Practices for life

Get enough natural quality sleep. Sleep is overlooked by many; this is a mistake. Many people in our society live with a constant sleep deficit. There are times when this is unavoidable, for example when we are raising very small children. However, the principal reason for which we do not sleep enough is that we simply do not give it the importance it deserves. For many sleep is that thing you do with the time left over after you have done everything else − the lowest priority on your list of considerations.  Also, many celebrities will often make heroic claims of sleeping only four hours a night. Thus sleep is often perceived as a waste of time or some sort of weakness.  Make getting a good night’s sleep a priority and see the positive impact it has on your life.

Meditation and I include mindfulness in this: Most suffering is caused by too much thinking and/or trying to avoid uncomfortable feelings. The problem is that we live our lives in a kind of sleepwalk. Everything − from event to initial perception to emotional response and subsequent action − occur in a kind of autopilot mode. When we bring mindfulness into our lives, we get a chance to stop our mindless and often damaging reaction to events; instead, we create enough space and awareness to choose a better response − one that conforms with our values. People who say that they have no time to meditate miss the point; the principal change in your life is qualitative which gives rise to quantative changes as well.

Gratitude:  Gratitude, especially unconditional gratitude, is probably the most effective practice you can introduce into your life (in terms of effort versus effect).  Evolution has given us a tendency to notice the negative aspects of our environment, which in turn creates anxiety. The practice of gratitude corrects this; it allows us to approach difficult experiences in a different and gentler way; and to be better able to learn the lesson each situation brings. For me it is about living in the awareness of my great good fortune, of the miracle of life, of being conscious − rather than complaining about the weather.

Compassion: Compassion must include compassion for yourself. Compassion allows us to see what we have in common with each other rather than the differences.  The fact is that all humans want to be happy and to avoid suffering. In spite of these good intentions we sometimes create the opposite. When we meet difficult people we are better able to see, for example, the fear that is behind anger, the deep insecurity behind arrogance. Self -compassion is essentially treating yourself as well as you would treat a dearly loved friend.

Forgiveness: Many people misunderstand forgiveness. My definition of forgiveness is to be able to think and talk about a situation in which you were harmed without re-living the emotions, or feeling crushing anger, pain, or humiliation etc. It is about understanding that no one has the obligation to conform with your expectations. Forgiveness requires seeing the impersonal aspects of any situation rather than the personal (it can help to see the situation through the eyes of compassion); taking responsibility for your emotions, (who else can be responsible for them?) and changing your story from victim to hero.

Courage: Do things that take you well outside your comfort zone. Learn to feel fear and do it anyway. You might be thinking but I know that I’m a big chicken and nothing can change that! Courage and overcoming fear are skills that you can learn like any other skill.

This is a life-long journey. A journey of constant growth, a journey of self-realisation.

But it is a splendid, marvellous, difficult, miraculous, life-affirming, and fulfilling journey. We only have to have the correct attitude, perception and practices to fully experience that truth.

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