Gandhi once said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world,” so if you want a peaceful world, you need to live a peaceful life. I love how the religion of Buddhism maps out six ways of being in the world that will lead to a peaceful and meaningful life, and I try to keep these ways of being in the world in mind as I navigate through the days.
The first is the practice of Meditation where you sit down with yourself as a simple, open, spacious being with pure potential. As you sit there, you put your awareness on your breathing and any time a thought arises, you simply note in your mind, ”Thinking,” and then return your awareness to your breath. As you continue to do this, you begin to have an experience of being alive beyond your thinking mind, as a sacred being sitting on sacred ground, and without thoughts to fuel your emotions, you are able to experience a deep sense of peace within you that you can then carry out into the world to share with others. Then, as you move about your day and evening, you can continually return your awareness to your breath and the present moment, becoming an active observer of feelings and emotions, cravings and desires, and simply let them go and return to your sacred, peaceful breathing and life experience.
The second is the practice of Generosity. When you are being generous, you are opening a portal to the deep peace within you because being generous feels so good!! And there are so many wonderful ways to be generous - you can be generous with your time (listening to others, serving others, helping others), with your attention (listening to others, giving affection to others), with your understanding (being compassionate with an open mind), with dropping expectations (which brings great peace to others), with offering wisdom from your own life (sharing your sacred story and personal truth), with creating a safe haven for others (a place that is free from fear and judgement and violence), with not needing to always be right (and instead allowing for peaceful space to reign), with giving someone the benefit of the doubt (and practicing in forgiveness and patience), with being a great health example for others (to inspire others to their own greatest health by sharing health information and giving encouragement). Practicing generosity connects you with an inner energy that uplifts you and others and the entire environment in which you live; it is a complete win-win!!
The third is the practice of Patience which is the antidote to aggression. When you are practicing patience, you are practicing in slowing down, taking a deep breath, opening your mind beyond your thoughts, pausing before you react in a habitual way, connecting with the peace within you and relaxing with the hot energy that feelings and emotions can cause within you. By being patient, you are able to act more wisely with greater thought given before taking any action or speaking any words and you are able to bear witness to the truth that no feeling is final - the hot energy will eventually dissipate and evolve into another inner feeling, opening a portal to a more peaceful inner experience.
The fourth is the practice of Enthusiasm which is a self-cultivated inner energy that helps to fuel your life so that you are able to go forward with an open curiosity and zest for living. Living with a sense of enthusiasm uplifts you and others and the entire environment, just as the practice of generosity does. It is another win-win!! When you foster your own enthusiasm, you are fostering growth, creativity and youthfulness; you are strengthening your inner cheerleader that whispers in your ear all of the positives going on that can help to carry you through any situation. My father is a perfect example of an enthusiastic person who uplifts everyone around him. He was even once at a football game at Penn State where he was a supporter of the visiting football team and he began to get heckled by one Penn State school member saying, “Why did you come here? You are going to get so creamed!” And my father very kindly and enthusiastically responded, “Well, I heard what a beautiful campus you had here and so I was so excited to come here and check it out and it is so beautiful!” And the Penn State heckler just fell silent and looked at him, and the heckler’s friends began elbowing the heckler, saying, “Yeah… See! Now, come on and let’s go…” And they all just turned and walked away and all that remained was peace.
The fifth practice is Discipline which helps provide us with structure so that we have support and strength for our training in meditation, generosity, patience and enthusiasm. This is the discipline of feeding ourselves in a healthy way, moving our bodies every day, practicing self-love, self-nurturance, self-care and self-compassion. It is the discipline of remembering to return to gentleness in our speech and actions and thoughts, of seeing the beauty and richness in the simple things of life, of returning to our sacred ground. It is the discipline of continuing to open to life and not shut down, of clearing the mind to remember that the only thing constant in life is change and transformation. It is the discipline of remembering to put space in one’s life, to slow down and be silent and sacred and spacious, where only pure life aliveness can be experienced beyond all thought as this is where true peace resides.
The sixth practice is Knowledge or Unconditional Wisdom which is the practice of listening to the innate wisdom that lives within us all that knows what is truly the right thing to do in any given situation for the highest good for all. It is the wisdom that is pre-thought, pre-belief and pre-conception. This wisdom tells us that it is best to be flexible and open in one’s life, that all is impermanent and changing so every moment is a precious happening that will never happen again in that exact way, and that our human lives are amazingly precious and sacred and should be treated as such. It is the wisdom that cuts through suffering because it sees that all is in process and that all is in perfect order just the way that it is. It is the wisdom that tells you to treat yourself in the healthiest way possible because you are a sacred, spiritual being with many gifts to offer the world. It is the wisdom that tells you that living a life of peace is of the highest order and will bring the greatest meaning to your life and the greatest of happiness. It is a silent, knowing wisdom that leads you on in a gentle, noble way to a life of great integrity and wonder.
These six ways of being in the world are also called the Six Paramitas or the Six Ways of Compassionate Living or the Six Transcendent Activities or the Six Activities of the Servants of Peace. They all mean that these practices will help evolve and uplift and transform your entire life in the greatest of ways. Each practice takes us beyond our own fear of letting go, beyond aversion and attachment, beyond small thinking and small living. When you practice, you are helping evolve and uplift and transform the world and people around you in the most positive ways, and what could be any better than this for us all?
Peace and Love, Hilary