By no means do I claim to strictly follow any of these recommendations – but from personal experience I can truly say that when they are adhered to, the quality of life generally increases. Of course, everything in our lives is interconnected – not one of us is an island – so generally to improve the quality of our lives, we’ve got to improve the quality of life every moment, which is an internal job – a matter of attitude and awareness – rather than just external quick fixes like cleaning our room 🙂 With that in mind, perhaps we will start by looking at some external “quick fixes” and then more of the “inner work.”
- Clean your room 🙂 Cleanliness is next to godliness. One of Benjamin Franklin’s nightly habits was “to put everything in its place.” Keeping our environment in order shows that we respect what we’ve been given (or what we’ve earned) and that we are doing our best to treat it well. The way we treat any one thing reflects how we would also like to be treated. By keeping our space neat and orderly, we demonstrate that we are worthy of that same level of clarity. A clean room also paves the way for a clean mind. When everything is in its proper place, the mind can relax and go within to the Kingdom rather than dwell on ways to externally ‘save the world.’ A great step along the way to surrendering saving the world is to first just take care of your little part of the world, keep your own room clean, and then know you’re doing your best by setting an example. You don’t have to go cleaning everyone’s room – just keep yours clean – that is enough. By example we lead. (Writing this in the midst of a mildly disorganized desk, go figure. – and I can tell you part of the mind is thinking “when is this going to get organized?” So…maybe now is the time to do it.)
- Sit down, relax, express gratitude, and pray before eating. We must think we are mighty important to not have the time to sit down and pray before eating. “I don’t have time to pray before eating…I can be making $50 right now!” Or perhaps it is the grip the taste buds have on us that tell us the taste must be experienced right now, this instant!, not later. Poor little pet ego. Poor ego dominated by animal instincts not based on any sort of higher truth. The ego enjoys wolfing down food and eating in a hurry and not honoring God before it eats. Why? Because it inflates the ego’s ego – its sense of importance. The ego loves to think that taking care of itself is more important than truly enjoying the moment or honoring the presence of God. In Reality, a vastly enhanced quality of life awaits all those who are willing to bring moments of pause, reflection, and gratitude into their daily lives. Before meals a great time to relax, to pray, and give thanks for the gift of food, the gift of life, the gift of all!
- As far as ‘my’ personal experience goes, cultivating a proper relationship with food has been a rollercoaster ride. Supposedly, according to some of the great teachers like the Buddha, the two greatest impulsive desires the human animal has are for sex and for food. They practically go hand-in-hand. Hence, I’ve also heard that often when people have challenges eating properly, it might very well stem from lack of healthy relationships with people. Instead of cultivating healthy relationships with people, we turn to food to fill that void. Anyway, that is just a theory and probably not confirmed by scripture anywhere, so take for what it is worth. Scripture is a much greater authority than any so-called ‘philosophical musings.’ 🙂
- Point is – sit and pray before eating food – give thanks – and watch as the quality of life improves. Gradually, one can bring these moments of gratitude into all areas of life – from waking up, brushing teeth, drinking water, reading a book, writing, doing work, hanging out with friends – before every act there can be a moment of gratitude which automatically enhances the quality of the entire experience. So simple! Yet, not that easy to practice. Patience, Patience. Baby steps. Maybe start with a 2 second prayer of saying, “Thank you,” before eating, and build from there.
- Stretch or Walk or Exercise, move the body in some sort of way. I used to be big into lifting weights. And to be open about it, it was totally vain and primarily done to attract members of the opposite sex. At the same time, health feels good. What feels even better is setting a universal example, one free from selfishness and lower qualities like vanity. So discover a way of physically caring for the body that keeps you away from obsessively looking in the mirror and flexing. Hatha Yoga is a balanced way to take care of the body and feel good. It is also generally free from vanity because of its balanced approach to caring for every part of the body, and really with a focus on developing a calm and peaceful mind.
- Fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Foods close to nature – enjoy them! Why depend on great big machines to create your food? Then again, if you do eat food made by great big machines, that is also a great opportunity to practice gratitude – and to connect with the entire story of the food – to see the story of the food from its origins to appearing in front of you – which is of course the entire story of Creation itself! All for fun. Don’t take food too seriously, and don’t disillusion yourself by thinking that food can bring you happiness. Use food to nourish the body and mind and receive it as a divine gift. Cherish it. Respect it. Just like money. Use it for good. Processed sugar tastes good for a moment and feels pretty bad for a lifetime. Is it really worth it?
- Read or write or speak or all of the above. Have some intellectual input and output. Once again, just don’t get caught in it and start feel prideful about how much you know or how smart you are. Exercise the mind without exercising the ego. Just take care of it like a pet!
- Sing or chant. Use the voice, shamelessly, if nothing else – when no one is around. Sing your best. Sing your favorite songs. Chant your favorite songs. We have all been given voices to use. Use it. Enjoy the sound. Get over caring about how good it sounds or not. Just play with it have fun.
- Dance. Same as above. Just move and jump around to music. It doesn’t really matter how it looks. Just have fun moving the body.
- Appreciate the Present.
- Breathe Deeply. Present Moment, Wonderful Moment.
- Serve. Give. Act Charitably.
- Lie down and relax.
- Go upside! Hang over the bed, or learn how to do a shoulder stand or headstand.
- Twist it out.
- Reach up to the heavens and down to the earth.
- The above three basically means stretch, stretch, stretch.
- And meditate, meditate, meditate. Focus the mind on one uplifting idea. Build that mental discipline to concentrate the mind and feel the entire consciousness being uplifted.
Basically, one of the problems we might find ourselves facing in life is, “What to do with all this time?” Especially when we give up the money game – i.e. working for money – we might find ourselves with an abundance of luxury time to do with as we please. If we give up the illusion of seeking happiness in the world via external gain and acquisition, we’ll find ourselves pleasantly liberated to simply do what we love and to be in love with whatever we do. Nonetheless, sooner or later, we might reach a point where we run out of things to do! And then, it might seem very natural to take up what we might call, ‘work,’ but when we do it in this spirit, it won’t be ‘worldly work,’ but rather it will be ‘work’ for ‘work’s sake,’ what some call Karma Yoga – selfless service. Spiritual work is action without concern over whatever benefits we receive from the action. Spiritual work is not for external gain, but is a natural consequence of internal peace. So, by all means – do whatever kind of work you’d like to do – so long as you’re connected with that internal peace. As Gandhi demands, “Do it with joy or not at all.”
It is easy to make a list of things not to do. Yet, ultimately, everything and everyone can serve as our teacher. Everything is our teacher! Nature is here to serve our spiritual evolution, not the other way around. Nature and the entire Creation is our great teacher. It serves us. And by allowing us to serve it, we are actually being served. When we serve, truly we are being served – for otherwise we just might die of boredom! Being able to serve and contribute to the wellbeing of all is a gift. It makes perfect sense to be grateful for opportunities to serve and learn and evolve spiritually.
So, instead of focusing on the million things to supposedly not to do, we can just focus on the positive things to do.
Do smile. Do laugh. Do play and have fun. Do love yourself. Do love your neighbor (the one you are with). Do express gratitude. Do care for the physical body with proper nutrition and movement. Do pray. Do meditate. Do reflect on your day. Do read. Do write. Do study. Do Sing. Do dance.
So then, what it boils down to is Being 🙂 All the proper doing arises from True Being. When one is Being Truly, the Doing appears beautiful no matter what – even if that just means sitting in meditation.
Bring the Being into the moments we take for granted – brushing teeth, using the bathroom, drinking water, eating food, saying good morning and goodnight. Those are the best moments to practice, and by practicing in those moments, our entire lives become filled with the sense of Being, filled with total Love.
Truly, the work is internal. Building positive external habits has to do with internal processing and awareness and attitudes. Cultivate positive attitudes, and the entire life gradually becomes positive and uplifting. There is nothing to force or rush. Attitude is foundational, and with a strong foundation we can build anything.
Of course, forcing some external habits – like smiling and laughing – can help to liberate one from the drama of the ego and lead one to discovering one’s own freedom, thereby choosing a positive attitude rather than feeling like a victim of circumstance. So by all means, fake the smile and fake the laughter. Fake having fun and fake enjoying life. Pretend you’re just acting it out. Pretend like you’re enjoying every moment. Pretend it is all for fun. Pretend you’re loving every moment. Pretend you’re so happy and grateful for this gift of life. Pretend you know it is all a game and God is taking care every moment. Pretend you have a completely perfect and full relationship with that Power which is everywhere and always present, all-knowing, and all-powerful, and that that Power unconditionally supports you and loves you. Just entertain the notion 🙂