What’s the secret to feeling calm, focused, and at peace?
Perhaps monks provide a clue. Buddhist monks appear to be peaceful and present all the time. How do they do it?
I will tell you.
For thousands of years, Buddhist philosophy has focused on how to reduce human suffering and keep the mind in the present moment.
Some of the basic principles are true for us and we can adopt them into our modern life.
Adopting some or all of these habits, or trying to part of the time (it's a work in progress) may help keep you present, find more peace, reduce stress and even lead to more happiness in your daily life.
Habit 1 – Stop Chasing "Things"
Did you know that the Buddha was born a prince? Yes, he could have spent his life in a big, beautiful palace where everything is done for him.
But he didn’t.
He abandoned everything when he realized the empty nature of materialism.
2300 years later, Buddhist monks continue to do the same. They keep material possessions to a minimum and only hold what they need to live their life. Usually this will all fit in a small backpack.
They completely declutter their life. This is called Minimalism.
Habit 2 – Do for Others
In many Buddhist circles, monks learn to do things not for themselves, but for the whole world. Happiness is one of the most elusive words to define, yet it is very easy to comprehend. Much has been written about the pursuit of Happiness and what makes people truly happy, and one theme that really seems to apply is "doing for others" Material things do not make you happy. In fact they do the opposite. Every time you acquire something, it pushes the goal a little bit further, so is something you can never attain! This endless pursuit actuality insures long term chronic unhappiness (although there are VERY short bursts of happiness at the moment of acquisition, which usually fade very quickly...leading to to feel how? (post your responses please)
When you can develop a kind of selfless attitude and MAKE time to do something for others, it offers a tremendous sense of satisfaction and well being.
The less you focus on you and your personal problems, you get less emotional about small things and your mind becomes more calm.
This is called inner decluttering: making room for others and dumping selfish habits.
Habit 3 – Meditate
One of the main reasons you become a monk is to have more time to meditate. Most monks wake up early and meditate for 1 to 3 hours and do the same at night. This kind of practice changes the brain. If you’ve read any articles on the benefits of meditation, then you know what I mean.
You don’t have to adopt this kind of rigorous schedule, but what if you worked into your day 15 to 30 minutes of meditation? And one of the BEST things I have read about meditating, and also the most frustrating for beginners is this - Do not worry about emptying your mind. You can't its impossible, or nearly impossible without mountains of practice. Instead, let the thoughts enter, and give them space to exit. They come they go. Just try not to hold them or obsess. Allowing space for your thoughts to come and go IS meditating. So forget what you read about emptying your mind. That is only sort of right and impossible for most to achieve.
Habit 4 – Following the wise
In western modern society, we have an unhealthy relationship with old age. Everything is youth centric. But for Buddhist monks, and in fact many cultures see elder people as having wisdom. They seek elder spiritual guides that can help them on their path.
If you look around, there are always insightful people to learn from. Older people have more experience which means they can offer countless life lessons. Some of best insights on life can be obtained from interviews with people on on near death, when asked what they regret. Read those! Make changes now. We only get one go-around.
Habit 5 – Listen. Without judgment.
See the 2 periods? These are actually 2 different concepts, sort of.
Our brains naturally judge others. You don't have to look any further than social media to see how rampant and out of control this is. But according to Buddhists, the point of communication is to help others and ourselves suffer less.
Criticizing and judging doesn’t help. This ties into Habit 2. Don't make yourself feel better by putting someone down. Make yourself feel better by lifting someone. Try it.
Listening is an ART. So many of us don't listen at all. We are busy pre-planning our answers while we’re listening ! So try to make the main goal to simply take in all that they are saying. (how often do you do this??)
It leads to more mutual respect, understanding and chances for progress in the conversation.
Habit 6 – Change is the only law of the universe
According to Buddhist master Suzuki, a crucial principle we all need to learn is to accept change:
“Without accepting the fact that everything changes, we cannot find perfect composure. But unfortunately, although it is true, it is difficult for us to accept it. Because we cannot accept the truth of transiency, we suffer.”
Everything changes, it’s the fundamental law of the universe. Yet, we find it hard to accept it. We identify strongly with our fixed appearance, with our body and our personality. And when it changes, we suffer.
However, Suzuki says we can overcome this by recognizing that the contents of our minds are in perpetual flux. Everything about consciousness comes and goes. Worry exists only in the mind, as a complex orchestration or random neurons firing in specific patterns. Consciousness and reality are really ONLY in your mind and they are in constant change. Realizing this in the heat of the moment can diffuse fear, anxiety, anger, grasping, despair. For example, it’s hard to stay angry when you see anger for what it is.
This is the essence of Zen. That the moment is all that exists.
Habit 7 – Living "The Moment"
As humans it can be tough to simply embrace the present moment. We are able to contemplate the past, and think about the future. Think about it - what is worrying? It is paying the price of the present moment for something that exists only in your brain! When you worry, your brain is wrapped around something that hasn't happened, and may never happen. If it does, deal with it as it is unfolding.
But mindfulness encourages us to return to the present. Practicing mindfulness enables us to get better at redirecting our thoughts back to what we’re actually engaged in.
It takes practice. It takes a willingness to want to improve. Start by reading and practicing these basic habits and notice the change.
Ever heard of mindful living? It’s become quite popular in recent years thanks to countless scientific research studies showing its benefits.
The truth is, mindfulness practice has been around for centuries thanks to spiritual teacher Gautama Buddha, who founded Buddhism.
The basis of mindfulness is being aware of what’s happening in the present moment without judging it or wishing it were different.
While the practice offers many benefits, you need to consistently keep at it to reap the rewards.
Below are 11 simple concepts about mindfulness that you may adopt into your daily life.
1) Your only reality is THIS MOMENT, right here, right now.
This famous quote from Buddha sums up this principle best: “Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”
The past is an illusion. The future hasn’t arrived. The only thing that’s real is what’s happening right now.
2) A negative thought is harmless unless you believe it.
Thoughts come and go all the time. It’s natural. Suffering occurs when we attach ourselves to our thoughts. The reality is, our thoughts don’t really mean anything and they’re not who we are. When you take a step and observe your thoughts from a distance, you realize that if you’re observing them, then they can’t be you. Eckhart Tolle says it best:
“What a liberation to realize that the “voice in my head” is not who I am.
Who am I then? The one who sees that.”
3) You will not be punished for your anger, you will punished by it.
We all get angry from time to time, but acting on this anger rarely results in something positive. It’s easy to get angry, but true courage involves doing something productive about it. When you realize that the present moment is all we have, you’ll come to understand that life is too short to spend time being upset and angry.
As Lao Tzu said: “The best fighter is never angry.”
4) Inner peace is knowing how to belong to oneself, without external validation.
Many people are concerned about what other people think of them. But you don’t look to others to find yourself. You are who you are and what others think about you doesn’t make a difference to that. Osho provides some inspirational advice to not care what other people think of you:
“Nobody can say anything about you. Whatsoever people say is about themselves. But you become very shaky, because you are still clinging to a false center. That false center depends on others, so you are always looking to what people are saying about you. And you are always following other people, you are always trying to satisfy them. You are always trying to be respectable, you are always trying to decorate your ego. This is suicidal. Rather than being disturbed by what others say, you should start looking inside yourself...
Whenever you are self-conscious you are simply showing that you are not conscious of the self at all. You don’t know who you are. If you had known, then there would have been no problem— then you are not seeking opinions. Then you are not worried what others say about you— it is irrelevant!
Your very self-consciousness indicates that you have not come home yet.”
5) Everything is created twice, first in your mind and then in your life.
Our brains are powerful instruments and they create the world around us. And the truth is that you won’t act unless your brain knows what you’re doing. So have your plans and goals in place, and then take action.
“The future depends on what you do today.” – Mahatma Gandhi
6) We ourselves must walk the path.
Life comes with many challenges and adversities for everyone, but the one thing with have control over is how much effort and willpower we put into something. We can’t attach our happiness or success towards outside objects. It all lies within us.
“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.” – Buddha
7) To strongly believe in something, and not live it, is dishonest.
Don’t bend to what “society” wants you to be. Don’t change who you are so other people will accept you. It’s important to be authentic and follow your heart. Characterize yourself by your actions and you will never be fooled by other people’s words.
“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” – Dr. Seuss
8) The right path and the easy path are rarely the same path.
You’ll eventually come to realize that struggle is what makes you grow, and it’s always worth it. While every step may be tough, it will lead you to where you want to go. Just because something seems difficult doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. In fact, it’s all the more reason to chase your goals.
“Those who have failed to work toward the truth have missed the purpose of living.” – Buddha
9) If you want the benefits of something in life, you have to also want the costs.
So many people ask themselves questions like “what am I passionate about?” to find their purpose in life. However, a better question is “what is worth suffering for?” This will help you find what you truly want to do, and your life will be more fulfilling because of it.
Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness. How do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience you are having at the moment.” – Eckhart Tolle
10) Over-committing is the antithesis of living a peaceful, mindful life.
So many of us have a massive to-do lists filled with tasks that we couldn’t possibly finish in one day. We have to abandon the idea that there is honor in being busy. However, sometimes it can be more rewarding to focus on one task at a time and mindfully be absorbed by it. We also need time to rest and appreciate the beauty of life.
“You must learn to let go. Release the stress. You were never in control anyway.”
– Steve Maraboli
11) When you try to control too much, you enjoy too little.
As human beings, what is it that’s so alluring about control? We desire the certainty and comfort. The irony is that there is actually no such thing as control. We are never in control. Ever. The sooner we grasp this and learn to go with the flow a little more, the easier life will be.
“Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.” – Chinese Proverb
excepted from "The Power of Ideas"
Marc and Angel are the authors of 1000 Little Things Happy Successful People Do Differently. Here’s their amazing list of 30 things to start doing for yourself.
#1. Start spending time with the right people. – These are the people you enjoy, who love and appreciate you, and who encourage you to improve in healthy and exciting ways. They are the ones who make you feel more alive, and not only embrace who you are now, but also embrace and embody who you want to be, unconditionally.
#2. Start facing your problems head on. – It isn’t your problems that define you, but how you react to them and recover from them. Problems will not disappear unless you take action. Do what you can, when you can, and acknowledge what you’ve done. It’s all about taking baby steps in the right direction, inch by inch. These inches count, they add up to yards and miles in the long run.
#3. Start being honest with yourself about everything. – Be honest about what’s right, as well as what needs to be changed. Be honest about what you want to achieve and who you want to become. Be honest with every aspect of your life, always. Because you are the one person you can forever count on. Search your soul, for the truth, so that you truly know who you are. Once you do, you’ll have a better understanding of where you are now and how you got here, and you’ll be better equipped to identify where you want to go and how to get there. Read The Road Less Traveled.
#4. Start making your own happiness a priority. – Your needs matter. If you don’t value yourself, look out for yourself, and stick up for yourself, you’re sabotaging yourself. Remember, it IS possible to take care of your own needs while simultaneously caring for those around you. And once your needs are met, you will likely be far more capable of helping those who need you most.
#5. Start being yourself, genuinely and proudly. – Trying to be anyone else is a waste of the person you are. Be yourself. Embrace that individual inside you that has ideas, strengths and beauty like no one else. Be the person you know yourself to be – the best version of you – on your terms. Above all, be true to YOU, and if you cannot put your heart in it, take yourself out of it.
#6. Start noticing and living in the present. – Right now is a miracle. Right now is the only moment guaranteed to you. Right now is life. So stop thinking about how great things will be in the future. Stop dwelling on what did or didn’t happen in the past. Learn to be in the ‘here and now’ and experience life as it’s happening. Appreciate the world for the beauty that it holds, right now.
#7. Start valuing the lessons your mistakes teach you. – Mistakes are okay; they’re the stepping stones of progress. If you’re not failing from time to time, you’re not trying hard enough and you’re not learning. Take risks, stumble, fall, and then get up and try again. Appreciate that you are pushing yourself, learning, growing and improving. Significant achievements are almost invariably realized at the end of a long road of failures. One of the ‘mistakes’ you fear might just be the link to your greatest achievement yet.
#8. Start being more polite to yourself. – If you had a friend who spoke to you in the same way that you sometimes speak to yourself, how long would you allow that person to be your friend? The way you treat yourself sets the standard for others. You must love who you are or no one else will.
#9. Start enjoying the things you already have. – The problem with many of us is that we think we’ll be happy when we reach a certain level in life – a level we see others operating at – your boss with her corner office, that friend of a friend who owns a mansion on the beach, etc. Unfortunately, it takes awhile before you get there, and when you get there you’ll likely have a new destination in mind. You’ll end up spending your whole life working toward something new without ever stopping to enjoy the things you have now. So take a quiet moment every morning when you first awake to appreciate where you are and what you already have.
#10. Start creating your own happiness. – If you are waiting for someone else to make you happy, you’re missing out. Smile because you can. Choose happiness. Be the change you want to see in the world. Be happy with who you are now, and let your positivity inspire your journey into tomorrow. Happiness is often found when and where you decide to seek it. If you look for happiness within the opportunities you have, you will eventually find it. But if you constantly look for something else, unfortunately, you’ll find that too. Read Stumbling on Happiness.
#11. Start giving your ideas and dreams a chance. – In life, it’s rarely about getting a chance; it’s about taking a chance. You’ll never be 100% sure it will work, but you can always be 100% sure doing nothing won’t work. Most of the time you just have to go for it! And no matter how it turns out, it always ends up just the way it should be. Either you succeed or you learn something. Win-Win.
#12. Start believing that you’re ready for the next step. – You are ready! Think about it. You have everything you need right now to take the next small, realistic step forward. So embrace the opportunities that come your way, and accept the challenges – they’re gifts that will help you to grow.
#13. Start entering new relationships for the right reasons. – Enter new relationships with dependable, honest people who reflect the person you are and the person you want to be. Choose friends you are proud to know, people you admire, who show you love and respect – people who reciprocate your kindness and commitment. And pay attention to what people do, because a person’s actions are much more important than their words or how others represent them.
#14. Start giving new people you meet a chance. – It sounds harsh, but you cannot keep every friend you’ve ever made. People and priorities change. As some relationships fade others will grow. Appreciate the possibility of new relationships as you naturally let go of old ones that no longer work. Trust your judgment. Embrace new relationships, knowing that you are entering into unfamiliar territory. Be ready to learn, be ready for a challenge, and be ready to meet someone that might just change your life forever.
#15. Start competing against an earlier version of yourself. – Be inspired by others, appreciate others, learn from others, but know that competing against them is a waste of time. You are in competition with one person and one person only – yourself. You are competing to be the best you can be. Aim to break your own personal records.
#16. Start cheering for other people’s victories. – Start noticing what you like about others and tell them. Having an appreciation for how amazing the people around you are leads to good places – productive, fulfilling, peaceful places. So be happy for those who are making progress. Cheer for their victories. Be thankful for their blessings, openly. What goes around comes around, and sooner or later the people you’re cheering for will start cheering for you.
#17. Start looking for the silver lining in tough situations. – When things are hard, and you feel down, take a few deep breaths and look for the silver lining – the small glimmers of hope. Remind yourself that you can and will grow stronger from these hard times. And remain conscious of your blessings and victories – all the things in your life that are right. Focus on what you have, not on what you haven’t.
#18. Start forgiving yourself and others. – We’ve all been hurt by our own decisions and by others. And while the pain of these experiences is normal, sometimes it lingers for too long. We relive the pain over and over and have a hard time letting go. Forgiveness is the remedy. It doesn’t mean you’re erasing the past, or forgetting what happened. It means you’re letting go of the resentment and pain, and instead choosing to learn from the incident and move on with your life.
#19. Start helping those around you. – Care about people. Guide them if you know a better way. The more you help others, the more they will want to help you. Love and kindness begets love and kindness. And so on and so forth.
#20. Start listening to your own inner voice. – If it helps, discuss your ideas with those closest to you, but give yourself enough room to follow your own intuition. Be true to yourself. Say what you need to say. Do what you know in your heart is right.
#21. Start being attentive to your stress level and take short breaks. – Slow down. Breathe. Give yourself permission to pause, regroup and move forward with clarity and purpose. When you’re at your busiest, a brief recess can rejuvenate your mind and increase your productivity. These short breaks will help you regain your sanity and reflect on your recent actions so you can be sure they’re in line with your goals.
#22. Start noticing the beauty of small moments. – Instead of waiting for the big things to happen – marriage, kids, big promotion, winning the lottery – find happiness in the small things that happen every day. Little things like having a quiet cup of coffee in the early morning, or the delicious taste and smell of a homemade meal, or the pleasure of sharing something you enjoy with someone else, or holding hands with your partner. Noticing these small pleasures on a daily basis makes a big difference in the quality of your life.
#23. Start accepting things when they are less than perfect. – Remember, ‘perfect’ is the enemy of ‘good.’ One of the biggest challenges for people who want to improve themselves and improve the world is learning to accept things as they are. Sometimes it’s better to accept and appreciate the world as it is, and people as they are, rather than to trying to make everything and everyone conform to an impossible ideal. No, you shouldn’t accept a life of mediocrity, but learn to love and value things when they are less than perfect.
#24. Start working toward your goals every single day. – Remember, the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Whatever it is you dream about, start taking small, logical steps every day to make it happen. Get out there and DO something! The harder you work the luckier you will become. While many of us decide at some point during the course of our lives that we want to answer our calling, only an astute few of us actually work on it. By ‘working on it,’ I mean consistently devoting oneself to the end result. Read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
#25. Start being more open about how you feel. – If you’re hurting, give yourself the necessary space and time to hurt, but be open about it. Talk to those closest to you. Tell them the truth about how you feel. Let them listen. The simple act of getting things off your chest and into the open is your first step toward feeling good again.
#26. Start taking full accountability for your own life. – Own your choices and mistakes, and be willing to take the necessary steps to improve upon them. Either you take accountability for your life or someone else will. And when they do, you’ll become a slave to their ideas and dreams instead of a pioneer of your own. You are the only one who can directly control the outcome of your life. And no, it won’t always be easy. Every person has a stack of obstacles in front of them. But you must take accountability for your situation and overcome these obstacles. Choosing not to is choosing a lifetime of mere existence.
#27. Start actively nurturing your most important relationships. – Bring real, honest joy into your life and the lives of those you love by simply telling them how much they mean to you on a regular basis. You can’t be everything to everyone, but you can be everything to a few people. Decide who these people are in your life and treat them like royalty. Remember, you don’t need a certain number of friends, just a number of friends you can be certain of.
#28. Start concentrating on the things you can control. – You can’t change everything, but you can always change something. Wasting your time, talent and emotional energy on things that are beyond your control is a recipe for frustration, misery and stagnation. Invest your energy in the things you can control, and act on them now.
#29. Start focusing on the possibility of positive outcomes. – The mind must believe it CAN do something before it is capable of actually doing it. The way to overcome negative thoughts and destructive emotions is to develop opposing, positive emotions that are stronger and more powerful. Listen to your self-talk and replace negative thoughts with positive ones. Regardless of how a situation seems, focus on what you DO WANT to happen, and then take the next positive step forward. No, you can’t control everything that happens to you, but you can control how you react to things. Everyone’s life has positive and negative aspects – whether or not you’re happy and successful in the long run depends greatly on which aspects you focus on. Read The How of Happiness.
#30. Start noticing how wealthy you are right now. – Henry David Thoreau once said, “Wealth is the ability to fully experience life.” Even when times are tough, it’s always important to keep things in perspective. You didn’t go to sleep hungry last night. You didn’t go to sleep outside. You had a choice of what clothes to wear this morning. You hardly broke a sweat today. You didn’t spend a minute in fear. You have access to clean drinking water. You have access to medical care. You have access to the Internet. You can read. Some might say you are incredibly wealthy, so remember to be grateful for all the things you do have.
This is such a wonderful list. If we take little steps every day and practice these things, we can make great improvements in our lives. Share this post with your friends and loved ones.
Do you know WHAT makes you happy? Think about it.
Can you describe "happy" using other words? Try it.
The sad fact is that most of us have no clue what makes us happy. If we did, doesn't it stand to reason we would do ALOT more of it? The reality is that we think we know what makes us happy, and so often times we expend energy pursuing the things that we think make us happy only to discover that once obtained, either they do not, or the feeling is short lived. Maybe its a new car, or a pair of shoes, or a trip. How often have you planned a really super special awesome vacation, and think about or dream about lying on a beach....and when the vacation comes, maybe the shuttle to the hotel is late, maybe the AC is broken the kids or the significant other is complaining....and the reality did not live up to the expectation.
The reality is that Happiness seemingly very simple yet very tricky to define. One key is that the brain, and I talked about this before, is an "anticipation machine". Which is to say that man, seperate from all other beings can think, and dream and anticipate the future. When a squirrel stores away a nut for the coming winter, that may seem like he is anticipating the future, but he is operating more on autopilot, like a mini computer program. Once the amount of daylight diminished each day to a certain level, the program kicks in and he goes about storing nuts. So its looks like he is anticipating, but not really.
But human dream, think, anticipate, savour.......and the reverse is that they fear, worry, dread. As I wrote last time about taking things day by day, because all of the fears and worries and stresses in life come from thinking about "what will or might happen in the future" so to, do alot of pleasures......in anticipating what a new dates might be like, or a great dinner, or an exotic location......we dream up all the perfect details, go over them again and again, and they are awesome...delectable.
So what happens? Why does the reality often not live up to the anticipation? Well it could be that in part we become so fixated on the specifics of our anticipation, that when the actual thing happens and doesn't match exactly we get disappointed. Maybe you bought a new dress and you went over in your head 100 times what your spouse or new date is going to say, how we will compliment it, and each of those 100 times it put a smile on your face....then the 101 time, the times he shows up, and says "hi, we are running late, you look great" AWE! What an idiot! you think, doesn't he know what he was "supposed" to say? and you get disappointed, and then he is confused. But lets turn it around......maybe he was anticipaing something different......He made a reservation, tipped the maitre'd to give you the best table, he has been imagining that you walk in get impressed by his choice and how they treat you at this fancy place, but for him, that big anticipation is in jeopardy because you both are 15 minutes behind....now you drive kind of quiet....and he is thinking, Jeez, MY anticipation of this big night is ruined.
So whats the solution? Well I wish I had the easy answer. I would say that of course there is much pleasure in anticipation.....but when it comes to reality, dont affix to much preconception, be open to enjoy the moments as they unfold....DON'T WORRY SO MUCH ABOUT THE SCRIPT!
Countless volumes have bee written on the pursuit of happiness. One book that I return to again and again is actually called "Stumbling on Happiness" by Daniel Gilbert. I have read it maybe 50 times. It is not a guide to how to be happy but a fun scientific explanation of some of the things that have been learned about happiness, and many things that will surprise you and challenge your thinking.
I continue to try and grow and learn what makes me happy, and I resolve to to do more of it. Yesterday it was this gooey mac and cheese in the self serve section. Totally gross, but totally yummy. I am trying to lose some weight So i was picking up some fresh vegetables and a lo-cal frozen dinner.....but this pan of mac and cheese was calling out to me.......so what did I do? Grabbed the smallest container, filled it up with only one or 2 spoons worth, and took it home....smiling. That's Happy
Be Well !!!
I write about things that I myself need to be mindful of. ways in which I would like to improve. It is not from the perspective of preaching - but rather writing helps me work out what I myself need to do - we are all in this together.