Today I would like to share with you a few tips for living a healthier life.
Tip number one is to be better not perfect. Rather than looking at each day or each moment as an indicator of how our life is progressing or how our faith is advancing we should instead look at a longer range of time say perhaps a year or two or even five or ten years. If we use only a short period of time we may tend to become discouraged because everything was not perfect. However, if we use a longer period of time we may find great changes based on our lives becoming better over that extended length of time.
In being better not perfect, the idea is that by continually making changes by continually making progress we actually improve our lives in a much more significant and profound way than if we focused on trying to achieve perfection. Achieving perfection is not possible no matter what and so we are bound to suffer. Desiring perfection is an attachment to something that is impossible to achieve.
Tip number two is to try something new. When we try something new, whether it relates to Buddhism or some other aspect of our life, we actually create an opportunity to expand our minds, to expand our life experiences, and thereby grow in ways, which we would not have done so otherwise. For example, as some of you may know I have been playing disc golf with some of the guys from the temple now for almost a year, it has been quite an enjoyable experience, though I must admit that I am not good. It has provided a good opportunity for me to get to know some of you better and also a good opportunity for me to get some much needed exercise. Also I have been training to become a Board Certified Chaplain. Both of these activities have expanded my life in different and meaningful ways.
A couple of weeks ago I was visiting one of the patients I was assigned to for the day and in the course of our conversation I asked the young man about his injury. He explained to me that he had received it playing a game that he did not think I would know about. He then said he had received the injury playing disc golf. I told the young man that I did indeed know about disc golf and that I played it with some of the young man from my temple. He was surprised to hear that I played this game. Because of my experience with disc golf I was able to relate to and talk with this young man in ways that I would not have otherwise been able to.
Tip number three is laugh often. For me this step is very natural, I love to laugh and as some of you may know I love to joke around. Sometimes I may even joke around too much. I believe it is much easier to be joyful and smile than it is to frown and be unhappy. It is also much easier to be around someone who is happy than someone who is not happy.
While it is certainly OK, and even natural, to experience sadness and sufferings, it should not be a normal all the time phenomena, after all the purpose of our Buddhist practice is to learn how to overcome suffering. It is also not a pleasant condition for others to experience if we are that way all the time. At first it may seem to require extra effort to smile, especially when we may not feel like it. However, the more we smile the more others around us will also smile which in turn reinforces our own joy and makes it easier in return. If we are always frowning or unhappy then eventually people become tired of us and do not want to be around us.
Tip number four is to exercise daily. Here is a difficult tip to follow because I am sure that each of us on one hand know we do not get enough exercise but on the other hand find it difficult to actually engage in activities that benefit us as exercise. Frequently I am sure that when we get you get home from a day of work you feel tired and you feel that you have perhaps exercised enough or that you are too tired to exercise. Yet, the tiredness we feel from work is not the same kind of tiredness we feel if we actually get up and do some exercise. Just taking a walk around the block, taking the time to actually elevate our heart rate and to increase our breathing makes our blood flow faster and replenishes the oxygen level in our blood cells at a greater rate thereby elevating our heart rate in a way that does not occur merely from work.
Walking even for a short while allows our mind to clear itself especially if during this time of year as we walk around our neighborhood we take a look at the trees and their leaves or even look at the leaves that have accumulated on people’s lawns or on the street. As we walk around there are many things to examine many things to take joy in.
Tip number five is to dance as if no one is watching. I think this is an important tip. Imagine if you will how you would do things differently if no one were watching what you were doing. Would you feel more relaxed and would you find more joy in what you were doing if you could alleviate the pressure of pleasing someone else? All too often we make ourselves more stressed and very up tight because we worry about what others will think of us. It is difficult to be able to enjoy one’s self and one’s life if we are continually worrying about other people and what they think about us.
By removing our concern for other people’s judgments of our actions we are free to make mistakes and to learn from them and to enjoy those things that we are engaged in. All too often we worry so much about what other people will think of us and about trying to be perfect for them that we fail to fully engage our lives in the things that we are doing. Of course this is difficult to do but once you’ve let go of the fear of judgment by others of the fear of embarrassing yourself you can have much more joy in your activities.
I am reminded of the story of the two young boys who made mud pies and gave them to the Buddha as gifts when he was passing by. The Buddhas accepted these humble gifts with great joy and even predated that one of the boys would have been reborn as King Asoka of India, the great Buddhist king. Now these two boys gave the Buddhas mud pies without thinking about what someone would think of their gift. They gave the gift without concern for judgment of others. They gave a gift from their heart. How many of us would so joyfully or so freely give a gift to the Buddha that we did not fret over or that we did not try to process in many many ways judging whether or not our gift would be worthy? I think that many of us would process the gift in our mind in many ways trying to determine what the Buddha would think of our gift for how the Buddhas would judge our gift rather than focusing on giving with great joy.
See Next Post for the conclusion of these ten tips.