This guest post is written by Kate Harveston, a writer and political activist from Pennsylvania. She blogs about culture and politics, and the various ways that those elements act upon each other. For more of her work, you can follow her on Twitter or subscribe to her blog, Only Slightly Biased.
Some consider Buddhism a religion, while others say it’s more of a philosophy. Oftentimes, it’s referred to as a path or a practice: something you do, rather than something you believe.
Although it’s often classified as a religion, it differs in significant ways from how traditional religion generally operates. It’s much less dogmatic and does involve more practice than anything else.
While more study and experience is needed to really understand Buddhism than this post can provide, the many great characteristics of Buddhism lend to its usefulness in our daily lives, and those who practice don’t necessarily having to ascribe to everything about it. Once put into practice, many of these ideas can improve our lives in numerous ways.
Living in the moment
Mindfulness is a central practice for Buddhists, and it’s often a big part of meditation. Mindfulness is a state of being aware of what is going on in and around you. In meditation, people often focus on their breath or the sounds around them.
Practicing mindfulness brings you into the present moment, because you’re paying attention to what’s going on in the now. Focusing on the current moment instead of on the past or future can relieve a lot of anxiety, and you may find that you enjoy things more when you pay more attention to them.
In Buddhism, even simple acts like doing the dishes are given attention and care. Buddhists generally try to treat every part of their day as though it is precious and worth paying our full attention to.
To integrate mindfulness, you can start meditating — even for just a few minutes at a time. You might also choose to just focus on the present moment more as you go through your normal day.
Many Buddhists live very simple lives, monks being the most extreme example. This allows them to more easily concentrate on one thing at a time, instead of being distracted by a flurry of activity happening around them at all times.
Today’s world is full of distractions, from our smartphones to TV, to other people, to our own thoughts. We often try to multi-task to get everything done in time. The truth is, though, we can’t multi-task very well. Trying to do so often leads to sub-par results and less enjoyment of the activities.
To live more like a Buddhist, try doing just one thing at a time. Maybe even consider shutting your phone off while you work. You may find that this relieves stress and makes your various tasks more pleasant.
Being more grateful
Some Buddhists work to cultivate gratefulness in their daily lives. This doesn’t mean that they ignore their struggles or the pain of those around them, but they do try to appreciate life more. Gratitude may also develop naturally as a result of the calmer and more positive attitude that can come with practicing meditation and mindfulness.
Being grateful has been proven to have powerful psychological and physical health benefits. You’ll be more appreciative of your life if you practice gratitude. To do this, you could try writing down or making a mental list of things that you’re grateful for at the end of the day or when you wake up. This will help you as you try to focus on the positives and have a more optimistic outlook throughout the day.
Valuing kindness more
Most people want to be kind to others and appreciate it when people are kind to them. Buddhism can provide a way for you to actively work on bringing more kindness into your life.
Some say that when you’re enlightened, or just being mindful, kindness will flow naturally. You’ll feel positive, and you’ll want to be kind to others as a result. Some Buddhists also practice bringing about a feeling of “loving acceptance” through loving-kindness meditation. This meditation focuses on cultivating these feelings toward yourself, others, and the world as a whole.
Whether or not you try loving-kindness meditation, you can practice being kinder by just making a conscious effort to consider others and do selfless things more often. If you do this, chances are people will notice and begin being kinder to you as well.
Buddhism is quite an old teaching, but it still persists today and continues to gain popularity all over the world. Even those who don’t fully identify as Buddhist can adopt some of its ideals into their everyday lives for the many benefits they can bring.