Editor’s note: Meet Nadia Ballas-Ruta. Nadia is author of the bountiful blog, Happy Lotus, and her super skill is spirituality. She was trained by a Buddhist master and this turned out to be one of her most powerful, life changing events. Nadia fondly recalls this as meeting her Master Yoda, the way Luke Skywalker did in Star Wars.
As a seeker of the “best of the best”, I challenged Nadia to share her best lessons learned in spirituality, top-10-style, with readers of Sources of Insight. She responded to the challenge with a great distillation of her best lessons learned. Without further ado, here’s Nadia’s guest post on her top 10 lessons learned in spirituality …
In Eastern thought, the lotus flower is used to symbolize the journey that we all take in life. Lotus flowers grow in the mud which represents all the experiences we have to endure. Eventually, the lotus manages to push through the mud and emerge above the water and then blossom in full bloom. This is said to represent the fact that life is a process of gaining wisdom. This also represents the journey that came to be my life.
When I was five years old, my father told me about how he and my mother were married. They were from two very different religions and that is one reason why they came to America.
He went on to tell me that all religions were one and that God loved everyone. He said every person was equal and that there was no one group of people who were superior to another.
I remember this event as if it were yesterday. I was surprised at how serious he was because everything he told me made total sense. He ended the discussion by saying that they were not going to force any particular religion on me. I was free to pick whichever religion felt right.
Little did I know that not every child is raised with such open-minded parents.
This lack of a religion became a problem once I went to school. I realized that many people identified themselves by their faith. I could not relate on any level. I just saw everyone as one and it struck me as strange when I would hear racist comments or prejudiced statements.
When I was in my early twenties, various circumstances arose which made it very clear that I needed to figure out the whole religion issue. Thus began an intense spiritual journey that changed my life on so many levels which included traveling the world, going to law school and almost becoming a Buddhist nun.
Yes, I almost became a nun. For some reason or another, I was discovered by a Buddhist monk at a very dark time in my life. He took me under his wing and taught me a lot about Eastern thought, life and the human spirit.
I was offered the rare experience of being initiated. Many people wait for years to be given such an honor but I was asked within months of meeting my teacher. I happily accepted and seriously considered being a nun.
Even though I loved my studies, I knew in my heart that the monastic path was not ideal for me. I was ready to give up all material aspects of life but I was not ready to give up on the experience of being married. So I left that path and continued on my way. However, that experience laid the foundation for me and changed how I looked at life.
Top 10 Lessons Learned in Spirituality
Here are my top ten lessons (not in any particular order) learned as a result of my wonderful journey:
- Lesson One: People are more alike than you may think
- Lesson Two: Life is what you make out of it
- Lesson Three: People are mirrors for one another
- Lesson Four: Fear is poison
- Lesson Five: Life is about love
- Lesson Six: People do things for a reason
- Lesson Seven: You are God
- Lesson Eight: People cause evil to exist & people give themselves away
- Lesson Nine: Be present
- Lesson Ten: Everything you do is an extension of you
Lesson One: People are more alike than you may think
One of the great things about traveling the world is that you begin to notice that people basically want the same things out of life, regardless of where they live. A mother in India wants the same things for her children as a mother in America and as a mother in Russia. Human beings all want to be loved, to be safe, to be healthy, to have shelter, to have food to eat and so on. Sometimes we get so focused on the exterior differences that we forget that all of us share 99.99% of the same DNA. We are more alike than we are different. When we begin to recognize that we are more alike than different, we start to notice that there is no justification for thinking that one group of people is superior to another. We are all brothers and sisters looking to find meaning in life.
Lesson Two: Life is what you make out of it
There is no set formula to what makes a successful life. For life is what you make out of it. Often people think that there are certain "shoulds" of how to live. People kill themselves to fit into a mold that they think is necessary. The beauty is that there is no mold. We each have the ability to live a life that is based on how we feel and see things. As much as we are all alike, we are also unique in our talents and skills. We cannot have a cookie cutter approach to living. There are no limitations to what a person can achieve. The minute we free ourselves from self-imposed limitations, we are free to achieve anything we want.
Lesson Three: People are mirrors for one another
Ken Wilbur states that when we see something in another person and react to it emotionally, what we see in that person is a reflection of what we know exists within ourselves. He also states that if we observe something in another without an emotional reaction, then that is just an observation. The first time I learned this, I was defensive for I felt all my criticisms of others were justified. I then began to dig deep and realized that there is a lot of truth to the idea that people are mirrors for one another. When we react to hate in another, it is a reflection of the hate that lives within us. When we judge someone for being full of it, then that is a reflection of the idea that maybe we know we are full of arrogance too. However, if you see beauty in another, it is a reflection of your beauty too. See someone as graceful and that means there is an element of grace within you. Sounds simple but this one lesson is very powerful in personal growth.
Lesson Four: Fear is poison
Fear is poison because it is so limiting. The motivation behind most human drama is rooted in fear. Racism is a manifestation of fear as is violence. People act as if there are limited resources in the world and we are all in a race to get these limited resources. We even have a phrase to describe this behavior: “it’s a dog-eat-dog world". I do not know about you but I think that is a sick mentality. The world is abundant…we just have directed our attention to what we think is lacking. There is no boogey man who is out to get you. The only person who gets in your way is you and your ego. The ego speaks the language of fear and that is what motivates it at every moment. We are afraid of not being good enough…there is no reason to feel that way. You are good enough…you just think you are not. Fear is the poison that keeps us stuck.
Lesson Five: Life is about love
Being that fear is poison, love is the antidote for life is all about love. The love I am referring to is not the erotic or romantic love that movies and songs focus upon. The love I am talking about is unconditional love. When I was a teenager, I had a “near death” experience. It was an amazing event for it proved to me that there was life after we pass from this world. The love that I felt was unlike anything I had ever felt on earth. The Universe/God/The Force operates from a perspective of love and mercy. Nothing gets in the way of love. Fear is a powerful emotion but love is even more powerful. Love is what enables people to perform miracles and wonders.
Lesson Six: People do things for a reason
When I was in law school, I realized that any given situation viewed by ten different people will generate ten different accounts of what happened. And each of those ten versions will be correct. This one realization then led to the awareness that people do things for a reason. No one intentionally does something out of stupidity. The best example of this is in the book Crime And Punishment by Dostoevsky. Instead of condemning someone for what they do, try to understand why they do what they do. Often, when we understand why someone behaves in the manner that they do, it enables us to feel compassion for them and understand them better. It allows us to be able to help them because we can understand their perception of reality. Judgment is never a good thing and only causes more pain.
Lesson Seven: You are God
For the record, I believe that there is a Higher Power at work at all times. That said, I also have come to learn that we each have a spark of the Divine inside of us. What does this mean? This means that you are the creator and destroyer of your reality. Everything you do creates a ripple effect. No action goes unnoticed. We have the power to decide how to experience life. We can either experience it with love and joy or with misery. We all have suffered and we all have had our share of pain. The key is to take those experiences and learn from them. We are here to grow and learn. We are not meant to be stuck and lament about our misery at all times. We have the power to create our reality. So choose wisely at all times.
Lesson Eight: People cause evil to exist & people give themselves away
People often say that if there was a God, then why do bad things happen? Well…the answer is simple. We allow those things to happen. Take for example the Holocaust; people knew what was happening in the camps but did nothing to stop it. God did not allow that tragedy to occur, human beings allowed it to take place. Bad things happen because people do nothing to prevent bad acts from happening. There was a story some months ago about a young woman being gang raped while people watched. Did God allow that to happen? No, the people who stood by and did nothing allowed that to happen. People want free will but free will comes with a cost…it is called responsibility. You want the world to be a more loving place, then be more loving.
The second part of this lesson is that people give themselves away. If you pay attention to someone when they talk or do anything, you can learn a lot about them from their actions. Some cues are subtle and others, obvious. If you want to truly know someone, listen to them and pay attention to everything. Their actions will speak volumes about who they are. Friends often joke that I am psychic because I can read a person very well. I am not psychic, I just pay attention to all the behavior.
Lesson Nine: Be present
The past can never be changed and the future is unknown. So all you have is the moment and to make the best out of the moment, you just have to be present. That means making the most out of every minute of the day. Be fully engaged in whatever you are doing. For how you handle this moment will determine the next moment. There is no need to waste time on things you cannot control. All you can control is the now so just be present.
Lesson Ten: Everything you do is an extension of you
As I mentioned in lesson eight, people give themselves away. Lesson ten expands on that concept because the way you spend your time is an extension of who you are. If you surround yourself with people that are not reflective of your truth, no one knows that except you. The company we keep and the actions we do reflect who we are. If you do not like the company you are in, ask yourself why. People often give their best to things that matter most to them. Many people compartmentalize their life. I used to do this too but then I realized that no matter where I go, I take myself with me. Your actions speak about who you are. You can be the most wonderful human being but if you do not act like it when in public or in the work you do, no one will know how wonderful you are except you. Don’t save your best behavior for a special occasion. Each moment is a special occasion…so be your best at all times. Oprah says that "luck is when opportunity meets preparation". No one is going to know how prepared you are if you are not being your best at every moment or surrounded with an environment that is reflective of your awesomeness.
Special thanks to J.D. for giving me a chance to be featured here. This post has been so much fun to write. It was hard to pick just ten lessons since there are so many wonderful things I have been fortunate to learn. I hope this helps and gets you started on living a life that you love.