Here's what I consider the most important part of the preface, the realizations I had at my retreat, and the conclusion I drew from them.
Equanimity to Outcome
The core tenant of Buddhism is equanimity. That is non-attachment to outcomes. People confuse it with giving up trying, not having any passions or goals, not loving anyone, doing nothing but sitting in a room and meditating. Not at all! In fact quite the opposite. Have goals! Be passionate about them! Have high confidence in others, and especially myself, believe I am capable of achieving anything I set my mind to, and think best of others - that they will do what's right and help me do what I'm meant to do. Love everyone and love them fully and unconditionally!
Most importantly I should love myself unconditionally and forgive myself for any mistake quickly and fully.
Sure this sounds like a truism, but when I really meditate on the meaning of this, once I truly understand what this means, it's perhaps the most profound truth of how to operate in this world.
In fact here's a parable someone told me to illustrate the point:
A farmer accidentally left his barn door open one night. The next morning he comes to his barn, to find his horse ran away! His neighbor learns about this and says "Man...that really sucks.". The farmer replies "Maybe...who knows if this is good or bad". The neighbor is puzzled. How could his horse running away possibly be a good thing? Well, the next day the farmers' horse returns to the barn, looking for food, and along with him brings an entire herd of wild horses! The neighbor says "What amazing luck!" to which the farmer replies "Maybe...who knows if this is good or bad". Again the neighbor is puzzled. How could this possibly be a bad thing? You went from owning 1 horse to owning a herd. Well, the next day, the farmer's son rode the wild horses, and broke his leg. The neighbor exclaims "What terrible luck!". The farmer replies "Maybe...who knows if this is good or bad". The next day, there is an army draft, and the farmer's son is exempt from duty. The neighbor again exclaims "Incredible! This is amazing luck! What are the chances?", to which the farmer replies "Maybe...who knows if this is good or bad"
Trust In Myself, Forgive Myself, and Practice Loving Kindness and Compassion
The root of what caused this change was trusting myself, forgiving myself, and treating myself with loving kindness and compassion.
My whole life I placed unreasonably high expectations for what I considered "success". Growing up, everyone called me "the next Bill Gates", that I would "create the next Facebook". And that's what I expected of myself for most of my life. Anything less, and I was a failure. And this applied to every area of my life -- relationships, sports, hobbies. If I wasn't the best (which inevitably I never was) I was a failure. No matter what I achieved in my life, in my career, it was never enough.
Starved for others' approval, I continued to try to prove myself. But my confidence in my abilities fell. I blamed myself for my mistakes and ultimately felt that I was not worthy of love.
The last few years, this started changing, slowly. As my coworkers at HOVER and my boss, Kerry, started trusting me more, I regained confidence in my skills. As my friends and significant others showed me unconditional love, I started loving myself. And as others showed me that mistakes, even big ones, are part of the process, I began forgiving myself for those mistakes.
At MAPLE, I realized something important: no matter how much others try to help me, it start with me.
- I must trust myself, completely. I must trust, that no matter how difficult or insurmountable the challenges I face, I will persevere. Usually not in the way I think. But if I trust myself, and God/the Universe, a much better solution appears
- I must forgive myself, no matter the size of my mistake
- I must treat myself with loving kindness and compassion. Don't force myself to do things I don't want to do, or be things I don't want to be. I don't need to be anyone or anything. I'm perfect.
Focus On What I Should Do
Most self-help books present their advice as "You should X" "You shouldn't do Y". In fact that's how I started writing this list, giving advice on what YOU should be doing. And upon contemplating this section, I realized the hypocrisy in what I was doing.
I learned that I should focus on what I can do, not what others should do. The only thing I really have control over is my own actions. If others are meant to help me with my agenda, they will do it with no convincing.
I spent most of my life trying to convince, or even coerce others in doing something I want. I love to give advice, show that my way is the way. In reality, this is rarely the case. If others are meant to benefit from my knowledge, they will simply look at what I do, and do the same. Or they will ask, and I will tell them what works for me.
I should put information about my views and opinions out there, but not force it on anyone, or try to convince them that it is the way to do something. They will decide for themselves if what I put out there matters.
Over the last few years, I started becoming more mindful, and realizing that I should relax my expectations on myself. But at MAPLE, I had an important revelation:
I shouldn't be setting ANY expectations for anyone, most importantly myself. I should just try my best and whatever happens, was meant to happen.
I should have no expectations for the results of anything I do (or others do). Sure have goals, hopes, but treat them as a direction I'm going in. I should enjoy the journey. Try my best. Trust others.
Really, in the long run it does not matter what the result is. If I don't achieve my goals I'm not a failure. If I make a terrible mistake, it's fine, it was meant to be. It's part of my growth, it's part of my story.
The next hour flew by. Almost as if it was coming from something outside of me - I started understanding why InfraGen wasn't coming along as I'd hoped.
No Qualifications for Self Love
I should have no qualifications for loving myself. I don't have to be rich or smart or good at something. I are intrinsically worthy of self love (and others' love) no matter who I am or what I do, whether I'm a Wall St CEO or a serial killer on death row.
This is different from hedonism, the act of indulging myself with whatever material pleasure crosses my mind. In fact quite the opposite I should aim to do good, try my best, and most important follow my conscience.
However, when I inevitably make a mistake or slip up. No matter how "bad" or "evil" or "wrong" it was, I should not blame myself. It's done. I should learn from it and move forward.
They're Not Out to Get You, They're Out to Help You
The above sections mostly talk about myself, how I should treat and view myself. This last principle is all about my relationship with others.
At many points of my life, I felt as if the world was out to get me. I rejected all criticism, saying: "No! I know that I'm right", "That doesn't apply to me!", "They're just jealous", "They're just trying to hurt my feelings".
I felt threatened when programmers presented ideas different from mine. I had to be right!! Because if I was wrong then I am not valuable. And if I'm not valuable then I don't deserve to be loved.
This kind of mentality is quite toxic. It linked my value to my ideas.
Once I started accepting No Qualification for Self Love I no longer had to do anything or be anything to have value. And in fact, once I started applying the principles above, and stopped believing in a me vs them world, people gravitated towards me! I noticed that they started helping me without them asking, being my friends without any effort on my part. It just became easy!