May 11, 2015

Photo Slideshow! Naropa Graduation 2015. “Strive to Live an Examined Life.”

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“What do I do after college graduation?”

This is a common question running through the minds of the young people graduating from…well, anywhere. But, particularly, Naropa University, the Buddhist-inspired university in Boulder, Colorado (and, quite possibly, the university you wish you went to—see video).

In his May 10, 2015 commencement address, Keynote speaker Parker Palmer offered the words of Socrates to urge the graduates to lead “an examined life.” Great advice for all of us.

Parker Palmer is best known as the author of Let Your Life Speak and for being the founder of the Center of Courage and Renewal.

Here are Palmer’s six, brief suggestions for living an examined life.

1. Be reckless in affairs of the heart. 

Parker said that this is not necessarily romantic. Be passionate about life. Take vulnerable risks.

“No one ever died saying I’m grateful for the self-serving, careful life I lived.” ~ Parker Palmer

2. Cultivate beginners mind. Cultivate the not knowing.

Integrate failure into wisdom.

Embracing our victories and mistakes creates balance. In order to be whole, we need to integrate brokenness as an integral part of life.

“Everyone has a shadow, especially high-minded people like us.” ~ Parker Palmer

3. The world is in desperate need of leaders who live an examined life. 

America will be renewed by people who possess the courageous quality of being able to move out of their comfort zone. Parker Palmer informed us that by 2045 the majority of Americans will be people of color.

“The renewal this country needs will not come from people who are afraid of otherness, race, gender and sexual orientation.” ~ Parker Palmer

4. Take on big jobs that need doing. 

Do work that makes a difference. Our heroes take on impossible jobs because they live by the standards of faithfulness of offering their gifts. Care about being faithful to your calling and to those entrusted to your care.

5. Suffering can be transformed through a greater capacity of the heart. 

“Since suffering and joy both come with life, violence happens when we don’t know what to do with our suffering.” ~ Parker Palmer

Exercise your heart everyday by taking in life’s joys and pains. When your heart breaks, this is good news, because it has a greater capacity.

6. “Keep your death before your eyes.” ~ St. Benedict

If we do this we will cultivate the qualities of hope, generosity and gratitude.

Parker Palmer concluded with this inspirational quote:

“The great affair, the love affair with life,
is to live as variously as possible,
to groom one’s curiosity like a high-spirited thoroughbred,
climb aboard, and gallop over the thick, sun-struck hills every day.

Where there is no risk, the emotional terrain is flat and unyielding,
and, despite all its dimensions, valleys, pinnacles, and detours,
life will seem to have none of its magnificent geography, only a length.

It began in mystery, and it will end in mystery,
but what a savage and beautiful country lies in between.”
~ Diane Ackerman

It was a beautiful sendoff for the graduates. Parker Palmer renewed my hope in this troubled world.

He was then awarded Naropa University’s first Honorary Doctorate Degree in Contemplative Education.

I have faith that each of the 300 graduates will take Parker Palmer’s wisdom to heart and do their part to make the world a brighter place by leading an examined life.

For more: Naropa Graduation


Relephant Reads:

Living From the Inside Out: Parker J. Palmer’s live-streamed address to Naropa Graduates. {Partner}

Five unique aspects of the university you wish you went to:


Author: Ashleigh Hitchcock

Image: courtesy of Marc Piscotty, also Marc Piscotty

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