My rating: 5 of 5 stars
If Life is a Game, These are the Rules (1998) by Chérie Carter-Scott was first introduced as “Ten Rules for Being Human” in Chicken Soup for the Soul and has since spread its wisdom across the globe. The sage-like advice at times is simple and filled with common sense while at other times it penetrates deep into the soul of the human being capable of mindless mistakes or proactive change.
“While reading this book,” writes Chérie, “you will begin to see your life from a whole new perspective. If you embrace the principles in this book, I promise you that your life will magically transform, and that you will learn the secrets to manifesting your heart’s desire” (p xiii-xiv).
Chérie continues to explain that these “rules” are more advice than mandates and are in no way a cure-all or an anodyne for life.
“The Ten Rules for Being Human are not magic,” explains Chérie, “nor do they promise ten easy steps to serenity. They offer no quick fix for emotional or spiritual ailments, and they are not fast-track secrets to enlightenment. Their only purpose is to give you a road map to follow as you travel your path of spiritual growth” (p 6).
And a road map they do provide for those dark nights and rainy days where the universe has turned your world upside down and seems to laugh at you for your mistakes. Sometimes we seek answers where none can be found, and sometimes we find answers without ever having to seek them.
Below is a quick overview of the first three rules for being human. Let’s begin.
Rule One: “You Will Receive a Body: You may love it or hate it, but it will be yours for the duration of your life on Earth” (p 7).
“The moment you arrived here on this Earth,” writes Chérie, “you were given a body in which to house your spiritual essence. The real ‘you’ is stored inside this body—all hopes, dreams, fears, thoughts, expectations, and beliefs that make you the unique human that you are. Though you will travel through your entire lifetime together, you and your body will always remain two separate and distinct entities” (p 7).
This first rule surprised me to say the least because in fact most people do forget that the body is but a bridge from the seen world to the unseen. Inside our bodies we hold all the power of the universe. If God is in fact “love,” and our bodies in fact can create “love,” then are we not creators of God? Or if not creators, then we are at the very least responsible for sharing God/Love with the rest of the world. Just as our bodies are capable of terrific evil, so our bodies are filled with the possibilities of wonderful good.
“Respect carries reciprocal energy,” explains Chérie. “Your body will honor you when you honor it. Treat your body as a structure worthy of respect and it will respond in kind” (p 18).
This can be taken in many ways, but for the most part it stands true. Exercise and good health are the cornerstone to a happy, successful life. Far too often we fail to honor our bodies, the very thing that houses the soul, a spirit capable of great compassion, integrity, sincerity, kindness, joy, and above all, love.
Rule Two: “You will be Presented with Lessons: You are enrolled in a full-time informal school called ‘life.’ Each day in this school you will have the opportunity to learn lessons. You may like the lessons or hate them, but you have designed them as part of your curriculum” (p 24).
What is fascinating about this rule is that it reminds us to remember that with the good times and the bad times there are lessons to be learned. This actually reminds me of a story about Ryan.
Once there was a young man named Ryan who fell deeply and madly in love with a young woman named Sharon. For three months they had a tremendous time getting to know each other until Ryan grew distant and ended up accidentally hurting Sharon by sending an all-too honest, yet hurtful, email. Sharon interpreted the email incorrectly and Ryan suffered the cruel hand of fate when Sharon pulled away and both forever lost contact. Ryan, in essence, had to learn a lesson in life, about himself, about commitment, about the opposite sex, and about how to deal with his own emotions. As Ryan found out, some lessons are like being branded with a hot iron. But for him it was necessary.
“Every person has his or her own purpose and distinct path,” explains Chérie, “unique and separate from anyone else’s. As you travel your life path, you will be presented with numerous lessons that you will need to learn in order to fulfill that purpose. The lessons you are presented with are specific to you; learning these lessons is the key to discovering and fulfilling the meaning and relevance of your own life.
“Once you have learned the basic lessons taught to you by your own body, you are ready for a more advanced teacher: the universe” (p 24-25).
Long ago I walked away from an ordinary life working ten hours a day in Capital One Bank to travel and explore the world and find my destiny. In truth, I walked away just two years before the American economy collapsed, and everyone at the bank knew it was going to happen. From then on I began listening to the Universe and trusting myself in ways I never thought possible, and it led me down some amazing roads of self-discovery and fulfilment. Most of my dreams have come true, but there are a few more still waiting. But, alas, I follow the Universe and trust these dreams will one day come true as well.
“In the state of grace,” writes Chérie, “you trust in yourself and the universe. You can celebrate other people’s blessings, knowing that their gifts are right and appropriate for them and that the universe has your gift right around the corner” (p 36).
Celebrate life by celebrating each other, and then perhaps positive emotions can spread through the world and overpower those negative emotions like greed, jealousy and anger.
And yes, I do hope that one special gift is waiting “around the corner,” as do we all.
Rule Three: “There are no Mistakes, Only Lessons: Growth is a process of experimentation, a series of trials and errors, and occasional victories. The failed experiments are as much a part of the process as the experiments that work” (p 37).
We must remember that no one is perfect, and that we are all a work in progress. We have our good days and we have our bad days. The people we surround ourselves with should know that we are not perfect, that we can be less than perfect, that some days are better than others, that sometimes we need to vent and get angry at ourselves and the world, and that other days we celebrate life in all its wonderment. No. We are not perfect creatures. We make mistakes. We can only hope that our loved ones can understand this. And if they cannot, we too must remember that they are not perfect and forgive them just as much as we are in need of forgiveness. Such is the truth of our own imperfections.
“Rather than viewing your own mistakes as failures and others’ mistakes as slights,” explains Chérie, “you can view them as opportunities to learn. As Emerson said, ‘Every calamity is a spur and a valuable hint.’ Every situation which you do not live up to your own expectations is an opportunity to learn something important about your own thoughts and behaviors…
“When you consider the hardships of life—the disappointments, hurts, losses, illnesses, all the tragedies you may suffer—and shift your perception to see them as opportunities for learning and growth, you become empowered. You can take charge of your life and rise to its challenge, instead of feeling defeated, victimized, or cast adrift” (p 38).
Take charge of your own mistakes and imperfections and begin to see them as opportunities to grow in ways you never thought possible. God knows I have. And you will, in the end, be the better person for it.
“The secret to learning to open your heart is the willingness to connect to your essence and the essence of the person you are judging. From there, the magic of compassion opens limitless doors to human connection” (p 43).
Far too often I come across people who would rather hold on to resentments, hate and scorn, rather than trying to hear the other person out without judgment and try and reconcile differences based on truth rather than assumptions and false pretenses and lies. Compassion means to open ourselves up so that we might be able to forgive and understand what is going on in the people and world around us. But some people enjoy holding on to resentment and remain silent as if it holds some sort of power over others.
In true sadness, silence is only silence. There is no power there. Many people I have met in this world enjoy playing “power games,” and these games I simply walk away from. I have no desire to play games with the hearts and minds of the people of this world. I am not perfect. I understand this. But when I am imperfect and I make a mistake, I admit as much and seek reconcilement, to seek forgiveness and understanding, to seek love. I watch people, especially those of family and friends and lovers who once confess their great love and honor to you, only to turn into a complete stranger…and it’s all because of those “power games” of the spirit, of the heart and mind men and women like to play. There is no power in these games because in the end everyone gets hurt. I don’t know. I just could never play these kinds of games very well, nor do I wish ever to do so.
“If you choose compassion, you need to move the judgment from its position in your mind down into the emotional realm of your heart. It is there that you can try on what it would feel like to be that person you are judging and imagine putting yourself in her reality. This will connect you to her essence and evaporate the judgment encrusted around your heart” (44).
Chérie goes on to tell a story of how Nicki was molested as a child by a much older man and fifteen years later while Nicki was working as social worker, she came across the same sex offender who was still in need of rehabilitation. One can only imagine her horror and pain to have to relive such horrific memories when faced with the past and the very man still abusing children. But the fact remained: Nicki knew that this man was “deeply troubled and needed to be helped,” so she forgave him and felt compassion in order to try and help this dreadful soul and stop the cycle of abuse he inflicted on small children (p 44-45).
“By connecting to her essence, she allowed herself to imagine the pain this man must have been in that caused him to behave the way he did; it was by imagining herself in his reality that she was able to release her judgments and move into compassion” (45).
Compassion. Now isn’t that the word for today.
“When your external actions reflect your internal code,” writes Chérie, “you are in alignment with your morality. This is how an individual gains integrity” (52).
And as far as I’m concerned, integrity is missing in many parts of the world and in many dark places that fill the hearts, the minds and spirits of men and women and children. Integrity is a valuable gift to yourself and should never be taken lightly, and from there character is born. Now that’s a lasting gift, to yourself and to the world.