I often say that the ultimate metaphor for life is climbing a mountain, but maybe I'm wrong. Maybe there's no adequate metaphor for life other than itself, or maybe I have it backwards. If you can push your goals to the limits of your resources and ambition, life's long lessons will more than adequately prepare you for any challenge you will find on the side of a mountain. Having just finished a project that took 10 hard years to finish, I look at ongoing projects that have no end in sight until surely my hair is gray. Climbs last a few days, a few weeks, even months. So I ask you this...
How can a mountain possibly be a large enough measuring stick with which to measure the realities of life?
Sometimes we need the most complicated circumstances to teach us the simplest concepts about living. The complication that we call parenthood is part of a grand continuum. The path of a child who is swept up by the heart of a younger child. Soon we are a selfless extension of a purer and sometimes coarser being, our child.
The roll of parent is a vortex of unbelievable pressure and joy, followed by core shattering stress with a final catapult into wisdom if we are lucky.
When we step back and observe our roll as a parent the lessons are of the deepest magnitude. The wisdom that we gain as a parent is an ultimate lesson on how to treat ourselves. If we are inclined it is also a portal to the deepest and most concrete parts of our being.
This a horrible example, but I'll bet most people can connect with this on some level. As my child grows, so do her needs... I buy her the best ski equipment I can find, convinced that better tools equal better performance, which equals more fun. If she has more fun then she will learn faster and this will lead to happiness, right? When I buy a new pair of skis for myself I always wait for the deal of the century on skis that are just "good enough." Of course she will outgrow all of her equipment in two years... Why do I do this for her, but not myself? "Not anymore!"
As a practice, when I am making tough decisions for myself I pretend that I am my own perfect and benevolent father making decisions for me. It changes my decision making process, and every time I go deeper into what, why, when, and how I've let this come to pass. I think this is a great exercise for everybody to do. In the end my daughter has become my mentor, and so the cycle continues.
When your next tough decision comes up try this exercise:
Become your own idealized parent; the parent that you want to be for your children and are ready to stand behind as the best thing. This works even if you aren't a parent. Let your imagination run wild and work for you.
This obviously works for my daughter and I have adapted it to work for me. Let's go to the next level.
Imagine walking down the street and viewing every person as the young or old version of your child. How would you treat them? How you would you view their situation? You'd view them with compassion. You've already experienced the power of compassion for your child, and then for yourself, imagine the world you will create by using the technique to create compassion for everyone you meet.