There is no shortage these days of material to study or watch or listen to on virtually any spiritual practice, from Buddhism to Christianity to Judaism, even "Dudeism", (the way of the Big Lebowski). We are awash in information.
But whether we pick one to study or haven't decided on one yet, we still need to know what we should DO on a normal day, to make that day more meaningful for ourselves and others. What would be a good but simple series of steps to follow?
Our teacher has compiled a very simple list. It won't have you kneeling on a busy sidewalk, or standing on your head, or slaughtering anything furry. It is actually a list of quite ordinary things. But the way in which you do them and the intention you bring to this practice can begin to make you and your day EXTRAORDINARY.
Check it out below, or download a printable PDF copy here.
1. Get a good night’s sleep.
It’s not a good spiritual practice to be tired and cranky. Being rested helps prevent your mind from being “ripe” for launching into a mental affliction. The more rested you are, the better “you” you can be. Also, try to wake without an alarm clock. If you have to get up early, go to bed earlier. Being JARRED awake can’t be a good way to start your day. Wake peacefully, and rested.
2. Morning “loll”.
Don’t leap out of bed “with your knickers in a twist”. Take a few moments to take stock of your life as it is at that moment. This is a two-parter:
A. Remember your amazing blessed life. “Leisure and Fortune”
A life like this is rare beyond imagining. You have so much going for you relative to all the other humans alive today or at any time in history, even more so when compared to all other beings struggling in fear and hunger for their survival. Recognize the daily miracle that is the circumstances of your current life.
B. Remember that this life is for a limited time only. “Death Awareness”
Recognize the fact of your death. Your death is certain, and the time of your death is uncertain. You may not make it back to your bed tonight. This may be the last day you have to live, so make the most of it.
The deepest spiritual understandings do not come from purely intellectual pursuits. Your mind is infinitely perfectible. But to achieve a perfect mind, you must train it. Meditation is the best way to get your mind in shape so that you can truly change your mind at a deep level. The first step is to practice single pointed focus on your breath or a mantra. Then direct that focus on something meaningful, such as emptiness. Eventually you will cultivate the ability to watch your thoughts and emotions happen, rather than simply be a slave to them.
4. Spend some time alone and quiet.
Rather than running around in the morning “mind-less-ly”, just try to be still. If this is the last moment you have to live, live it “Mind-Full-ly”. Plan your day mindfully too. How can you be of service to others today? How can you further your practice today? What challenges do you want to overcome, and how do you plan to go about it? Set some wise intentions for how you would like your day to go, then do your best to keep them, mindfully.
5. Do something physical.
Generally here in the west we have separated the spirit from the mind and the mind from the body. But of course they are all aspects of our being, connected and interdependent. Don’t neglect your physical well being. The healthier you are physically, the more you can be of service to others and yourself. Your good health will come to you from taking care of others, but it’s still a good idea to give your good karma a delivery system. It is in a body like this that you can get enlightened. Take care of it.
6. All day be checking your morality.
If you have a “book” practice, keep it daily. But at least be checking yourself regularly as to whether you harmed anyone today for instance. Not just physically, but even with your words, or even with your thoughts. Have you taken care of the property of others, even their time? Have you been faithful?. You get the idea. A good practice is to check yourself during transitions, like when rising from sitting, or when preparing to go somewhere. It is carefully monitoring small causes like this which will bring about the great effect of happiness.
Also, be proactive. Don’t just watch what you already did. DO something. Be a secret agent Buddha. Do something nice for someone else, preferably anonymously. Slip a few dollars into their purse, buy the meal for the person behind you in the drive through. Have fun with it. This is what life is supposed to be about.
And when you eat, be thankful to all the beings who are providing your body nourishment. They are serving you faithfully and helping you to reach enlightenment. They deserve thanks.
7. Couch Potato Contemplation.
This is actually a very high practice. How can you achieve any goal if you don’t know what it is you are trying to achieve? Sometime before you go to bed, sit alone and quiet and just imagine being perfectly happy. No pain, no problems, no suffering. Perfect body. Perfect mind. Perfect temperature. Perfect view. All beings around you perfectly happy too. Don’t just “think” about it. FEEL what it would feel like to be this being who is perfectly happy. And imagine, if you were such a being, how much help you could be to others.
8. Read a spiritual Text.
What you put in your mind matters. In this world, we are inundated with sales pitches, infotainment, and garbage. At LEAST try to control what you take in. Are you watching others suffer for your amusement? That’s not healthy for you. There are many “spiritual” texts you can study. You can start with the classics and as long as you approach them with the right mindset, you can benefit from them. Here’s the test, if it is teaching Loving Kindness, then it is a spiritual text. If it is teaching anything other than that, it is NOT a spiritual text. Feed your mind something good before you lay down to get your good nights sleep again. After all, you might not wake up. What do you think would be a good last thought before going to sleep?
You can read it or download it above. but is also helpful to hear a great teacher explain it. Below are a couple of videos which between them cover most of the elements in the list, plus some other goodies thrown in for good measure.
"Don't Wait to get started"
"A Daily Practice'
You must make use of this boat,
The human life you have, to cross over
The great river of suffering.
The boat is hard to find again later;
Master Shantideva, Bodhisattva’s way of life 7.14
Sthira Sukham Asanam
"Stay Fixed in Happiness"