I'm one of those strange people who have never had the desire to have or raise children and luckily my wife is also one of those strange people. Some of the reasons for this have been mentioned in another blog post. Despite bearing no offspring I've often thought of some of the lessons I would try to teach to a young child based on my own life experience. The truth is, kids or no kids, I feel like we all have an obligation to pass on some of the hard earned wisdom that has been gained through experience. In theory the human race should be evolving for the better with each generation as the mistakes of the previous ones are avoided and knowledge is passed on. It doesn't appear to be working out quite that neatly but it's a good thought.
Regarding the advice I would give, the first thing that comes to mind can be conveyed in two words.
That's more than a little cliché and too simple to be very interesting but I honestly can't imagine a more important value to instill in our little human beings in the making. If anything will make the world a better place to be, it's more love and kindness. Hat tip to the Beatles for preaching this message to millions of adoring and impressionable fans all over the world - all you need is love.
The problem with my simple advice of "be kind" is that part of just about anyone will be asking, "what's in for me?". Well there is a lot in it for you. There is now scientific evidence proving there is something in it for you, but don't take anyone's word for it, just try it and find out. Be your own scientist. Life is one big experiment. Test the hypothesis and see what you get out of it.
Knowing that there's a part in many of us that will still not have the 'what's in it for me?' feeling satisfied, and intrigued by the challenge of coming up with some less cliché words of wisdom, I'd like to contribute another small nugget.
This one is meant to appeal purely to the sentiment of self-interest but will make being kind and everything else a much easier proposition. Unfortunately I can't summarize this one in two short words or even two long sentences but if I were given the opportunity to tip off a younger version of myself to a concept that would make all of life flow much more easily, this would be it:
There is a part of you that is already whole, happy, peaceful, and perfectly at ease at all points within the wide range of human experience, from the beautiful to the horrifying. Seek out this part of yourself with every ounce of effort you can muster. Pardon another cliché, but look within. Be still and quiet. Take it on faith at first. Just know that it's there and it thrives no matter what life may throw at you; and life will throw many things at you. There will be very low and scary points and also very happy and exciting points, interspersed with periods of boredom or melancholy. The range of human emotions and experiences is vast and there is no escaping the fact that to some degree you will find yourself at every point along that spectrum. Just know there is that part of you that is perfectly at peace and happy regardless of outer circumstances.
Put another way, develop an inner life. Start out with the simple faith that within yourself is this perfectly happy and peaceful awareness that is always present no matter what happens 'out there'. From that starting point seek out this part of yourself. There are many things you can do to progress from faith to firsthand experience. The most effective is to meditate. Learn to be still and quiet and to let all of the mental activity naturally quiet down and become familiar with what remains. Be there for extended periods of time. That's the most direct route.
There are many helpful references that you can consult to assist with this primary objective of cultivating an inner life. Read and absorb the teachings of Jesus, Buddha, and more modern authentic teachers of spirituality like Ramana Maharshi, Nisargadatta, Ramakrishna, Paramahansa Yogananda, and their contemporaries such as Eckhart Tolle, Roy Eugene Davis, and Adyashanti. These are just a few. There are many others, dozens if not hundreds of teachers that essentially have the same message presented in their own unique way. If eastern sounding teachers/teachings turn you off, there are western teachers as well. We all possess a unique set of personality characteristics and some presentations will appeal or click with us better than others. The point is that there are plenty of helpful guides out there if we feel inclined to consult with external sources in our effort to discover this part of ourselves that is always whole, happy, at peace, and untouched by external circumstances.
It isn't necessary to put this in a religious or spiritual context. Religion has discredited itself over the millennia and a number of people are uncomfortable with the idea of spirituality, and if either of those apply to you, just think of it as a psychological exercise. Again, know there is a peaceful and still center within you and find it. The repetition here is intentional because it is the main message and theme of this post and if I could pass anything on to my own children or any that I might influence - this would be it. Adults too. I sincerely feel like it is the most valuable piece of advice that could be offered. It will make every other endeavor that much easier.
This isn't the same as the grand, impossible sounding idea of Spiritual Enlightenment. It's practical and accessible to anyone and doesn't require an excessive amount of intelligence or material wealth. If you can begin to know that part of yourself that is already whole and is untouchable by outer circumstances, it will be an invaluable refuge when times are hard and a necessary grounding force when everything seems to be going perfectly.
In an effort at clarity here are some more characteristics of this part of you that I am referring to; nothing can be subtracted or added to it, it requires no one's approval, it is there in all of it's fullness and wholeness even when everything else seems to be falling apart, it is deeper than any temporary emotion or feeling that you may be experiencing at any point in time, it could be said that it is perfect or flawless. Also: it is always 'there', it is the silent witness to everything happening inside and outside of you, it is unchanging, and it is what you have in common with every other living being in the universe. If any of that sounds too new agey or out there for your personal tastes, just overlook it. I am just trying to outline something and paint a picture and I'm limited by my own personality and perspective. Different adjectives and descriptions may work better for your disposition but the general idea is the same.
Nothing can fully exempt any of us from the perils and fragility of the human experience but what I am describing here can definitely smooth the way. I personally haven't perfected living from the state of consciousness I am referring to but I have enough experience with it to know what I'm talking about and to confidently say it is the most valuable thing I could 'give' to another human being. (You can't give someone something they already have, but you can alert them to the fact that they have it.)
The end result of this pursuit is the intuitive and pervading sense that at all times, in every circumstance, all is well. That doesn't mean all problems go away or that everything will always be perfect on the material or emotional level. It means they don't have to be and you are still okay. All is well. But please do not take my word for it. Experiment and find out for yourself. Be patient but be diligent.
So there it is. My words of wisdom to my non-existent children (or anyone else who's interested).
I could probably tighten this up and make it more concise but this will do for now. Be kind. All is well.