Does this sound familiar to you? “It’s 6am already? Ugh I wish it was Saturday. Make the kids lunch, ok where is the bread? We don’t have bread. How do we not have bread?! Ugh…hotdog buns it is. Ok, so I have that appointment at 2, but I need to get the oil changed at 3 so I may have to leave the appointment early. Donald Trump is President! You’ve gotta be kidding me! I’m so tired of hearing about that election. I didn’t know he had two daughters. Ok where’s the dog’s leash. Why do my children never walk the dog? Who practiced their knots with the leash around the bannister? That’s it! Who made a fort in the living room last night?! Where is that leash? Oh yes, the bannister. Coffee! Yes please! What time is it? Oh my God it’s only 7am…”
Life! Busy, busy life! How do we even begin to live a peaceful and happy life with all of the chaos around us all the time? How do we sleep with so many tragedies happening every day? Well, what if I told you that the conditions in our life are NOT the causes of our suffering? What if I told you that the thoughts we choose to think and the situations we choose to place ourselves in are the causes of our suffering?
Living a peaceful life IS possible with the gift of mindfulness. But in order to reap the rewards of mindfulness to its fullest, our chaotic minds can benefit by taking a few steps to declutter them first.
This week, the Buddhist Centre teacher shared that Atisha (a Buddha from 982 AD) stated that in the beginning of embarking on a spiritual path (peaceful life) our minds are not stable (i.e. filled with chaos) making it difficult to take and hold any teachings. Furthermore, Atisha suggested that we take the following three steps to develop external conditions and declutter our minds:
Disclaimer: I am NOT an expert at this by any means. Like not even close! However, from my attempts at practising these steps, I can say that they have definitely improved the calmness in my mind and life.
- Avoid places that disturb your mind. Easier said than done for sure, but if you REALLY think about it, I bet you CAN avoid places that disturb your mind more than you realize. For example, you know that when you walk down a certain street, a dog in a neighbour’s backyard will bark and startle you, which always makes you mad. Can you choose to walk down a different street?
- Try not to engage in worldly distractions. To me, this is an easy one. Turn off your TV or radio. You don’t NEED to hear every station’s thoughts on the election. You may be obsessed with hearing these worldly distractions more than you know, and by turning them off you are automatically removing an external source of stress.
- Avoid spending time with people who may have a negative impact on you. I know that we can’t avoid certain people in our lives so easily, but take a moment to stay true to your right to live in a peaceful environment by really thinking about how you can lessen the time with negative people. For example, maybe you don’t like your boss, it definitely happens. But do you NEED to sit and eat lunch with the group of staff who only complain about him or her all the time, thus making it feel like your boss is even with you at lunch? No, you don’t. You may feel out of place making the choice to eat on your own for the first little while, but the freedom from gossip will be well worth you efforts.
It makes me sad when I see and hear about people who don’t feel they can improve their lives or decrease the clutter in their mind. All I can say is, if I can do it, ANYONE can! It takes practice and mindfulness to be aware of when you have the opportunity to practice one of Atisha’s three suggestions – but it’s really worth the effort.