The Graduation Speech We’d Like to Give (Part II)

The Graduation Speech We’d Like to Give (Part II) May 24, 2013
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Several times this week we’ve passed little groups of people in graduation garb taking pictures in front of New York monuments. Beaming friends and families were looking on. We congratulate them — and others graduating in the days to come — on completing this stage of their education. Here’s Part II of the graduation speech we’d like to share with them. Part I, published last week, covered “wisdom to go” in the form of proverbs and pith instructions. Here’s more.

Mind Training Slogans

Also from Buddhism comes wisdom to go in the form of mind-training slogans. In Training the Mind and Cultivating Loving-Kindness, Chogyam Trungpa, one of the great Tibetan masters of meditation, presents 59 slogans which have been used for centuries to engender loving-kindness. They are designed as exercises to reverse the ego and all its campaigns to keep us focused on self-absorption. Here are three of the slogans:

• “Be grateful to everyone” challenges us to see how dependent we are on others, even difficult people who can teach us patience and empathy.

• “Abandon any hope of fruition” is a slogan that advises us to stop trying to control the future or acting so as to insure that things go our way.

• “Don’t expect applause” goes against the cultural shibboleth of winning and admonishes us to not take credit for making things happen.

12 Step Sayings

Meeting Wisdom: Tap into the Wisdom and Insight of Thousands of 12 Step Meetings in a Single Book by Brian L. contains his favorite slogans picked up in 12 Step programs and tried out in everyday life. You don’t need to be dealing with an addiction to find these short sparks of wisdom helpful. Turn to them whenever you are facing a challenge that requires courage, patience, and perseverance.

Here are three examples from Brian L:

• “Everything can go wrong today and I will still be okay” offers a note of encouragement when we are disheartened by setbacks and feel like giving up.

• “Visualize yourself getting out of the Director’s chair” is a clever way of surrendering the idea that we can control everything.

• “Whenever you have a problem, you will always find your fingerprints on it” is a reminder that we must take sole ownership of our problems and mistakes. Playing victim and blaming our problems on others is a dead end street.


Last but not least we have aphorisms which are defined as catchy observations that contain a general truth. Under this wide umbrella we can find many different kinds of wisdom from sayings of famous writers and spiritual teachers to playful observations that at one time or another have held the public’s fancy. Here are three examples of both genres:

• “Work of the eyes is done/ Now go and do heart work” from poet Rainer Marie Rilke wisely advices that we all do inner work to fulfill our potential as rounded and creative human beings.

• “To be impatient is to be hooked on the future” is a right-on-target observation by psychologist and spiritual teacher Gerald Jampolsky about how we miss the gifts in the present moment when we focus on tomorrow.

• “Maybe so” is a favorite saying of Buddhist Zen master Suzuki Roshi who liked to emphasize the “don’t know” dimensions of everyday life.

And here are three popular saying with no specific authors:

• “Drink it all in” helps us stay fully present and be open to what unfolds within us and around us.

• “Don’t look back” carries with it a warning against getting hooked on yesterday and past events and experiences.

• “A good time was had by all” celebrates those magical moments where everyone is pleased with what happened at a party, meeting, or social get-together.

The seeds of wisdom are found in everything that life brings our way from good to bad experiences, from failures and successes, and from all our relationships. Wisdom is one of life’s grandest gifts but we have to keep our eyes open and our hearts and minds responsive to her comings.

When we practice this wisdom, it becomes like a flower, giving out a fragrance that is so alluring that we want to return again and again to re-experience the scent, the sweetness, and the beauty.

As graduates, you are all already on the path of wisdom. There is no turning back. Come join the rest of us on this continuing quest. Plant the seeds. Pick up the scents. And use these out-of-the-box teachings to transform your life.

Thank you and bon voyage to those traveling with wisdom to go!

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