A while back I heard from a woman who seemed concerned that my life as a Buddhist must be very dull — just meditating and “being good” all the time, I guess. I think she thought I’d be a very boring person to hang out with, and maybe she was expressing her own fears about getting drawn in to Buddhist practice.
Tonight I just came back from a comedy improv show, where I was blown away by the humor and good humor of the performers. I had a blast: not perhaps what this woman had in mind.
I wrote and told her that for me, Buddhism is a set of principles and guidelines for living your life, not a set of rules. I said that I could boil down some of the guiding principles of my life as something like:
- Be in your body so that you don’t get lost in your head.
- Don’t believe everything you think. Not all the stories you tell yourself are true.
- If your stories disempower you and make you suffer they’re probably not true.
- Take responsibility for all your thoughts, actions, and feelings.
- Realize that you have a choice in every moment about how you respond.
- Keep asking: “Is there’s anything I’m doing that’s suppressing my happiness and wellbeing?” And see if you can stop doing that thing.
- Remember: Life is short. Be kind.
- There’s always something you can appreciate in any situation.
- Stay in touch with your heart, but check in with your rational mind because feelings can be misleading.
- Give yourself the same compassion you give to people you love.
- Be true to your values; it’s not your job to please people.
- To be honest is often the best way to be kind to yourself and others.
- Apologizing when you’ve done something unskillful is a sign of strength, not weakness.
- Keep asking: “Is what I’m about to do conducive to my long-term benefit and welfare?”
- Helping others is usually more conducive to happiness than focusing only on your own needs.
- Don’t try and define yourself. You’re not definable.
Together, these principles almost amount to a statement of personal philosophy. Any such philosophical statement includes the principles by which you live — or at least aim to live — your life. I’m actually going to print this list out right now, because I need to keep reminding myself of how I aspire to live my life. It’s not about rules, or “being good.” It’s about living life in a way that brings a deeper sense of meaning, purpose, and connectedness.
What would your top three or four guidelines for life be?
I would add this:
Sharing our wisdom and knowledge with those receptive to listening or seeking guidance, whether our stories and experiences are of successes or failures, helps the world learn and become better.
I’d second that!
Thank you. These are powerful guidelines.
If I were to chose my top three guidelines, they would be 1) be kind to myself and others; 2) be fully present in the moment, or at least keep coming back to that; and 3) be real, be authentic. Thank you for the thought-provoking post.
Here are my top three: 1) Do not let age get in your way. It’s never to late to do or be what you have always wanted. 2) Smile and treat everyone new you meet like they were already your best friend. 3) Yes, you can – now go do it :-)