Simple Productive Habits
Sometimes, overcoming a bad habit is easier if we replace it with something better. As we continue our entry into the New Year here are a few things that probably wouldn’t hurt if they became your habits. To help you remember these, if you choose to give it a try, consider a reminder card on your bedside table, on your kitchen table and your bathroom mirror. Perhaps you can think of other places where a gentle reminder would do you some good.
First, sometime during your day, at least once, give a genuine compliment to someone. Take the time to look them in the eye and tell that person how highly you thought about the thing they did. If you are really brave you might try this on someone you don’t particularly get along well with. Who knows it might be a way to change the course of your relationship. Also when you do this try to do so with a genuine sense of gratitude without any expectation of a return on your effort. See if you can practice giving from the depth of your heart.
“Those who, after the extinction of a Buddha, were good and gentle, have already attained the enlightenment of the Buddha.” (Lotus Sutra, Chapter II)
Second, try beginning your day with something positive. You might consider turning off the news, either on TV or radio, and reading something encouraging instead. You might make it a habit to read a blog or listen to an inspiring podcast. You may put on some soothing music, avoiding anything harsh or jolting, make it gentle and relaxing.
“Make efforts with all your hearts! Leave the life of license! It is difficult to see a Buddha, who can be seen only once in hundreds of millions of kalpas.” (Lotus Sutra, Chapter I)
Third, see if you can slow down some as you go through your day. If you plan a little ahead you can leave a few minutes early for work and slow down on your walk from the car or transit. Or begin your walk slowly and then gradually speed it up to get your heart and body ready for a good day at whatever your job or activity. As you go through your day try to create mindfulness breaks, times when you can just be present with the thing you are engaged in at the moment and not be distracted. Perhaps push away from your desk and take a couple of minutes to breathe deeply and slowly focusing on your breath instead of your workload.
“Your mind was tranquil, not distracted. You have finally obtained tranquil extinction. You now dwell peacefully in the Dharma-without-asravas.” (Lotus Sutra, Chapter VII)
Fourth, plan on some exercise during your day. Even a moderate amount of time and effort can produce significant results to not only your physical health but your mental health as well. Walking is a great way to get that exercise as well as connect with the outdoors. Of course elevating your heart rate is good.
“You will walk the Way to Buddhahood step by step, and finally become a Buddha in a good world.” (Lotus Sutra, Chapter XIII)
Finally, do the right thing (in some small or big way). You might use the Eightfold path as a model and choose one right way, one of the Eightfold path, to focus on for a week. Try keeping one of the Eightfold path foremost in your mind as you live your week. Reflecting back on ways in which you successfully carried out the right path and even on ways you may have fallen short.
“‘The extinction of suffering Is called the third truth. In order to attain this extinction, the Eight Right ways must be practiced. Freedom from the bonds of suffering, that is, from illusions is called emancipation.’” (Lotus Sutra, Chapter III)
And of course it goes without saying consistently chanting Odaimoku and reciting the Sutra is always a good thing in which to engage.