There are so many things you and I cannot control. COVID-19 has been a humbling reminder of that. But we do have control over how we feel. No matter what is happening around us, we get to determine the kind of relationship we have to life itself.
You can choose, as I have, to be inspired by life on a daily basis, to find passion and joy in the great gifts that come your way. Every day, as part of your morning practice, make the following proclamation: "I LOVE BEING ALIVE!" And don't just go through the motions. Put your heart into it. Say it like you mean it.
But maybe you don't really mean it. What if you feel that your life sucks? That is your right and your decision to make. Nobody's life goes as planned. We all face hard times. The human experience includes grief, failure, and disappointment. Very often, our sense of loss comes from the expectation of something more than what we have: more time with those we love, more freedom to do the things that bring us joy, or greater recognition and appreciation of our worth and talents.
Our expectations can be a destructive force. They cause us to make unreasonable demands rather than accepting life on its own terms. It's easy to love life when everything is going your way. But if you abandon that love when life fails to meet your highest standards, what kind of love is that?
We hear so much about unconditional love, which is a noble aspiration. You may believe, as I once did, that such love is an unrealistic and unattainable ideal. And for good reason. Most of us have never encountered or experienced it for ourselves. "True love is like ghosts," wrote Baron La Rochefoucauld, "which everyone talks about and few have seen."
As I described in my first book, The Chanter's Guide, in midlife I came to the stark realization that I had never really loved anyone fully or unconditionally in my whole life. I had a tendency to pick and choose the things I loved about people. Rather than immersing myself completely in the experience of life, I held back to some degree and sat in judgment of even the people I loved the most.
Then, I met a few wise individuals like Ammachi who served as role models of unconditional love. The first time I saw Ammachi, I watched the way she welcomed every person she met with open arms and an open heart. And that changed everything for me! Suddenly I knew that unconditional love was not an abstraction or a distant dream for me. It's my birthright, as it is for you.
All these years later, my daily practice of unconditional love begins with life itself. I choose to LOVE LIFE UNCONDITIONALLY and invite you to do the same. That means welcoming life and whatever it may bring. Even if you hit upon challenges, obstacles, and even the most seemingly tragic losses, keep your heart open. Everything can change in a heartbeat and often does. As author Marisha Pessl has observed, “Life hinges on a couple seconds you never see coming.”
Here lies the secret to inspired living: Love life with no conditions and no limits. You can do this and still aim high. Aspire to more while accepting what you have because what you have is a gift and a blessing. We don't know exactly how we got here or where we will end up. This life is a wild adventure, a thrilling ride filled with twists and turns galore. And it's all over much too soon. That being the case, you might as well enjoy the ride.
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