Note: You can read the first part of this post here.

One of the recurring themes most spiritual teachers emphasize is gratitude, and Dr. Dyer is no exception. He reminded us to live with gratitude every day of our lives. How many of us go through life feeling sad and depressed for what we don’t have? How many of us wake up every day and think “thank you” before we even get out of bed? Try saying and feeling “thank you”. It is one of the most transformational exercises you can practice.

Much of the Tao encourages us to live our lives by imitating how nature acts. When faced with the topic of flexibility, Dyer looked to the palm trees and the water in Maui, the island where he lives. Palm trees sway to and fro with the wind, bending at impressive angles and thus avoiding the perils of snapping in half. Dyer suggests we live our lives like palm trees, being flexible with our thoughts and ideas. “It’s OK to say ‘I don’t know’,” he encourages. “It’s also OK to change your mind”. These two ideas should come as a relief to those of us who feel incarcerated by our decisions and pressured by the need to have the right answers.

When you learn to be flexible, you learn to release control over many aspects of your life. Dyer again takes an example from nature. If you try to grasp water in your fist, you’ll never succeed. The liquid will run through your fingers and trickle to the ground. However, if you gently cup your hand and let water fall into it, you’ll be much more successful in your endeavour. The same applies to life: The tighter you try to hold on to something, be it a moral value, a rule, or a person, the faster it will slip through your fingers. When you allow things to come to you and permit them to just “be” in their natural state, you’ll have an easier time holding on to them.

Looking at nature again, we see that a newborn baby – an ideal representation of the fullness of life – is flexible and supple. You can touch a baby’s head with his foot and he’ll feel no pain. Death, on the other hand, is brittle and hard. Just think of dead leaves crunching underfoot, or the stiffness of a corpse. By being flexible, we connect with the essence of life; by being rigid in our thoughts and actions, we move one step closer to death.

One of my favorite parts of Dyer’s talk had to do with how we bring up our children. As a firm believer in preparing children to be autonomous beings, I am horrified every time I see what Dyer refers to as “helicopter parents”. These people believe that their main role in life is to hover around their children and protect them from every situation that they’ll encounter. Instead of safeguarding their children, these parents are interfering with their development, and are creating persons who not only don’t trust their own instincts, but have received the message that they are not capable of solving problems on their own. Dyer explains what I’ve known for a long time, that children are not for us, they are through us. We are simply vessels that deliver them into this world. It is our job to prepare them and give them tools so that as adults they’ll be able to succeed.

The next topic Dyer discussed was our perception of a given situation. He reminded us that hidden in every misfortune is good fortune. It’s all a matter of how you look at it. I was talking about this with my mom a few weeks back. It’s really amazing how two people can have the same exact experience, yet for one person it can be a blessing, while for the other it can be their downfall. Take the case of Heather Mills, for example. She lost her leg in an accident, which many would consider the most tragic thing that could befall a person (short of dying). However, not only did her loss enhance her professional achievements, but it also allowed her to make an impact in the world through her campaign against landmines. Would Heather have achieved all this had she not lost her leg? Perhaps. But how many of us, when faced with the same circumstances, would have bemoaned our bad luck and lived the rest our lives with a “woe is me” attitude? I learned many years ago that things aren’t good or bad… They just are. It’s the emotion we attach to them and how we react to them which give them power over us.