A Collection of Wise Sayings
"We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time." -- T.S. Eliot
"Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out." -- Vaclav Havel
"If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now -- when?" -- Hillel
"Come my friends, 'tis not too late to seek a newer world." -- Tennyson
"If you understand, things are just as they are; if you do not understand, things are just as they are." -- Zen proverb
"If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, 'thank you,' that would suffice." -- Meister Eckhart
"There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." -- Albert Einstein
"We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms -- to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances." -- Victor Frankl
"Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards." -- Unknown
"The shell must break before the bird can fly." -- Tennyson
"Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes." -- Carl Jung
"The years teach much that the days never know." -- Emerson
"If you bring forth what is within you, it will heal you. And if you do not bring forth what is within you, it will destroy you." (from the Gospel of St. Thomas)
"Go to your bosom: Knock there, and ask your heart what it doth know." -- William Shakespeare
"The intellect has little to do on the road to discovery. There comes a leap in consciousness, call it intuition or what you will, and the solution comes to you and you don't know how or why." -- Albert Einstein
"The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve." -- Albert Schweitzer
"The difference between a smart person and a wise person is that a smart person knows what to say and a wise person knows whether or not to say it." -- Quote found on the wall of a recreation center office in Berkeley, California.
"Success is getting what you want. Happiness is wanting what you get." -- Dave Gardner
"We do not see things as they are; we see things as we are." -- Talmud
"Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. " -- Helen Keller
"This is the true joy in life: the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no 'brief candle' to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations." -- George Bernard Shaw
"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation) there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe's couplets:
Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. "
-- W.H. Murray, The Scottish Himalayan Expedition
On Being in Touch with Our Inner Child
"There is an innocence within me that already knows how to trust my Higher Power, to cherish life while holding it lightly, to live fully and simply in the present moment. I will allow that part of myself to come forward and nourish me as I continue on this journey."
(from Courage to Change: One Day at a Time in Al-Anon II, page 82). Reprinted with permission of Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., Virginia Beach, VA On Being in Touch with Our Higher Power
"There is guidance for each of us, and by lowly listening, we shall hear the right word. Certainly there is a right for you that needs no choice on your part. Place yourself in the middle of the stream of power and wisdom which flows into your life. Then, without effort, you are impelled to truth and to perfect contentment." --Ralph Waldo Emerson On Contentment
"Contentment is not the fulfillment of what you want, but the realization of how much you already have." --Unknown
Content: A Poem
I should be content
to look at a mountain
for what it is
and not as a comment
on my life
--David Ignatow On Worry
A thousand reasons for worry,
A thousand reasons for anxiety
Oppress day after day
But not the wise man.
-- Hitopadesa of Narayana
"Do your best. Then, don't worry, be happy."
-- Meher Baba Our Deepest Fear
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?” Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we're liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others." -- Marianne Williamson
This quote is often erroneously attributed to Nelson Mandela. Please click here for more details. On Patience
"I remembered one morning when I discovered a cocoon in a bark of a tree, just as a butterfly was making a hole in its case and preparing to come out. I waited awhile, but it was too long appearing and I was impatient. I bent over it and breathed on it to warm it. I warmed it as quickly as I could and the miracle began to happen before my eyes, faster than life.
The case opened, the butterfly started slowly crawling out and I shall never forget my horror when I saw how its wings were folded back and crumpled; the wretched butterfly tried with its whole trembling body to unfold them. Bending over it I tried to help it with my breath. In vain.
It needed to be hatched out patiently and the unfolding of its wings should be a gradual process in the sun. Now it was too late. My breath had forced the butterfly to appear, all crumpled, before its time. It struggled desperately and, a few seconds later, died in the palm of my hand.
The little body is, I do believe, the greatest weight I have on my conscience, for I realize today that it is a mortal sin to violate the great laws of nature. We should not hurry, we should not be impatient, but we should confidently obey the eternal rhythm."
(from Zorba the Greek, by Nikos Kazantzakis)
"Improving our own attitudes and our own state of mind takes time. Haste and impatience can only defeat our purposes."
(from This is Al-Anon, quoted in Courage to Change, page 93). Reprinted with permission of Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., Virginia Beach, VA On Commitment
"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectivness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves, too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. The whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material his way. I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe's couplets: 'Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.'"
(from W.H. Murray, "The Scottish Himalayan Expedition")
On Being Responsible
"I came to Al-Anon confused about what was and was not my responsibility. Today, after lots of Step work, I believe I am responsible for the following:
• to be loyal to my values
• to please myself first
• to rid myself of anger and resentment
• to express my ideas and feelings instead of stuffing them
• to attend Al-Anon meetings and keep in touch with friends in the fellowship
• to be realistic in my expectations
• to make healthy choices
• to be grateful for my blessings
I also have certain responsibilities to others:
• to extend a welcome to newcomers
• to be of service
• to recognize that others have a right to live their own lives
• to listen, not just with my ears, but also with my heart
• to share my joy as well as my sorrow"
(from Courage to Change, One Day at a Time in Al-Anon II, page 85). Reprinted with permission of Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., Virginia Beach, VA
"I have a primary responsibility to myself: to make myself into the best person I can possibly be. Then, and only then, will I have something worthwhile to share."
(from Living with Sobriety) On Learning to Do Better
I walk down the street.
There is a hole.
I don't see it.
I fall in.
It isn't my fault.
It takes a very long time to get out.
I walk down the same street.
There is still a deep hole.
I pretend not to see it.
I fall in.
I pretend it's still not my fault.
It takes a long time to get out.
I walk down the same street.
There is still the same deep hole.
I see it.
I fall in anyway.
It's a habit.
I get out quicker this time.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole.
I see it.
I walk around it.
I don't fall in.
I walk down a different street.
-- Portia Nelson On Right Action
"Codes of ethics are most often associated with prohibitions: Don't do this, don't do that. All the spiritual traditions I know have more or less the same lists of don'ts. This makes sense, since all the don'ts elaborate on the awareness that if we are not alert, our naturally arising impulses of greed and anger might lead us to do something exploitive or abusive. The fundamental rule is, 'Don't cause pain.'
Traditional Buddhist texts, when they talk about Right Action, use the terms hiri and ottappa, usually translated as 'moral shame' and 'moral dread.' Shame and dread have ominous overtones in English, but I rather like these terms. I appreciate the sense of awesome responsibility they are meant to convey. Collectively, what they mean is that every single act we do has the potential of causing pain, and every single thing we do has consequences that echo way beyond what we can imagine. It doesn't mean we shouldn't act. It means we should act carefully. Everything matters."
(from It's Easier Than You Think: The Buddhist Way to Happiness, by Sylvia Boorstein, page 41. Published by Harper San Francisco) On Pain
"They say that pain is inevitable but suffering is optional. If I learn to accept that pain is part of life, I will be better able to endure the difficult times and then move on, leaving the pain behind me."
(from Courage to Change: One Day At A Time in Al-Anon II, page 83). Reprinted with permission of Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., Virginia Beach, VA
"...When we long for life without...difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure." -- Peter Marshall
On Living With A Full Heart
When one is too hurt one cannot see others' pain, is too blind with one's own.
When one has many weights to lift, one cannot enjoy life.
When one has many expectations, one cannot be patient with others.
When one has fear, one cannot enjoy life.
When one does not give, one is making the heart lonely.
When one does not take, one is making the heart feel inferior
When one does not hope, one is shutting oneself into a tight closet.
But when one does not love, one is killing one's self.
(written by 12-year old Olivia, Berkeley, California, 2/12/02) No Problem Lasts Forever
No problem lasts forever. No matter how permanently fixed in the center of our lives it may seem, whatever we experience in this ever-changing life is sure to pass. Even pain.
Difficult situations often bring out qualities in us that otherwise might not have risen to the surface, such as courage, faith, and our need for one another. All of our experiences can help us to grow.
But we may need patience. Some wounds cannot be healed quickly. They must be given time. In the meantime, we can appreciate the new capabilities we are developing, such as the capacity to mourn and the willingness to accept. Let us share our losses and triumphs with each other, for that is how we gather courage.
(From Courage to Change: One Day at A Time in Al-Anon II, page 77). Reprinted with permission of Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., Virginia Beach, VA On Fear
"We have two kinds of fears. One is a fear that whatever is going on is going to go on forever. It’s just not true -- nothing goes on forever. The other is the fear that, even if it doesn’t go on forever, the pain of whatever is happening will be so terrible we won’t be able to stand it. There is a gut level of truth about this fear. It would be ridiculous to pretend that in our lives, in these physical bodies, which can hurt very much, and in relationships that can hurt very much, there aren’t some very, very painful times. Even so, I think we underestimate ourselves. Terrible as times may be, I believe we can stand them.
"Because we become frightened as soon as a difficult mind state blows into the mind, we start to fight with it. We try to change it, or we try to get rid of it. The frenzy of the struggle makes the mind state even more unpleasant.
"The familiar image is a children’s cartoon character, like Daffy Duck, walking along freely and suddenly stepping into taffy. In a hasty, awkward attempt to extricate himself, he might fall forward and backward and eventually be totally stuck in the taffy. Even children see a better solution.
"The best solution would be the nonalarmed recognition, ‘This is taffy. I didn’t see it as I stepped into it, but I felt it after I got stuck. It’s just taffy. The whole world is not made out of taffy. What would be a wise thing for me to do now?'"
(from It's Easier Than You Think: The Buddhist Way to Happiness, by Sylvia Boorstein, page 71. Published by Harper San Francisco) God's Jobs
An eight year old wrote this for his third-grade Sunday school teacher, who asked her students to explain God:
One of God's main jobs is making people. He makes these to put in the place of the ones who die so there will be enough people to take care of things here on earth. He doesn't make grownups, he just makes babies. I think because they are smaller and easier to make. That way he doesn't have to take up his valuable time teaching them to walk and talk. He can just leave that up to the mothers and fathers. I think it works out pretty good.
God's second most important job is listening to prayers. An awful lot of this goes on, 'cause some people, like preachers and things, pray other times besides bedtimes, and Grandpa and Grandma pray every time they eat, except for snacks. God doesn't have time to listen to the radio and watch TV on account of this. 'Cause God hears everything, there must be a terrible lot of noise in his ears unless he has thought of a way to turn it down.
God sees and hears everything and is everywhere, which keeps him pretty busy. So you shouldn't go wasting his time asking for things that aren't important, or go over parents' heads and ask for something they said you couldn't have. It doesn't work anyway.
(From A Third Serving of Chicken Soup for the Soul, by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen. Published by Health Communications, Deerfield Beach, Florida. To order, call 1-800-441-5569) The Secrets of Heaven and Hell
The old monk sat by the side of the road. With his eyes closed, his legs crossed and his hands folded in his lap, he sat. In deep meditation he sat.
Suddenly his zazen was interrupted by the harsh and demanding voice of a samurai warrior. "Old man! Teach me about heaven and hell!"
At first, as though he had not heard, there was no perceptible response from the monk. But gradually he began to open his eyes, the faintest hint of a smile playing around the corners of his mouth as the samurai stood there, waiting impatiently, growing more and more agitated with each passing second.
"You wish to know the secrets of heaven and hell?" replied the monk at last. "You who are so unkempt. You whose hands and feet are covered with dirt. You whose hair is uncombed, whose breath is foul, whose sword is all rusty and neglected. You who are ugly and whose mother dresses you funny. You would ask me of heaven and hell?"
The samurai uttered a vile curse. He drew his sword and raised it high over his head. His face turned to crimson, and the veins of his neck stood out in bold relief as he prepared to sever the monk's head from its shoulders.
"That is hell," said the old monk gently, just as the sword began its descent.
In that fraction of a second, the samurai was overcome with amazement, awe, compassion and love for this gentle being who had dared to risk his very life to give him such a teaching. He stopped his sword in mid-flight and his eyes filled with grateful tears.
"And that," said the monk, "is heaven."
(From A Third Serving of Chicken Soup for the Soul, by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen. Published by Health Communications, Deerfield Beach, Florida. To order, call 1-800-441-5569) Symptoms of Inner Peace
Be on the lookout for symptoms of inner peace. The hearts of a great many have already been exposed to inner peace and it is possible that people everywhere could come down with it in epidemic proportions. This could pose a serious threat to what has, up to now, been a fairly stable condition of conflict in the world.
Some signs and symptoms of inner peace:
• A tendency to think and act spontaneously rather than on fears based on past experiences.
• An unmistakable ability to enjoy each moment.
• A loss of interest in judging other people.
• A loss of interest in interpreting the actions of others.
• A loss of interest in conflict.
• A loss of the ability to worry. (This is a very serious symptom).
• Frequent, overwhelming episodes of appreciation.
• Contented feelings of connectedness with others and nature.
• Frequent attacks of smiling.
• An increasing tendency to let things happen rather than make them happen.
• An increased susceptibility to the love extended by others as well as the uncontrollable urge to extend it. The Rules for Being Human
1. You will receive a body. You may like it or hate it, but it will be yours for the entire period this time around.
2. You will learn lessons. You are enrolled in a fulltime informal school called life. Each day in this school you will have the opportunity to learn lessons. You may like the lessons or think them irrelevant and stupid.
3. There are no mistakes, only lessons. Growth is a process of trial and error, experimentation. The "failed" experiments are as much a part of the process as the experiment that ultimately "works."
4. A lesson is repeated until learned. A lesson will be presented to you in various forms until you have learned it. When you have learned it, you can go on to the next lesson.
5. Learning lessons does not end. There is no part of life that does not contain its lessons. If you are alive there are lessons to be learned.
6. "There" is no better than "here." When your "there" has become a "here" you will simply obtain another "there" that will again look better than "here."
7. Others are merely mirrors of you. You cannot love or hate something about another person unless it reflects to you something you love or hate about yourself.
8. What you make of your life is up to you. You have all the tools and resources you need. What you do with them is up to you. The choice is yours.
9. Your answers lie inside you. The answer to life's questions lie inside you. All you need to do is look, listen, and trust.
10. This will often be forgotten, only to be remembered again.
(Cherie Carter-Scott) The Illusion of Perfect Parents
"It is a universal part of the human condition that we must heal wounds from our past. The illusion of perfect parents must eventually give way to the realities of who our parents are as concrete individuals. Their limitations invariably become our own, in one way or another, and their struggles with identity and self-esteem become the stumbling blocks that we find in our own lives. This is the human condition.
"Children of alcoholics teach us about the very nature of being human. Their experience reminds us that self-esteem is not innate but rather comes from being valued by people who value themselves."
(Timmen Cermak, M.D., quoted in New Realities magazine, November/December 1988, page 46). What is Maturity?
• Knowing myself.
• Asking for help when I need it and acting on my own when I don't.
• Admitting when I'm wrong and making amends.
• Accepting love from others, even if I'm having a tough time loving myself.
• Recognizing that I always have choices, and taking responsibility for the ones I make.
• Seeing that life is a blessing.
• Having an opinion without insisting that others share it.
• Forgiving myself and others.
• Recognizing my shortcomings and my strengths.
• Having the courage to live one day at a time.
• Acknowledging that my needs are my responsibility.
• Caring for people without having to take care of them.
• Accepting that I'll never be finished -- I'll always be a work-in-progress.
(from Courage to Change: One Day At a Time in Al-Anon, page 63. Reprinted with permission of Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., Virginia Beach, VA)
Comes the Dawn
After awhile you learn the subtle difference
Between holding a hand and chaining a soul.
And you learn that love doesn't mean leaning
And company doesn't mean security.
And you begin to understand that kisses aren't contracts
And presents aren't promises,
And you begin to accept your defeats
With your head held high and your eyes wide open.
With the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child.
You learn to build your roads
On today because tomorrow's ground
Is too uncertain for plans, and futures have
A way of falling down in midflight.
After awhile you learn that even sunshine
Burns if you get too much.
So you plant your own garden and decorate
Your own soul, instead of waiting
For someone to bring you flowers.
And you learn that you really can endure,
That you really are strong.
And you really do have worth.
And you learn and learn...and you learn
With every goodbye you learn.
(Veronica A. Shoffstall) Pearls of Wisdom from Helen Keller
"Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn, whatever state I may be in, therein to be content." -- Helen Keller
"Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing." -- Helen Keller
Some Native American Wisdom
A Native American elder once described his own inner struggles in this manner:
"Inside of me there are two dogs. One of the dogs is mean and evil. The other dog is good. The mean dog fights the good dog all the time."
When asked which dog wins, he reflected for a moment and replied, "The one I feed the most."
How A Child Learns
If a child lives with criticism, he learns to condemn.
If a child lives with hostility, she learns to fight.
If a child lives with ridicule, he learns to be shy.
If a child lives with shame, she learns to feel guilty.
If a child lives with tolerance, he learns to be patient.
If a child lives with encouragement, she learns confidence.
If a child lives with praise, he learns to appreciate.
If a child lives with fairness, she learns justice.
If a child lives with security, he learns to have faith.
If a child lives with approval, she learns to like herself.
If a child lives with acceptance and friendship, he learns to find love in the world.
(Dorothy Law Nolte) Insights and Wisdom from Dick Olney
Who was Dick Olney? Dick was both a master psychotherapist and, for many, a profound spiritual teacher. He called his work Self-Acceptance Training and he trained therapists and others from coast to coast for more than two decades. Dick said the truth can never be spoken. Even so, his words point the way. Here are some samples of what Dick has said (excerpted from Walking in Beauty: A Collection of the Psychological Insights and Spiritual Wisdom of Dick Olney, edited by Roslyn Moore. To order, contact DO Publishing, P.O. Box 103, Mendocino, California 95460):
"There is only one wound of the mental body, and that is the wound of self-criticism or self-judgment"
"Self-criticism or self-judgment is self-hatred. It will always hurt you. There is no exception to that."
"One definition of insanity is to do something for twenty years that has not worked, and then do it again as if it will work."
"To see what you are not is most important. Then what you are will naturally emerge."
"The goal of a good therapist is to help someone wake up from the bad dream that they are their self-image."
"Your thoughts come automatically. It is to the extent you identify with them that they make you their slave. You become the mistress of your thoughts, not when you can control the machine, but when you do not identify with it."
"Emotion will not drive you crazy. What will drive you crazy is the fear of emotion."
Living According to False Beliefs
We all live according to false beliefs. Bringing such beliefs to light is an important step in our deconditioning process. A few random false beliefs:
"Because my father abandoned me when I was a child, I must go through life abandoning the people close to me."
"If I make a mistake, I will die."
"I don't have time to feel what I am feeling, because I have to figure it all out."
"I have to get where I go by suffering."
"When I start to feel good, I must remember to feel bad, because I didn't feel good before."
"Because my mother withheld intimacy from me when I was small, I cannot offer intimacy for the rest of my life."
"If I leave him, I'll die."
"I can't be happy, because if I allow myself to be happy, I might be humiliated."
"I must earn and deserve every good thing I get."
Other People's Expectations
"The only man who behaved sensibly was my tailor; he took my measurement anew every time he saw me, while all the rest went on with their old measurements and expected them to fit me." -- George Bernard Shaw
Turning It Over to Higher Power
"God loves you and He knows all the secrets of your heart...you've allowed the past to come between you and God. Turn the past over to God. He's strong enough to take it. And give Him your future, too....He'll make you strong enough to live it."
The angel Claire, speaking to Jake, a jaded Vietnam vet, in the TV show Touched By An Angel.