Recently one of my students, a high school senior, asked whether I had any advice to offer her and her soon-to-be-graduating classmates. She was recording the responses of several teachers and planned to play the compiled advice during the graduation ceremony.
At first I felt overwhelmed and unsure what to say, and I told her to come back later. I decided to use the old "freewriting" trick I learned in college and still use regularly whenever I have a mental block: Set a timer, and write without stopping until the time is up.
What follows is (more or less) what I scribbled in a notebook in response to my student's question. After cutting out the inevitable rambling and repetition that comes with freewriting, I found that what I had written sounded like good advice for me to follow, too. Perhaps you will also find a suggestion here that speaks to you.
› Listen carefully to a variety of perspectives, and notice which parts of those perspectives speak most deeply to you. Respect the views of others, but don't try to argue with anyone who isn't willing to listen to what you have to say.
› Find the work you are drawn to, and do it as well as you can. This process may take years.
› Live simply. Try to imagine a future that is less dependent on a fossil-fueled global economy. What would it look like to live in a community where most of what you need is produced in or near that community?
› Be hopeful, but don't believe in easy solutions to big, complex problems.
› Trust your intuition, but don't buy every thought your mind spits out.
› Learn to sit in silence, and notice that most of the time you can stand it for longer than you think.
› Get outside in big quiet spaces — in the woods or near the water. Take walks.
› Know that no one has all the answers — not your teachers or your parents or even you. Ask for help, call trusted friends, feel your feelings.
› Do lots of fun things.
› Learn to meditate. It won't make you perfect or bring you instant peace, but it can slow you down a little, teach you to pay attention, and make you more likely to be a beneficial presence in the world.
› Be gentle with yourselves. Notice the mean messages your mind sometimes feeds you, and wave at them as they pass by.
› Get plenty of sleep, eat good food when you're hungry, and find a good therapist if you can afford it.
› Try growing something. A tree, a tomato, some flowers. See that life knows what to do to survive. And know that you carry the same wisdom in you.
L.B. Blackwell has been practicing Eknath Easwaran's passage meditation for more than 10 years. He lives in Chattanooga with his wife and two daughters. He blogs at mundaneway.blogspot.com.