There’s a lot of words, advice, quotes, and methods out there to help live a “better life”, and I’ve tried many. I’ve read lots of books that I try to understand intellectually, where I feel “I’ve got it this time! I get it!” but although it gets added to my ever building ideas of how to be, there’s never been a switch that turns on and changes everything. Like anything, it’s a process. Small things do add up, practice does make a difference, but it’s gradual, and letting go is the key.
Every day, I’m trying to follow the ideas that I believe make a difference. This is not ground breaking or unique information, but sometimes something worded in just the right way, or heard at the right time, can make a much-needed change happen. I hope others will find this helpful, wherever you are.
More: Love, Gratitude, Compassion
Less: Worrying, Complaining, Judgement
There have been many signposts that point towards Love as the key to life, the energy of One that unites all, the underlying Truth. All we need to do to feel that Love is to remove the barriers that limit our perception of it. It is always there, in everything that exists, but our mindset blinds us from seeing it at all times. Love isn’t something you create, it’s something that exists. So the key to finding more Love in your daily life is removing the self imposed limitations you’ve spent your whole life setting up.
How I have been doing this: Continuously finding ways to feel love for myself, others, and the world around me. Randomly through out the day, draw attention to the feelings of love. Smile, let your heart fill, think loving thoughts and gratitude. When feeling fear, worry, or judgement, can you switch those thoughts to ones of love? Start with yourself. I have spent too many years not loving who I am, or giving myself love first. I would worry that loving or even liking myself would mean I was self-absorbed or had egotistical, and that was never the type of person I felt I was. But you absolutely can love yourself without being self-centered, it actually can make you more open to loving others, more thoughtful, and give you a lighter, less restricted energy. Make it a habit of returning to loving thoughts and feelings, let your heart fill with loving energy, smile, feel joy. As you make these feelings a habit, the thoughts that have restricted that energy will fade, and you find yourself feeling more Love throughout the day.
Experiencing gratitude shifts your energy to openness and joy. It seems our thoughts find complaints quicker and more often than gratefulness, perpetuating the idea that there is more to not like than to enjoy. Finding more to be grateful for throughout the day shows us how much of our life is based on perspective. It doesn’t need to be forced, it’s just tiny shifts of consciousness. Tiny shifts towards sending love energy versus restriction. Gratitude opens your heart and eases tension.
How I have been doing this: First thing in the morning, think of a few things that you are grateful for. Smile to yourself while you’re lying in bed. Be aware of your surroundings and experiences throughout the day, observe and listen, think about how cool, or interesting, or awesome things are, and how great that you get to experience them. There are so many details to notice about the little things, see if you can find wonder and awe through them. It’s wonderful to be grateful for the big things, especially the people in your life who you can send that energy to, but sometimes finding thanks for the little details in life can help shift perspectives exponentially. Appreciating reality makes every day more enjoyable.
Having more compassion for yourself, other people, animals, and earth brings only good things into reality. I think compassion is an incredible key that creates vital connections. You don’t have to agree with someone to have compassion, just understand that we’re all struggling to be happy and feel comfortable in this crazy world.
How I have been doing this: When confronting people who initially cause a negative reaction, whose actions or words I disagree with, I will try to shift to an openness of just listening. Listen to them and understand that people are most often coming from a place of fear, whether they know it or not, they are doing or saying harmful things because they are trying to protect themselves from pain. I can realize the same in myself, when I say or do things and beat myself up about doing the “wrong” thing, I can have compassion and move on.
Oh worrying, this is probably my toughest challenge. Worrying makes the mind go in circles, we somehow think it’s important to worry, it shows we are prepared for whatever troubles may come up, it makes us address all the things that could be a problem, so we’re ready when it comes. But that’s not true. Things will come, “bad” things will happen, and no amount of worrying will change that. “What Ifs” are truly useless, they only serve to cause you anxiety, to fog your mind and limit your access to the flow of life. Awareness is more effective than worry. When you are aware, you can handle the challenges life throws your way as they come, instead of wasting time on possibilities.
How I’ve been doing this: I think this is one where a practice of meditation and mindfulness really shows its direct effectiveness. To me, worry is like a cyclone that pulls my mind and body into its madness, once one thought comes up that starts the fear, the negativity, the others join in until I’m a swirling mess. Being aware as it starts, being able to take myself outside of those thoughts and observe them, to switch to paying attention to my breath, stops the cyclone. It just drifts away. Sometimes it helps to call attention to the ineffectiveness of the thoughts, to realize that I have no control over the future, but that everything will be okay. Worrying about tough things will not make them go away, it will only make me suffer whether they happen or not. When tough things happen, as they will, the only way to grow is to confront them. I am strong enough to handle them, life will go on, and truly the challenges are necessary – I am where I am today because of dealing with challenging things, and can only progress by dealing with more. Worrying will not change anything, so let go of those thoughts that keep you from living right now.
The opposite of gratitude, complaining draws your attention to things you don’t like… and what good is that? Complaining does not serve you in any way, but it’s a habit that is hard to break. I think we have conditioned ourselves to complain about the things we don’t like, often as a way to connect with others who feel the same way, often to justify why we are unhappy. I’m sure we all have a long list of “I don’t like these things”, and instead of letting them just not be in our lives, we focus on them and end up letting them define us and impact our every day experiences. Like worrying, you don’t have to think about them. Realize that it doesn’t make any sense to complain about things. Change it or let it go.
How I am doing this: I have to admit, this is one I haven’t spent a lot of time working on. Writing this, I realize I complain too much. About money, about humans, about the weather, about time… I seem to have an endless list of complaints that come into my mind through out the day. So this one isn’t so much a “how I am doing this” but a “how I plan on doing this”. Again mindfulness will come into play, being conscious of when my thoughts are complaints. Replace each complaint with a thought of gratitude. Realize that complaints do not serve you, they do not help you feel good, they do not improve anything or make life any more enjoyable. It’s a habit that can be broken through practice. Whenever a thought about something I don’t like comes in my mind, let it go, or replace it with something that brings good feelings into my life.
Judgement really encompasses everything I am working on reducing in my mind. Worry and complaining are judgements on life, that I know what is “good” and what is “bad” and that I can control life so that there are only “good” things. Judging life limits your enjoyment of it. Life is not only “good” or “bad”, it’s change, it’s limitless, it’s adventure and challenge and games. Labeling life is constricting. You never know how things will play out in your game, judgement is guessing based on what you’ve experienced so far. Let things be what they are. On a grand level we need to let go of the reactions of judgement, but also on a small scale. When we judge people we limit ourselves and we aim to tell reality what it is. But we can’t do that, we’ll never know what all the layers are, the stories.
How I am doing this: When thoughts of judgement come to my mind, I remind myself that I don’t really know. Judgement is guessing based on the past, or accumulated through the thoughts of others. Release the idea that I know what the truth is, that I know who that person is, or what this experience is, let go of the illusion of control. Judgement says that I know best, but how many times has my judgement been wrong? Even if it was “right”, what good did that serve me? It does nothing but limit perception. It is the opposite of an open mind, it’s constricting and limiting. When you remove judgement you let things be as they are, and you accept freedom.
Sometimes it can feel overwhelming to try to accomplish so much, it’s a challenge to change all the old habits of thought that have accumulated through the years. But little by little you can start shifting your thoughts to ones that make your life easier and more enjoyable. When you realize that you never had any reason to hold on to those ways of thinking besides habit, self-judgment, or underlying fear of change, it will start to reveal to you how many other patterns of thought you have been stuck in that could be let go of right now. There is no reason to hold on to ways of thought that don’t serve your well being. Every day, every moment, you can make choices that do serve you. A being full of love and peace makes a bigger difference to the universe than one who is following the established directives. You’ll have days where all these goals are forgotten, where everything seems like it’s working against you, and you can’t get your mind out of its downward spiral, but be assured that it will pass and you will have days where you feel like you’re moving forward again. Let it go the moment you become aware of your thoughts. If you are aware of your thoughts, you are making progress. Just try to change your focus, take some deep breaths, see what it might feel like to just let those thoughts pass by, and every day will bring a new lightness, a new chance to shine.