I collect guidelines, the same way I collect stones, feathers, and bones.
I started my collection at around age fifteen. Life kept confronting me with questions I was completely ill-equipped to answer. Why is there suffering? Why are we here? What is the right way to live? I felt lost without a map. So I started looking for directions. (This was way before Google Maps).
I discovered that no one had definitive answers to these questions, only helpful guidelines, like signposts and painted arrows along the journey.
Here's a good one: my first yoga teacher taught me that discernment begins with self-knowledge. She explained that we can know ourselves as a vibration, kind of like having your own ring tone. When you want to evaluate someone or something, (e.g. "Should I believe this?" or "Can I trust him?"), you simply tune into the vibration of the person or the thing, and then notice if it clashes or harmonizes with your own. I still practice this today when I am trying to make a decision about something. I compare ring tones.
Here's another: "Love is the answer." It's my bumper sticker. I bought it at a retreat with Ram Dass. Love is an easy-to-remember value to fall back onto. For example, having this slogan as a bumper sticker tends to keep me in check when I feel a bout of road rage coming on. Struggling with an urge to retaliate in some way, I will remember that my bumper sticker is publicly declaring me as a devotee of non-violence, and in order to avoid being seen as a hypocrite, I will opt instead to take a deep breath and relax.
"Peace" is touchstone word for me, as is "Light." Swami Radha, founder of Yasodhara Ashram, taught the Divine Light Invocation, a meditation which affirms:
"I am created by Divine Light
I am sustained by Divine Light
I am protected by Divine Light
I am surrounded by Divine Light
I am ever growing into Divine Light."
Looking once more at the photo, I allow my eyes to be drawn to the light. The many faces of my spiritual teachers float through my mind, and I feel gratitude swell up in my heart. By their grace, my collection of guidelines is now plentiful. And now I pray that I may follow them!