Five Life Lessons From The Great Sages



Welcome back. This week we’re going to be talking about life lessons that come from the great philosophical and religious teachings. From the Buddha to Lao Tzu and Confucius to Jesus. We’ve had great teachings for thousands of years and I want to focus on these teachings more because I get caught up in the teacher of the day syndrome and maybe you do too. Looking back at the great sages will bring what we learn from modern writers into a clearer view. Because most modern writers are saying what the greats have said for centuries.

Life Lesson Number One, Pay More Attention to Your Insides Than Your Outsides.

Maybe it’s been this way for hundreds of years, but I know today we focus so much of our time on what other people are doing. Whether it’s watching reality television, watching YouTube, looking at Facebook, Instagram, ticktock, etc. Whatever we can do to distract us from ourselves.

What this does is cause us to judge our insides by someone else’s outside. We’ve all seen the perfect family on Facebook vacationing in Cancun or Skiing in Colorado. Or we see the videos of people with the belief that if “I act weird or do something over the top, people will like me because they will like my video.” The trap many people fall into is feeling like they are missing out because they post a video or picture and 6 people like it. The truth is most people will watch a video or look at a picture and maybe like it. Then they will move on to the next item in the algorithm and possibly never think of the person who posted it again.

Lao Tzu says in the Tao te Ching, an excess of light blinds the human eye and an excess of noise ruins the ear. An excess of condiments deadens the taste. The effect of too much horse racing and hunting is bad and the lure of hidden treasures tempts one to do evil. Therefore, the wise man attends to the inner significance of things and does not concern himself with outward appearances. Therefore, he ignores matters and seeks the spirit.

Jesus said, The kingdom of God is within you

Buddha said, It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours.

I think Lao Tzu’s explanation encapsulates everything here. Too much of everything deadens our senses. We wake up one day and don’t understand how we’ve gotten to where we’re at. If we look at ourselves and just focus on ourselves, everyone else will take care of themself. If we all quit watching reality TV or liking things on YouTube or Facebook, it would all go away. But it’s easier to watch somebody else be crazy than it is to look at yourself and say, “what am I doing, how am I feeling, what do I need to change about myself?”

Take what all three said. Everything we need is inside of us. Jesus, “the kingdom of God is within you.” Buddha, “it’s better to conquer yourself.” Lao Tzu, “the wise man attends to inner things.” We have known this for over 2,000 years and still yet 99% of us are looking for peace in externals or other people. I think that’s why one of the most popular sayings of Jesus is, “The gate is narrow and the road is perilous if you want to find an authentic life.” Because looking at myself is hard, looking at others is easy, but it kills your soul.

If we truly want to pay more attention to our insides than our outside, we can take a couple of minutes each day to meditate or journal how we are feeling. We can set a timer for different hours in the day to just stop and say a quick prayer. We can study Tai Chi or yoga to help us Center ourselves. light a candle and incense in the morning and just quieten ourselves before the day starts. As we slow down and focus on ourselves, we will see the world in a new light and find that not nearly as many things bother us.

Life Lesson Number Two, Don’t Try to Control Others

Control. We all think we have it and none of us do. Controlling others is the major sport of today’s society. Whether it’s using force, speaking ill of someone, or subtly trying to get them to conform to your ideals, controlling others is our way of life. Many of us have heard the golden rule of Jesus, “Do to others what you want them to do to you.” But Confucius had a golden rule as well, “Don’t do to others what you don’t want them to do to you.”

Both messages sound the same. They have two different implications. Jesus says to DO to other people the things that you want to have done to you. actively show them love, actively care for them, actively listen to what they’re saying.

But what Confucius says is don’t do to others what you don’t want them to do to you. So don’t slap them in the face if you don’t want to be slapped in the face. Don’t yell at them if you don’t want to be yelled at. How about this one don’t tailgate if you don’t want it to be tailgated.

We can learn from both because they bring a synergy to us that we sometimes can’t see. If I actively do things for others and I am actively feeding into someone else’s life that shows them, I love them. If I learn to control my actions and I don’t do the things that I don’t want done to me, that helps me to grow as a person. But with either of these, if I’m trying to control anyone else, I’m doing it for the wrong reason. The only thing I’m trying to control is what I’m doing, saying, and being.

Life is filled with give and take and when we stop and think about what our actions do and how we’re trying to manipulate the situation, we can see that showing love and not reacting brings a harmony to the relationship we have. We can let other people be themselves, not what we want them to be.

Lao Tzu said this in dealing with people: “Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.”

Life Lesson Number Three, What You Think About is What You Become. 

The Buddha said, We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.

In the protestant bible, St paul wrote, “the renewing of our mind will transform us.”

As a coach, when I talk to people about thinking, it’s about what does my future look like? Am I saying the right things to myself? What are some ways I can stop saying negative things to myself?

I have a handout of cognitive distortions. You can pick these up by just Googling cognitive distortions. Cognitive distortions are things we say to ourselves that aren’t true or are twisted truths that have become false because we’ve twisted them so far out of shape. If you say to yourself every day, I can’t do this job. You’re going to end up not being able to do your job. If you say to yourself every day, I hate my spouse, you’re going to hate your spouse.

If you change the way you phrase it and ask yourself, how can I do this job better? How can I love my spouse the way they are? Your mind gives you answers to those questions. You have literally started Renewing Your Mind by asking proper questions. All of this is about control. Am I trying to control someone else?

The modern author Michael Singer says in his book The Untethered Soul that we should become the person watching for whoever is saying these things in our head. If we learn to watch and learn to ask better questions, every answer that we need, every answer we truly seek, is there. We have to learn to look for it and ask for it in the right ways.

Life Lesson Number Four, Change is Inevitable, so Embrace it

Change is life, and life is about change. Nothing is ever static. This goes along with trying to be in control all the time as well. When we understand that change is inevitable, we can release our control on the world. 

Lao Tzu wrote, Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them – that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.

Worrying about what might happen doesn’t stop the thing from happening. It just causes us to be miserable in the here and now. What Lao Tzu is saying is that we can create our own sorrow worrying about changes that are to come. When we understand people move, jobs are lost, and accidents happen, we can stop worrying and start living.

The stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius wrote, Observe constantly that all things take place by change, and learn that the nature of the Universe loves nothing more than to change the things which are, and to make new things like them.

Most of us have settled into a comfort zone. We’re afraid of anything new or changing. We like our routine because it’s comfortable. We are complacent because we like to be. Or maybe we just believe that nothing will change and Hope For Nothing Better. Every change in our life opens up new opportunities. No matter what that change may be, we can always find an opportunity for growth in the change.

New Beginnings lie around every corner, but each new beginning requires change. When we resist change we can become complacent in a job, relationship, or family situation. Like Marcus Aurelius said, the universe loves nothing more than to change the things that are and make new things just like them. 

Life Lesson Number Five, Learn to Live in Today

Jesus told his disciples, Don’t worry about tomorrow. Let tomorrow worry about itself. Let today’s trouble be sufficient for today.

I have a friend who has been told she has a short time to live, and she has embraced this with open arms. What she reminds all of us to do is no matter what, Stay Curious. She says that she’s staying curious about what’s coming. She’s not just giving up and not living today because she doesn’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. She has made the choice to live in today, knowing what tomorrow holds.

Like Jesus said, no matter what happens tomorrow, we still have to live today. Because we have to earn a living and do our job or take care of our families today. Living in tomorrow has never made doing today’s job easier. It only adds to the stress of trying to live today. 

The stoic philosopher Seneca said this, Expecting is the greatest impediment to living. In anticipation of tomorrow, it loses today.

We all only get so many minutes in a day and so many days in a life. Some get more, some get less. But what you choose to do with today is your choice. Whether you manage today wisely and work with good purpose. Or, you live as the Taoist say and follow the flow of life. No matter what, you can only live in today and more importantly in this moment. So what will you do with it?

That’s it for this week. 

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