How do you Do virtues?

I listened to Parker Palmer giving this commencement address to the graduating class at Naropa University, and several times I got goose bumps and shivers. For me, those have become telltale signs that there’s something important and/or very true being shared.


The six suggestions Parker provides on living a life worth exploring are simple. And powerful. So powerful I followed my urge to split this recommendation into six consecutive blog posts. You can read my thoughts on the first, second, third, fourth and fifth suggestion here.

BoldomaticPost_Daily-keep-your-death-beforeThe sixth suggestion is: ”Daily, keep your death before your eyes.” – St Benedict

If you hold a healthy awareness of your own mortality, your eyes will be opened to the grandeur and glory of life, and that will evoke all of the virtues I have named, as well as those I haven’t, such as hope, generosity and gratitude. 

We get to chose what virtues we hold high, which ones we try to model in the world. And the beauty is, we get a new chance to do so – model it, I mean – over and over again, moment by moment. And in a strange way, there is no tomorrow. Well, of course there is a tomorrow, but postponing my way of showing up in the world until tomorrow, that’s risky business. Because you might not be around tomorrow, and that’s a fact. There will come a tomorrow when I am not here, in this form at least, and the worst thing about that for me would be if I never got around to showing up as me, with my virtues and values held high, because I kept pushing it forward to the next moment, the next moment, the next moment.

Yes, it can be tricky to live according to your values. We are only human after all. That’s why it’s so important to be gentle with ourselves in our humanness. At the same time – it will never get less tricky, less awkward, less strange and unfamiliar, if I don’t start to act in accordance with my view of these virtues. And that’s actually something to ponder as well. I mean – virtues are all fine and dandy, love, hope, understanding, generosity, gratitude and so on. But how do I do them? How to express them in the world? How do I live in accordance with them, so that my actions mimics my beliefs? How do you do love for instance? Or gratitude?

A part of being human

I listened to Parker Palmer giving this commencement address to the graduating class at Naropa University, and several times I got goose bumps and shivers. For me, those have become telltale signs that there’s something important and/or very true being shared.


The six suggestions Parker provides on living a life worth exploring are simple. And powerful. So powerful I followed my urge to split this recommendation into six consecutive blog posts. You can read my thoughts on the first, second, third and fourth suggestion here.

BoldomaticPost_Since-suffering-as-well-as-joThe fifth suggestion is: Since suffering as well as joy comes with being human, I urge you to remember this: Violence is what happens when we don’t know what else to do with our suffering.

As Parker says, violence can be directed inwards as well as outwards. And it’s not the answer, it’s not. Hardest for me has been to stop being violent inwards. Beating myself up, verbally, in the harsh and terrifying inner chatter, that accompanied me for so long. It’s almost weird trying to look back at it. I have a hard time remembering what it sounded like, specifically, because it’s so far from the inner chatter within me right now. My mental chatter has shifted, and as a result. I don’t suffer as much either. It’s like a merry-go-round. I suffer, beat myself up over something, and then suffer more, think I’m a wimp for it, so I beat myself up over it some more…. and so on.

And now. A totally different tone. A gentleness. Towards me. And to think I only realized it was possible to be gentle towards myself around my 35th birthday. (Born in 1972, you do the maths.) When I stopped being harsh on myself (and yes, I do believe that to be a form of violence) something else became possible. Because at that time not only could I could start to take in all of my own feelings, I could also start to take you in. And with that, your suffering no longer scared me (as much anyway). Being less likely to want to thrash out, verbally or physically, at your ways to try to escape your suffering. Understanding it doesn’t say much – if anything – about me, and everything about you.

Me being ok with feelings of suffering (both my own, and yours), those same feelings seem to pass through me quicker and more easily. The rabbit holes of my past used to be so deep it took me forever to get out of them. Now I fall into them, but not as deep, and not for as long. Maybe because I no longer fight desperately to get out of them?

 

 

Afraid of otherness?

I listened to Parker Palmer giving this commencement address to the graduating class at Naropa University, and several times I got goose bumps and shivers. For me, those have become telltale signs that there’s something important and/or very true being shared.


The six suggestions Parker provides on living a life worth exploring are simple. And powerful. So powerful I followed my urge to split this recommendation into six consecutive blog posts. You can read my thoughts on the first and second suggestion here.

BoldomaticPost_As-you-welcome-whatever-you-fThe third suggestion is: As you welcome whatever you find alien within yourself, extend that same welcome to whatever you find alien in the outer world.

There is no other, that is not also a part of you.

I’ll write that again: There is no other, that is not also a part of you.

So be hospitable, curious and meet the world with the same sense of adventurous journey of discovery that you hopefully have embarked upon within yourself. There is no need to be afraid of otherness. Or rather, you do not need to act upon the fear. You can see it, witness it, and let it pass through. Because you are meeting yourself, when you come across someone, something, which you do not recognize, that feels new and different and unknown to you. That is how to grow. That is how to benefit the world. And that is where my hope for the future lies. Just imagine what will be made possible when we no longer fear otherness. I can see it in my minds eye. Can you?