Life lessons: Alice Walker

American author and poet Alice Walker shares her philosophies of life.

Author and poet Alice Walker.
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Alice Walker, 67, is an American author, poet and activist who has written fiction and essays on race and gender. Her 1982 novel The Color Purple won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Her latest book, The Chicken Chronicles, a memoir, was published earlier this year

1. Gratitude is my only prayer.

Many years ago I was struck by a mysterious illness. At the same time critics pilloried my work. Moreover, my love life crashed around my feet. Still, one day, after years of being under a cloud of sickness and censor, I realised I was not only rising from my ashes, but also shining. From that time to this I've lost the need for lengthy prayers. I have only one: "Thank you," I say, before eating, working, moving, loving. "Thank you." It is enough.

2. If you love doing it, it isn't "work".

I have written over 30 books; yet looking back I hardly remember the work it took to create them because I enjoyed writing them so much. It's the same with everything: I can spend two hours grubbing about in my garden, dazed with pleasure and intent, and it feels like five minutes. Therefore, before I embark on any new venture I ask myself: will the joy of doing this make me lose track of any concern for time? If the answer is yes, I proceed.

3. To have peace of mind is to be wealthy.

When I was much younger, I thought that people were made happy by the things they possessed. I also wanted things. I now have lots of things, and I enjoy them. But if they were taken away, I could still be quite happy, even though I might miss them. I have learnt that things are not what make happiness.

4. Love everyone and everything you can.

I used to think the most important thing about love was to receive it. Now I understand it is more important to give it, that the good feeling we associate with love is generated by us, not by a lover. Their love is very nice, and I welcome it, but the feeling of actually generating love within one's self is so exquisite it almost leaves being loved by another in the dust. My greatest joy comes from loving everything and everyone I can.

5. When in doubt, find a nice hammock.

People who work hard often work too hard. I've learnt to take time out in one of the many hammocks I have. From a hammock the world seems doable. May we learn to honour the hammock, the siesta, and the pause in all its forms. May peace prevail.