The Buddhist teachings provide plentiful advice about how to lead our daily lives. Take a look below.
When We Wake Up
Upon waking and before getting up, we should feel incredibly happy and grateful that we’re still alive, ready to face a new day. We set a strong intention to:
- Make the day meaningful.
- Not waste the precious opportunity we have to work on ourselves and to help others.
If we have to go to work, we make up our minds to try and be concentrated and productive. We won’t get angry, impatient or grumpy with our co-workers. We’ll be friendly with everyone, but won’t waste people’s time with meaningless chatter and gossip. If we’re looking after our family, we resolve not to lose our patience, but to take care of their physical and emotional needs the best we can, with loving care.
Normally, we might meditate for a short while before breakfast. Just five or ten minutes sitting calmly, focusing on the breath and getting centered will help.
[See: How to Meditate]
We reflect on how our lives are intertwined with those of everyone around us. How they feel and act affect us and everyone else, and we generate a warm feeling of love: “May they all be happy,” as well as compassion: “May they all be free of unhappiness and any problems they have.” We resolve that, today, we will try to help others in whatever way we can, and if that’s not possible, we’ll at least refrain from causing any harm.
Mindfulness During the Day
Throughout the day, we try to remain mindful of how we’re acting, speaking, thinking and feeling. We especially try to notice if disturbing emotions like anger, greed, jealousy, arrogance and so on try to creep in. We take note when we’re acting selfishly or insensitively, or with self-pity and prejudice. On a subtler level, we aim to become aware of when we’re projecting absurd stories about ourselves, others, and situations in general. We look out for those moments where we imagine we’ll never get our turn in that long queue, that no one could ever love someone like us, and when all we feel is “poor me.”
When we catch ourselves acting, speaking or thinking compulsively with any of these troublemakers, we apply another level of mindfulness. Firstly, we try to stop ourselves before we do or say something that we’ll later regret. If we’ve already acted this way, we stop immediately before we do or say something worse. We do the same if we find ourselves in a cycle of negative thinking. We keep in mind the antidotes to quiet down and counter these mental and emotional disturbances, and apply and sustain them until we’ve regained our composure.
[Follow a guided meditation: Calming Down]
An example that most of us can identify with is when someone at work or home criticizes us or does something that really annoys us. We should:
- Remember that yelling doesn't help, and try to calm down through focusing on the breath, just like we did in the morning.
- Recall that everyone wants to be happy and not unhappy, but that most people are confused and act in ways that bring problems.
- Generate the wish for them to be happy and have the causes of happiness.
- Point out the negative effects of their behavior if they're open to our advice, and ask them to stop.
- If they're totally unresponsive, remain silent and take the incident as a lesson in patience. Still, we should never stand by passively if we can end some kind of disturbance.
One of the main things to control is the instinct to become defensive when others criticize us. We can remain calm and examine honestly to see if what they said was right – and if it was, then we can apologize and correct our behavior. If what they said was nonsense, we just drop it if it’s unimportant. If it concerns an issue that matters, we can point out their faulty thinking, as long as we do it without any hint of condescension or aggression.
[See: 8 Buddhist Tips for Dealing with Anger]
Before we sleep at night, we can do another short meditation to calm down from the day’s activities, by focusing once more on the breath. We review the day’s events and see how we’ve dealt with them. Did we lose our temper, or say something foolish? If so, we regret that we weren’t able to control ourselves, and then without any sense of guilt, resolve to do better tomorrow. We also note when we’ve handled situations wisely and kindly. We rejoice in that and resolve to continue further in that direction. We then go to sleep, looking forward to tomorrow when we can continue working on ourselves and helping others. We can feel really happy that we’re making our precious lives so meaningful.