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A path to live life to the fullest

In Buddhism there are four reminders, things we should consider to make the most of our lives and to prepare us for death.

The four reminders are:

  • our lives are precious
  • we are not immortal
  • our actions have consequences and
  • we can learn to transcend pain.

These reminders can make a difference in how we live our lives, if we keep them in mind and reflect on them each day.

1. The preciousness of life – our lives are precious and our physical and mental health, energy, freedom, food, and money give us opportunities to make the most of each and every day. So each day, we might ask ourselves, “Am I making the most of my life?” “Am I using my time wisely?” “Am I aware of my thoughts, speech and actions?” “Do I react by habit or respond creatively to situations and people?” “Am I working at a job that is ethical and helpful to people?” “Am I spending as much time with my family as I want to?” “Am I spending as much time with my friends as I want to?” “Do I take time for leisure activities?” “Am I getting enough rest and sleep?” There may be other questions you would add to this list.

2. We are not immortal, although, in our culture we do not think about death until a loved one is very ill or we hear of someone dear to us who is dying. One thing is for certain — we will all die. We cannot avoid death. We all age, day by day we get older. We may think we are immune, but we are not. And there are other causes of death: illness, accidents, natural disasters and violence. We may die after an illness or we may die suddenly without being able to say good-bye to friends and family. Facing death takes courage and a clear conscience. We become more alive when we contemplate death.

3. Actions have consequences. We are the sum of many influences: family, religion, culture, education, relationships, friendships, diet, exercise and more. We are also the sum total of all the many choices and decisions we have made; our actions and our emotional lives. There may be some things we cannot change and we must accept that we cannot change them. We can, however, change the way we think (rather than letting the mind think in a random, unrestrained way). We can become more positive and loving by practicing meditation and yoga. When our actions are honest; when our speech is kind, helpful and harmonious; when we are positive, generous, loving and wise — all this will affect how we feel. We can commit to acting in a way that is beneficial to ourselves, to those around us, and to the world.

4. Learning to transcend pain and suffering. ¬†Each day there is stress and striving. We are always searching for something: a faster, newer car; an updated computer; the latest technological toy; something different in our marriage; a new relationship; more fashionable clothing; a different job; an understanding boss; people to act differently; a bigger house; or greener grass. The list is endless — take a few moments and consider what you strive for, what you would like to be different or new in your life. Along with striving and stress — there is illness, injury, depression, fear, mental anguish — all of which contribute to feeling that we do not have enough, we are intrinsically not enough, we wish things/people/situations were different. Our bodies continue to grow older, our thoughts never end and keep us awake at night and distracted during the day. This is life, what the Buddha called samsara. We search for happiness and fulfillment in what we do not have, rather than finding contentment and joy in what we do have.

This dissatisfaction often brings us to question the meaning of life, or to a spiritual quest. We often need a wake up call to be jolted out of our complacency. We need to wake up to the truth – that we will not live forever, our actions have consequences for ourselves, others and the world, we can find happiness and joy, and we need to be aware enough to make the most of this precious life.

There are different ways of reflecting on these four reminders: meditation, silent reflection, writing and discussions with others.

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About Saddhamala

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Saddhamala (Nancy Nicolazzo) is a twenty-year veteran of teaching, consulting and coaching and the founder of MindfulWorkshops. Assisting individuals and corporate professionals to find ways to improve their personal and professional lives with skillfulness, compassion and awareness is the focus of her online Mindfulness Coaching. You can read about her work (and hire her) at mindfulworkshops.com To contact Saddhamala, click here nn.mindfulworkshops@gmail.com Read more articles by .

Comments

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Comment from scott busch
Time: December 30, 2011, 11:05 am

how does on move on from self loathing.that our lives have been a waste didnt accomplish what we set out to do

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Comment from Saddhamala
Time: December 30, 2011, 6:51 pm

Hello Scott,

It’s a difficult situation to be in, loathing oneself and feeling like our life has been wasted. I would recommend that you (or the person you are writing about) get in touch with kindness he/she feels for someone else and try to feel that same kindness for oneself/him/herself to help dissipate the self-loathing. It takes time for that kindness to seep in, and it’s such an important step to take. The metta bhavana meditation might help with this step.

And then I would suggest the idea that it’s never too late to live a good life, a life filled with kindness for ourselves and for others. I recently read a quote (I don’t remember the exact words) about greatness being measured by achieving “small” things. Perhaps, when taking stock of our lives, we focus on the “big” things we didn’t do, too much.

I hope this helps. Take good care, Saddhamala

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