sunset joy

“Life gets better when we get better.”
 Sarah Lambert

Buddhism teaches that you are not anything you can perceive, meaning:

You are not your thoughts.

You are not your emotions.

You are not your body, your desires, or your fears.

You are not the work you do, the objects you own, the people you know, the titles you hold, or the experiences you’ve had.

You, yourself, are in relationship with all of these things.

The more aware you can be of your life as a series of relationships, the more the sense of being caught or stuck in any aspect of it fades and awareness of choice arises.

You get to decide how you show up with everything in your life, including your mind. Healthy relationships always follow the same model, be they with other people, money, objects, or thoughts in your head. The more consciously you engage them, the more enjoyable they become.

In general, the more used we are to something the more we take it for granted. We start to pay it less attention, and it becomes part of our background like furniture. When this happens we begin to neglect the relationship, meaning we become less conscious in it and all our “bad habits” start showing up.

We think unkind thoughts about ourselves and feel like there must be something wrong with us. We eat junk food, don’t clean the house, feel weighed down by money, and experience strife in our relationships with other people.

This is because when we are unconscious in a relationship all the things we tend to avoid – anger, fear, resentment, guilt – start to show up in it.

Note that being fixated on something is still a form of being unconscious. Any time your mind starts to run in a circle about something – not having enough money, or trouble in a romantic relationship, or things wrong with your body or health – it is neither listening nor being attentive to the needs of the relationship, and can actually do further damage to it. Thinking about something is not the same as being attentive to it.

In order to improve your relationship with any aspect of your life, you must engage it consciously.

Love your life as an action, not a result of circumstances.

Everything decays over time if neglected, including furniture. Which is why good stewards dust, polish, and reupholster their chairs.

The more care and mindfulness you give to any aspect of your life, the better your experience of it will be and the more positively it will respond to you. It helps to approach actions as though they aren’t about you, but showing care for something in your life.

Pick something you would like to improve your experience of, be it money, your body, your love life, or something else, and start spending some quality time with it.

What thoughts and feelings arise as you think about this relationship in your life? What are your needs, and are they being met? What is being asked of you in return? Don’t try to answer these questions with your mind, but rather sit with them openly and observe what’s there with curiosity.

It’s okay to feel something if it’s uncomfortable, it doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong. Let yourself feel whatever’s there for you in this relationship. As you do, the emotions will release on their own and no longer plague you.

It takes courage to be this loving. The more difficult the relationship, the more fear and emotions we don’t want to face have been associated with it. This is why it helps to have support from someone outside who can help guide you through the process, and I recommend seeing a professional such as myself for those serious about creating lasting change.

Everything becomes an act of love when you engage it mindfully, and the stress associated with paying bills or eating healthfully disappear.

The more you take the stresses in daily life as opportunities to demonstrate love, the more joyful your experience of everything becomes.