What Really Matters

“People suffer because they are caught in their views. As soon as we release those views, we are free and we don’t suffer anymore.”

– Thich Nhat Hanh

On occasion, I find myself feeling passionate about certain thoughts or activities that are simply not important, and because of this, as Thich Nhat Hanh says above, I suffer. With this in mind, in the hope of saving time and energy in the future, I’ve put together a list of things that I consider to be of little consequence, and also one of items that I believe to be worthwhile.  As you read my compilations, I might ask you, “What comprises your lists?  What is important (and unimportant) to you?  In what areas do you want to focus your attention, and where would you prefer to spend less time?”

Now, as Jackie Gleason might say, “And away we go!”

What doesn’t matter:

  1. Sporting events.  I can’t believe I’ve put this at the top of the list.  I love watching the Oklahoma City Thunder, and many a nail-biting evening I’ve sat with my father and son-in-law, screaming at the top of my lungs, trying to cheer Big Blue on to a win.  But, at the end of the day, while I enjoy these times and the camaraderie immensely, it’s rare for the games, in of themselves, to have any important long-term effect in the world.
  2. Constantly wearing the latest fashions.  Unless it’s required for one’s employment, how worthless is this?  It’s as if someone is saying:  Look at me!  Can’t you see how hip and up-to-date I am? 
  3. What others think about me.  If I live a life where I stand up for what I believe, some folks will like me, others won’t, and that’s just fine with me.
  4. Holiday chaos.  For this reason, I’m beginning to enjoy Christmas less and less.  Nowadays, Thanksgiving is a holiday I can embrace, a simple time of fellowship, good food and appreciation for all that I have been blessed with.
  5. A lavish lifestyle.  While enjoying the finer things in life on occasion is certainly pleasurable, it’s hard to justify a constant stream of overabundance when many in the world are starving, thirsty, diseased and barely able to survive.
  6. Cosmetic procedures.  Face lifts, Botox injections, liposuction, hair transplants and other vanity-based procedures performed to preserve the illusion of eternal youth are – in my humble opinion – a waste of time.  Contrary to what we’ve been expected to believe, appearance is not everything. I’ve heard on occasion that if such alterations in the way we look make us feel better about ourselves, how can that be bad?  Well, I suppose it all depends on one’s perspective.  My Buddhist friends would ask, knowing we will all die someday, does it really matter if we look good just before we begin to molder in the grave?

What does matter:

  1. Kindness.  The Dalai Lama once said, “My religion is kindness.”  Deservedly at the beginning of the list.
  2. Raising children in a loving, caring manner.  I’ve repeatedly said that the most important thing I have done this lifetime is to raise my three daughters.  They are truly the living legacy of my life.
  3. Butterflies.  What better exemplifies a joyful existence than these beautiful, innocent insects that flit and dance through the sky for no other reason than to express their love of life?
  4. Mindfulness.  The past is over, the future is yet to be, and all one has is the present moment. Live it in full awareness.
  5. Laughter.  A good guffaw has been described as the “best medicine,” and I couldn’t agree more.
  6. The look of love in my pet’s eyes.  Unconditional, straight from their little hearts to mine. Sigh . . .
  7. Meditation.  Few things are more worthwhile than probing the Universe that exists within and without.
  8. Helping others.  Preferably, done so in a way that allows them to help themselves. Donating to charities is a great thing, but giving to those that promote self-empowerment is even better.
  9. Eating a healthy diet/exercise.   The apostle Paul once said, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit? . . . Therefore honor God with your body.”  In other words, how can you perform your soul’s work if your body is not cared for properly and suffers the unfortunate consequences?
  10. Awareness of what is occurring in the world.  Here, a balance is necessary. While being informed is important, every so often I have to take a news fast and withdraw from the troubling happenings of our Earth.  Otherwise, I’ll find myself continually mired in a state of dismay about tragic events over which I have little or no control.
  11. Sunrises and sunsets.  To see the technicolor glory of God in the morning and evening is always a blessing.
  12. The love and support of family and friends.  On occasion, life presents challenges that are difficult to handle on my own.  Thank God for those whom I love, and those who likewise care for me.  I couldn’t survive without these precious ones in my life.
  13. The environment.  We should do all that we can to preserve our world for the generations to come. No soul-waiting-to-be-born wants to be incarnated into an overheated, polluted, cesspool of a planet.
  14. Trees.  I love connecting with the spiritual energy of these ancient spirits.
  15. Anything that give me that warm, tingly, joyful feeling in my heart.

With time and patience, my fervent wish is that I’ll learn to focus on the second list more than the first. Spiritual teachers would say that where I water my seeds, in other words, where I direct my attention, is the place where the most growth will invariably occur, whether with activities that resonate as meaningful, or with those that are insignificant.  All this said, I will not be a stickler about the happenings of my life, and flexibility, not rigidity, will always be the prime directive.  I have no doubt in my mind that even so-called hard and fast rules are meant to occasionally be broken. Saying this, I must confess:

I’ll still whoop it up during Thunder games.

2 comments to What Really Matters

  • I appreciate your lists! I would, however, add to the “What does matter” list: Puppies! Curious, playful, delightful balls of fur and love! (Though, puppies also come under number 15. 🙂

    • Hi Joan! I couldn’t agree more. Puppies, even though they’re included in number fifteen, deserve their own special category. There’s nothing better than puppies – nothing!
      Warm regards, Gary

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