7 Life Lessons from 7 Religions

Ash Jurberg

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History has been dominated by religious conflicts. War, terrorism, racism — all based on differing beliefs and ideologies.

However, I believe there is a lot to learn from different religions for each one can offer sage advice and an opportunity to learn. Instead of focusing on the differences, we should embrace the opportunity to learn from a variety of faiths.

Mahatma Gandhi said it best when he was asked if he was a Hindi:

“Yes I am, I am also a Muslim, a Christian, a Buddhist, and a Jew.”

I thought it would be interesting to follow Gandhi’s advice and take one lesson from seven different religions. To demonstrate how we can learn from each of them and apply them to our own lives, and maybe have a tiny bit of each faith guiding us.

1. Judaism

”A person should always [take care] not cast his thoughts backwards [to the past], for his eyes are placed on his face and not his back.” — The Talmud

The world’s oldest religion has a lot of wisdom to share. This phrase stands out for me from the Talmud as a reminder of the value of looking forward without dwelling too much on the past, or even the present. Never before has this been more relevant as the world is suffering through a global pandemic. The year has been a challenge; the present is tough. Therefore the future is what we need to hold on to.

On a more micro level, if something bad happens in the past, we should reflect on and learn from it and move forward. This is known as resilience. Too many of us wallow in despair at things that have gone wrong. Our focus is on the rearview mirror rather than the road ahead.

A more modern-day spin on this is from Oasis — “don’t look back in anger.”

We should look to the future with positivity — it’s an opportunity to try new things and leave the past in the past.

Putting this into practice:

Learn from past mistakes and grow from them. Build resilience by implementing the learnings into future actions and endeavours.

Let go of past misfortunes and look to the future. Why dwell on the past when you have the rest of your life in front of you?

2. Christianity

“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? ” — Luke 12:25–26

I suffer from anxiety. Many a long night, I have spent tossing and turning, worrying about work, thinking about what emails are landing in my mailbox and await when I wake up. It was ruining my mental health and my relationships. It took me a long time to address this and focus on reducing my stress.

The fact is most people worry for no reason. Studies show that about 85% of the things we worry about don’t eventuate. So there is no need at all to worry about them. Stress-related emotions release cortisol into the system. Cortisol lowers the production of lymphocytes, thus negatively affecting the immune system, which leaves the doors open for the disease to walk in. We can literally worry ourselves sick.

Often we worry about things that we have no control over. It can be hard to simply say, “don’t worry, be happy,” but its a mantra that can bring positive benefits.

Putting this into practice:

Worry only leads to negative consequences, so we need to put positive thoughts into our minds. Remove the worry.

For me, I practise mindful meditation for five minutes every day. Twelve months ago, I would have dismissed this as “hippy nonsense”, but it has helped manage my anxiety. Five minutes is something that can be managed every day, and it allows me to calm my mind and focus on what is going on around me.

I also take the time to journal at night before going to sleep. Just a few minutes writing anything that may be on my mind and releasing them before going to sleep. Writing my worries away.

A small practice like this can have significant benefits — it has certainly helped me tremendously in managing my anxiety.

3. Islam

“And him who seeks thy help chide not.” — Quran 93:10

There is often an unfair stigma attached to asking for help, and that it is somehow considered a sign of weakness. An admission of a struggle that cant be overcome. It is borne out of the survival of the fittest mentality. The weak shall perish.

This premise is false. To ask someone for help is actually a sign of strength. It is brave to recognize that you need assistance and to reach out to another person to ask for help. Life is not a competition; there aren’t medals awarded to those who win at life. To me, it is a team sport, and as a team, we should be offering help to each other.

I am a writer and have dedicated myself to writing over the last six months. What I have found is that the writing community are perhaps the most supportive community I have been a part of. There are groups where writers assist each other, offer feedback and support. It’s an encouraging environment where if another writer asks for help, it is received.

I have worked in other environments where it’s a race to the death and everyone is seen as competition. The quality of my work suffered as the pressure was intense, and I felt I failed when others succeeded. Now I gain joy if a writer I have helped finds their own success.

Of even greater importance is asking for help with personal challenges. I am a big advocate of mental health and believe there is nothing we need to do more than offer assistance to anyone going through mental health issues. Too often, people don’t speak up as they are embarrassed or too proud. This is slowly changing as the importance of mental health is recognized, but I encourage anyone who is suffering from issues to ask for health. And for those that are asked — to embrace the person that has reached out to you.

Putting this into practice:

In 2020, the mantra “we are all in this together,” is overplayed. But it is so true. We should all be asking for help. And we should all relish the opportunity to provide support where required.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. And see it as an honor to be asked to provide assistance.

4. Buddhism

“If anything is worth doing, do it with all your heart.” — Buddha in the Dhammapada

This is something that I try to impart to my young children. The need to give 100% to everything they endeavour. When a task is approached half-heartedly the results will reflect this. Failure or success may often be out of our hands, but giving our all is always determined by us.

Jack Canfield, author of Chicken Soup for the Soul, sums it up with his 100% principle, “successful people adhere to the ‘no exceptions rule’ when it comes to their daily disciplines. Once you make a 100-per cent commitment to something, there are no exceptions.” He doesn’t just say this; he lives it. One hundred forty-four publishers rejected his book, but he didn’t give up. He invested his heart and (chicken soup filled) soul into his book, and it was finally accepted.

Putting this into practice:

Give your all to your endeavours. Use this simple mantra. Do it properly or don’t do it at all. If you feel you can’t give your all to a task, a project or a goal, then don’t commence it.

But when you do start make sure you are investing 100% of your potential into it. It’s a non-negotiable. Would you accept a 99% landing success rate if you were on a plane? Of course not. You’d want 100%. Same goes for your potential. Don’t settle for anything less than 100%,

Find your passion and promise yourself to apply the 100% rule towards it.

5. Hinduism

“Set thy heart upon thy work, but never on its reward.” — The Bhagavad Gita

To me, this is about relieving pressure from ourselves. When I commenced writing, I was focused purely on how much money I could earn. This became a significant burden on my shoulders and not only detracted from the enjoyment of writing but made me struggle to come up with ideas. I was too focused on what my writing would achieve rather than process and quality of the writing. With that burden removed, my mind was free, and the work became enjoyable and more rewarding. I felt liberated by removing a financial goal from my effort.

On a larger scale, let’s return to Gandhi. When he was working on liberating his country from the United Kingdom, he said, “He who is always brooding over results often loses nerve in the performance of his duty. He becomes impatient and then gives vent to anger and begins to do unworthy things; he jumps from action to action, never remaining faithful to any.”

Here, Gandhi infers that the result of focusing on gain leads to rash decisions and unnecessary suffering. Judgement is clouded, and a process is not followed.

Putting this into practice:

Although we all like rewards, we should focus first on the process of our work. We need to take enjoyment from the process and not just the outcome.

As an example, if you want to lose weight and take up running, you need to focus on the running. Taking enjoyment from the run. Maybe it's the fresh air, or listening to music, or getting off your computer. All of these will motivate you to run more. If you are focused solely on losing the pounds then running will become a chore and your performance will suffer.

So whether it is running, or writing, or your job, put your heart into the task at hand.

6. Taoism

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” — Dao De Jing, by Lao Tzu

This quote is often incorrectly attributed to Confucius — a wise philosopher himself. It originates in Taoism and is an oft-quoted sentence.

It highlights that any goal or project may seem large, but it can be broken down into smaller goals. Most importantly, it needs to be started. Too often we are confronted with a seemingly impossible task or one that is so far out of reach that it is easy to just forget about it.

As a writer, I often sit in front of my laptop with a blank page and the cursor flashing at me, seemingly to taunt me to write. It can be daunting to come up with an article. But as soon as I write that first sentence, it becomes a paragraph, and then a draft and finally a finished article. The most formidable challenge is that first sentence. After that, I find my flow.

Taking the first step on a journey doesn’t guarantee success, but at least it generates momentum. And for a journey of a thousand steps, momentum is what you need

Putting this into practice:

We all have big goals that we want to accomplish. To make them less daunting, break them down into smaller goals.

If you want to run a marathon, start with your first one-mile jog. If you want to learn to speak Mandarin, start with just a few words. It is too easy to say I will never learn Mandarin and not attempt it. But if you say, my goal is to learn twenty words; then it’s not so hard. Soon twenty becomes fifty, which becomes 200, and so on.

Never say something is too hard until you have at least taken that first step. After you have read this, take the first step towards one of your goals. It may be as simple a phone call, an email, or research, but it will be one step further than where you are now.

7. Sikhism

“By conquering your mind, you can conquer the world.” — Guru Nanak

We see what we think. The first step listed above was not to worry, the next step is the power of positive thinking.

One of the leading proponents of positive thinking is motivational speaker Tony Robbins. He says, “positive thinking is an emotional and mental attitude that focuses on the good and expects results that will benefit you.” This is an expansion of the philosophy of Guru Nanak. If you train your mind to expect good things, then good things will happen.

Saying positive affirmations around self-belief can help reduce stress and create a positive cycle.

Putting this into practice:

Say three positive affirmations every day. Simple things like:

Whatever is happening now is happening for my greatest good.

Today is a beautiful day.

I am at peace.

Train your mind to be positive and to expect the best.

The Takeaway

No matter what religion you follow, or even if you are an atheist or agnostic, you can always put these powerful messages into practice.

The fact that these words have lived on some for thousands of years and provided comfort and guidance to millions of people proves that they are powerful.

I am not a religious person at all but honestly believe we can all learn a little by opening our minds to all religions and seeing what resonates with us from them. The ideologies and deities of these religions may differ, but the one thing they have in common is the core principle of providing wisdom and a framework for a better life.

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