3 Practices for Conscious Living
Do not make light of your failings,
Saying, “What are they to me?’
A jug fills drop by drop.
So the fool becomes brimful of folly.
Do not belittle your virtues,
Saying, “They are nothing.
A jug fills drop by drop.
So the wise person becomes brimful of virtue.
–Sayings of the Buddha, The Dhammapada (Thomas Byrom, trans.)
During the last severe drought in California, we adopted many little practices in our home to conserve water, cut down on consumption, and find ways to extend the value of what comes out of the tap. One of those practices was keeping a bucket in the shower to catch the cold water that comes out of the tap first, while you are waiting for it to get warmly hospitable enough to enter. I became enamored of these small ways to increase awareness and amazed at how much I wasn’t paying attention before. Gallons upon gallons that had been running down the drain every day were easily captured to water the rose bushes in the garden.
Noticing how quickly the shower bucket fills inspired me to reflect on the Buddha’s words about our thoughts and actions that accumulate every day, thought by thought, action by action, until our lives are filled with the predominating tendency that colored our hours and days. I thought about the tendency to not be aware of the cumulative effect of our actions today and yet imagine that all the while we are heading toward a different tomorrow. But our tomorrows blossom from the seeds we plant every day—our prevailing thoughts and attitudes, and our habitual actions. As Paramahansa Yogananda wrote, “It is not your passing thoughts or brilliant ideas so much as your plain everyday habits that control your life…Live simply.” What plain, everyday habits, if adopted, would fill our lives with goodness?
Conscious Living Starts with Intention
The approach of fall is an ideal time to consider any changes in our daily lives that we would like to make. When we take a longer view, and consider where we want to be five or ten years from now, it must start with today and every day that follows. No goal is realized in the future. It is consistently reached, one step at a time, one day at a time, as we move in the direction of our dreams. What goals and intentions have flowered so far this year? What needs to be nurtured to a full harvest with the living water of our attention and the galvanizing sun of our committed actions?
Furthermore, in surveying our garden of goals, if we find the weeds of failures instead of blossoms of successes, we can learn from any past mistakes and strengthen our ability to use our divinely inspired will to bring about lasting change.
Lasting change begins with a clear intention; the identification of a simple, repeatable action that exemplifies it, the commitment to follow through, and the will to begin. For example, if our goal is to improve our health and we are not currently exercising, then something as simple as committing to walking twenty minutes, six times a week, gives us a readily repeatable action. The key is to begin right away and stay with it by keeping in mind that the end result we seek is not separate from our daily activity. Improved health begins with the first walk, and continues every day after that.
Drop by drop: Fill Your Life with Goodness
To take a holistic approach to filling our lives with goodness every day, we can start with three simple practices that relate to our physical, mental, and spiritual nature. Addressing our overall well-being has its own cumulative effect. It not only improves our health and vitality, but ushers in a new self-confidence that supports our ability to break through any obstacles or barriers of inertia in other areas of our life.
Here are three changes you can implement right away that are proven to have a positive impact on health, happiness, and spiritual awakening: (1) Eat less quantity and better quality food; (2) Cultivate contentment; and (3) Meditate every day. These three things, taken up together as a daily discipline, will work synergistically to fill your life with goodness. Each one alone has far-reaching effects and collectively, each enhances the other. Improving our diet positively influences our moods, mental clarity, and ability to meditate. Cultivating contentment purifies the mind and enhances our awareness. We are then able to make wiser choices about what, when, and how much to eat. When the restless energy of desire is quieted, meditation becomes easier and more skillful as well. Meditation brings greater awareness, reduces stress from the body and mind, and allows our intuition that guides wise choices to be more accessible.
A life filled with goodness is simply the accumulation of a lifetime of days lived consciously. Spiritually conscious living is not so much our lofty pursuits as it is making wise choices throughout our day—simple things like what we eat, the thoughts we cultivate, how we treat others, and having the discipline to sit in the silence and experience our essential nature. St. Catherine of Siena said, “All the way to heaven is heaven.” The heavenly life we seek is available in the days we inhabit consciously, simply, purposefully—nurturing our bodies, our minds, and our soul with wise and healthy choices.
What will you do to fill your life with goodness today?
Believe in your Self. Begin now. Be consistently steadfast. Drop by drop, day by day, our lives become brimful of virtue, brimful of goodness.
This article was published in Common Ground Magazine, September 2017 as Drop by Drop: Fill Your Life with Goodness - Click here for a .pdf download.
If daily meditation is one of the three practices you are setting in motion for yourself, you can get started by meditating with Yogacharya.