Undertaking this review I came to realise also that some lessons come in bits, I did not get the lesson all in one dose. Indeed, some lessons spanned decades in arriving. Some were also sent many times before I “got it.”
Decade 1. I was fortunate to be born in the middle of the North Island of Aotearoa (New Zealand) amidst dozens of lakes, luxuriant bush, rivers, geysers, mud-pools, and volcanoes. I remember family picnics beside lakes or at the foot of waterfalls, and my father teaching me to swim in the cool lake waters. I remember playing in bushland, or amongst haystacks with our golden spaniel – Lyn. I walked through luxuriant bushland or along country lanes, with my mother always leading my curiosity, with questions such as, ‘I wonder what’s up there?’
The decade was one of wonder, joy, delight, and exploration.
Lesson 1. The world is a beautiful, wondrous place…
Decade 2. …except when it isn’t. During my second decade (in my teenage years) I heard about or saw the cruel side of the world. I heard about the killing of Soweto school children by South African apartheid forces. The My Lai massacre in Vietnam was reported on TV. I saw the famous photo of nine-year old Phan Thi Kim Phuc fleeing, naked, from the napalm bombing of her village in Vietnam. Towards the end of my second decade I watched TV reports of the shooting of four students protesting that same war at Kent State University.
Lesson 2. The world contains cruelty, injustice, and oppression.
Decade 3. University days brought a new freedom. That time was my first exploration of the world outside of family and school boundaries. Yes, there were the academic subjects to learn. Non-academic experiences included participating in student debates, listening to some of the country’s foremost poets at a local pub, attending rock concerts, and taking part in all-night parties.
During this decade I was introduced to political and social thought and action. The world’s first environmentally-based political party (NZ Values Party) was formed, and I joined. In the second half of the decade I was recruited to be part of a four-year long non-formal, community-based, education group dedicated to learning about community, self, and the relationships between each.
Lesson 3. I have a voice, both an inner voice (my emerging consciousness) and an outward voice (my environmental and social advocacy.)
Decade 4. My fourth decade found me experiencing unemployment for the first time. Eventually I gained employment in both community development and community education roles. I honed my skills as a facilitator and decided I wanted to learn more about facilitation, group dynamics, and cooperative ways of learning and campaigning.
Lesson 4. I have a calling: to bring people together for fun and/or learning purposes.
Decade 5. Stress at work led me to re-explore the practices of Zen that had first attracted me in my third decade. The Zen meditation techniques steered me towards a desire to find out more about the philosophy, psychology, and practices of Buddhism. About the same time, I came across Chaos Theory, Systems Thinking, and the concept of Emergence. All these concepts, ideas, and practices were mutually supportive.
Lesson 5. Phenomena are intricately, and exquisitely, inter-connected and are mutually sustaining.
Decade 6. My sixth decade straddled the early years of the new millennium and brought with it death and dying. During the decade my mother died (telling me a week or so before she died, ‘I am ready.’) At the end of the decade I lived through two large earthquakes in Christchurch, the second of which killed 185 people, three of them friends of mine. During one 13-month period during the decade eleven friends died. I had to come to terms not only with their deaths, but also the possibility of my own. Buddhism helped enormously.
Lesson 6. Impermanence is a fact of life (and death.) Nothing exists forever. All things must pass.
Decade 7. A shift to Australia brought me into contact with greater numbers of people exploring Buddhist philosophy and concepts such as Deep Ecology, eco-spirituality, and soul-centric psychology. This all challenged (in engaging and exciting ways) my understanding of selfhood and the human journey of development.
Lesson 7. Let it go. Understand intellectually, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, and somatically the meaning of: ‘Grant me the courage to change the things I can, the serenity to accept the things I cannot, and the wisdom to know the difference.’ Furthermore, the lesson that acceptance does not mean indifference.
I wonder what lessons I shall be presented with during my eighth decade? Whatever they may be, the lessons of the past seven decades have equipped me with the curiosity and wonder as to what they may be.
At whatever decade of your life that you are in, dear reader, I wonder what the prime lessons of each decade have been for you?
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