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Submitted by Lawrence Grecco on Tue, 12/27/2011, 10:49am
Many of us tend to view New Year’s resolutions as self-improvement projects. But this approach tends to set us up for failure and contributes to a sense we have that something is wrong with us.
We can look at resolutions as something we can work with throughout each day, as best as we can. It's not a set of rules we need to nail down perfectly. Seeing them this way allows ourselves some sanity and the opportunity to put our practice into real-life use.
Here are nine resolutions I’ve come up with that are dharmically based, but can be beneficial to anyone, Buddhist or not:
1. Set aside at least a few minutes a day to be still and silent. Give the mental mud a chance to settle so you can have some clarity and peace of mind. It’s more important to do a minimum amount of practice regularly than a maximum amount of practice sporadically. Translation: five or ten minutes of meditation a day every day is better than one hour once or twice a week.
2. Practice generosity even when you're not in the most generous of moods. It’s especially helpful to give when you are feeling needy or sorry for yourself. Generosity entails offering more than just money or things--you can offer your time, encouragement, knowledge, a smile, a compliment, or a seat on the train to someone who might have difficulty standing.
3. Don’t indulge the inner voices and thoughts that criticize yourself and others. These voices do nothing but keep you mired in the past and worrying about the future. There is no need to repress them or pretend they aren't there, but try not to give any weight to them anymore.
4. Recognize the power of speech and use words wisely. This isn’t about being a fake or trying to act like a “spiritual person”, but it does imply that you don’t have to say anything that comes to mind simply because you can under the guise of “telling it like it is.” The words we use have a very real impact on ourselves and others.
5. Look people in the eye and smile at them even if you think there's absolutely no chance you'll ever see them or need them again. Try this with the bank teller, the grocery store check out clerk, a homeless person, your next door neighbor, just about anyone you encounter on any given day. And do it without the expectation that they ought to smile back or respond. Smiling smooths out the rough edges, but often it happens as gradually as water smoothing over a rock.
6. Pay attention. Take care not to get lost or zone out throughout the day, or to rush through the things you consider a chore or a nuisance. Wash the dishes carefully and mindfully. Shovel the shit off the sidewalk with the same attention you’d give to arranging a vase of flowers. Keep an open and curious attitude toward the physical experience of each moment. Don’t miss out on your life in search of the next momentary distraction.
7. Remember that you are not separate from anyone else. Recognize the worth and inherent goodness in every living thing, even if you don’t care for the particular form that it’s currently taking. Just as it would be foolish for a wave to see itself any different from the foam at its tip, we make a mistake when we think in terms of “self” and “other.” Everything and everyone we perceive is another unique reflection of our mind at any given moment.
8. Don’t make anything. My teacher’s teacher used to say “Don’t make anything. If you make something, you have something. If you don’t make anything, you have everything.” This means that we ought to experience life directly as it is without adding on all of the “extras” we tend to bring to things in the form of concepts, ideas, and past associations. If you keep your mind closed, you box yourself into a corner with few options. If you keep your mind clear and open, the possibilities are endless.
9. Appreciate your life. It’s fine to have aspirations, to want to attain, to achieve something, and to hold onto what you have. However nothing will ever feel like it’s enough until you appreciate what you have in your life right now. The more you can appreciate your life, the happier you can be, and the more likely you are to attract circumstances and situations that help foster more happiness for yourself and all other beings.
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