and direct us. And on the way we may be forced to step outside of reassuring notions of safety and security, comfort and well-being that will test our resolve. It is during these low points that the storm clouds of fear, dread and even terror can descend to undermine our confidence and faith. Trying to seek shelter from their full, unwelcome force is perhaps all we can do until they pass. But in time, they do pass which allows us to rejoin the adventure with renewed vigour that is capable of taking us right into the heartland of an astonishing space – a life-affirming, personal joy and fulfillment of which we may have never known before……