Happy 94th Birthday, Madiba!

International icon, activist, humanitarian, and South Africa’s first African president, Nelson Mandela is a catch. There aren’t a lot of men you can bring home to your mother after you mention he was in prison for 27 years, but somehow, I think Nelson would have gotten a pass.

And today is his 94th birthday, which oddly, got me thinking both about Mandela’s greatest acts and words and how so much of it is applicable to our daily lives — even in our pursuit of that most elusive of loves, the love that is “true.”

I had the privilege of meeting Mandela in Cape Town for a celebrity-laden event where I directly experienced a bit of “true love” just in meeting such a legend. Even in his presence, his energy, you could feel his history, his struggles, his strength, and his immense capacity of love and forgiveness, which has impacted so many lives. Love surrounds him, and it is impossible to not feel it make a shift in your entire existence.

In our brief exchange, he asked me my height (and I, for once, didn’t mind because it was NELSON MANDELA), and I was rushed into a picture with him, when I really wanted to tell him how much, in that moment, I was in love with a legend.

But when the camera flashed, the love affair was over. It was actress Marisa Tomei’s turn to fall in love and get a photo.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to press “Madiba” with questions about how I could experience true love after a love so fleeting with him. I already had the man in his own words to guide me by. Here’s the four pieces of advice from Mandela.

1. Trust Your Instincts.
“As I have said, the first thing is to be honest with yourself. You can never have an impact on society if you have not changed yourself” – Nelson Mandela

Whenever you meet someone there is a voice within you that says “run,” stay,” and (let’s be honest) “stay until someone better comes along.” How many times have we ignored this voice? Then we look back and say, “Damn, I knew it!”

2. Practice Non-Attachment.
“As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Nelson Mandela

It is OK to love someone and not be attached and dependent on them for fear they will leave. To love someone, but not feel attached or that you need them, is freeing for both partners. This is also why people we don’t like romantically sometimes like us a lot because they feel no pressure from us, though we might feel extreme eagerness from their desire to attach to us to fulfill their need.

3. Enjoy the Moment.
“We must use time wisely and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right.” – Nelson Mandela

Be fully present when you are with your partner and appreciate each moment. If you are single, enjoy the moments you have by yourself. Thank God you have the time to get things in order and take care of yourself on your personal journey.

4. See Who They Are, But Know Who You Are.
“And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” -Nelson Mandela

Your instincts will show you who others are, but be yourself. Be fearless, be in the present moment while you love and appreciate yourself. There is nothing more magnetizing than someone who has realized her own greatness with no ego involved.

Thanks for the love you have given to all of us, Mr. Nelson Mandela. Happy Birthday, Madiba!


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  • It’s an incredible blessing to call you friend N & your Improvatude message of joy, love, & peace will be known throughout the world!

    “The moment that judgement stops through acceptance of what it is, you are free of the mind. You have made room for love, for joy, for peace.” ― Eckhart Tolle

  • Such a wise man. =D Happy birthday Nelson!