Finding Time for Peace
I think about something often. A Buddhist monk chooses the monastic life (monasticism is a full-time dedication to one's spiritual practice, to live in a temple as a full-time monk or nun). That monk decides that the practice of personal and spiritual growth is the most important thing in their life.
The fact that a monk or nun has nearly all 24 hours in their day to dedicate to nourishing their minds and bodies, to the practice of achieving inner peace and happiness, is a fact that I'm constantly mindful of when working on myself or when writing something for Buddhaimonia.
As a whole, to be a monk and to live in a monastery practicing for hours upon hours on a daily basis and to be around others doing the same is to place the practices of inner peace, happiness and awakening, both your own practice and the practice of helping others do the same, as not just an important part of your life but as the most important part of your life.
Having such a free schedule and constant support system is an incredible advantage.
We should all prioritize the achieving and maintaining of inner peace. The nourishing of our minds and bodies is the most important thing in life. We want to be at peace and we want our loved ones to be at peace.
If we work to achieve inner peace, continue each day to maintain this inner peace and then show others how to find the same state of inner peace then we'll have a very fulfilling life.
But for someone like myself with all the responsibility that comes from raising a family and putting food on the table, this can be really difficult. And demoralizing.
But it doesn't have to be. We don't need to give up our current lives to achieve inner peace and happiness. But there are a few challenges we'll have to overcome.
The Most Important Decision of Your Life
First, you need to realize that being happy and at peace takes work like anything else in life. You need to structure your life in a way that allows you to nourish those things on a consistent basis.
If you don't do this you won't ever find time for yourself and you won't ever be happy. You'll develop stress, anxiety, and bottle up negative emotions which will affect you for the rest of your life (or until you do something about it).
No matter who you think are the happiest people in the world, they aren't happy because they have something, wear something, look like something or even because they've accomplished something. They're happy because of their daily practice.
Everything in life is temporary, even peace and happiness. This is why we need each need to develop a practice which constantly nourishes our minds and bodies. Not just temporarily.
There is no enlightened state which allows us to permanently be happy and at peace. We need to be constantly working on ourselves. And not always to improve, oftentimes simply to maintain our current state, such as inner peace.
So you've put a little work in. You started meditating here and there but you're getting frustrated. Despite this, you catch yourself (or rather, don't catch yourself) going an entire day rushing around doing everything for everyone else (I'm including your ego here) and absolutely nothing for yourself- the real you. You forget to nourish your mind and body altogether.
That can be really frustrating. I know how it feels, I've had many days just like that.
However, in this example, meditation is something you really value. You try to meditate every day as it's allowed you to overcome some deep-seeded negative emotions and helped you develop a sense of inner peace. So then how can you go an entire day and completely forget to do the thing that makes you feel completely rested, happy and at peace?
So then how can you go an entire day and completely forget to do the thing that makes you feel completely rested, happy and at peace?
It's your priorities. Everyone has priorities, they just don't know it. If you don't consciously set your priorities then they will be set for you by some other force be it the influence of society or your ego.
You've gotten a lot of value from meditation but you're still prioritizing busy work, errands, temporary pleasures and making money over your well-being.
I'm not saying quit your job, stop doing the things that you like to do or rearrange anything else in your life. But I am saying though that if those things aren't as important to you then you need to do everything in your power to put what's most important to you first.
Ultimately, it comes down to this: You need to become mindful of your priorities. I'll say it again but a little differently this time. Ready? Here it goes:
You need to become mindful of what's most important to you in life and shift your priorities to giving the most of yourself to those things.
I need to stress this point because unless you do this you won't ever get where you want to go. You won't ever find inner peace and happiness if you don't prioritize it and put work into it. And your family won't have the best chance they could have at finding peace if you don't commit to finding peace within yourself.
Buddhist monks know the power of this as well as anyone. By living a monastic life they're not only prioritizing the well-being of their minds and bodies and the minds and bodies of other beings but that's what they put their time and energy into. Their actions are in line with what matters most to them.
And guess what happens? They become the happiest people in the world. Brain scans on Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard have shown he has the largest capacity for happiness ever recorded.
Happiness takes work. There are no two ways about. It's just like anything else in life. So many of us want to be happy, even expect to be happy, and yet do very little about it.
And don't worry about being perfect. Just like I did, at first you'll have many of the days like I described above where you'll forget your practice altogether.
And maybe others where you find it hard to focus or break through some frustration you're feeling that day. It's only natural with the average amount of responsibilities we all have living normal (non-monk!) lives.
Don't get discouraged. This is a long-term process and not a get-happy-quick plan (nothing is for that matter). Just get back on your game and keep at it.
The good thing is, in the case of sitting meditation or mindfulness, you should see positive results quickly which will help to encourage your practice further.
Personal growth isn't about perfection. It's about making a consistent effort. If you make a consistent effort you will see results start to develop until one day you look back and notice your entire life has changed for the better.
Finding Time You Never Knew You Had
So you've made the practice of peace and happiness a priority for you and your family. You've set time aside and have a regular practice of perhaps meditation, a specific block of family time each day and are striving to practice mindfulness throughout your day.
But you can do this and, unless you have absolutely no responsibilities, still find it difficult to manage your time.
Sometimes things will get in the way no matter how hard you try. Sometimes you'll just plain forget because of how much is on your plate. And other times you might just feel too tired to do anything.
This is OK. Remember, as I mentioned in the last section this is a work in progress. These occurrences will diminish over time.
I've gone through this myself for some time and came up with some solutions to help move my own practice along which I'd like to share with you.
These priorities, which you've made the foundation of your life, are the things you've decided are important enough to shape your entire life around.
Just as a monk decides to make the practice of inner peace a cornerstone principle of their lives and becomes a monastic to devote themselves to the way, you can prioritize inner peace in your own life.
However, you don't have to become a monastic and move to a temple to prioritize peace and happiness for you and your family. And in many ways, you can do it without changing your schedule or by freeing up extra time.
I've found that when it comes to working on myself, with regards to time, closely examining everything I do during my day and then looking to see where I can fit in "moments of nourishment", we'll call them, on top of what I already do is really effective.
For example, I listen to audio books while driving. I read (a lot) as well but mostly articles and blogs online. Most of my book reading is now done via audio books and the majority of my audio book time is done while I'm driving.
You already drive to and from work, drop your kids off to school or run errands. Maybe you do all of these things in a day. These are all opportunities to feed your mind.
Some of my favorite audio books for these occasions are Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, The Art of Power and Living Buddha, Living Christ (this one's narrated by Ben Kingsley). You'd be surprised how many books you can read in a month like this.
Rolling off of this point, you can also listen to your audio book through your headphones while cleaning or doing other simple tasks.
Next, take the practice of meditation. Read my guide How to Meditate for Beginners as well as The Beginner's Guide to Walking Meditation where I discussed walking meditation, which you can do at any point during your day. This is essentially mindfulness of your steps while walking towards a previously decided point.
Simply breathing mindfully, wherever you are, is also something you can do at various points in your day. Sitting down waiting to be called at the doctor's office? You can practice mindful breathing while sitting and waiting.
And don't worry, I'm not asking you to close your eyes or chant anything funny in the middle of the waiting area. Just sit with you back straight, relax your body and be mindful of your in-breath and out-breath and, with a gentle acknowledgment, let any thoughts that come into your mind pass and then refocus on your breath.
Recently, I was waiting in the morning to drop off some packages at the nearby post office and had to wait about 20 minutes for it to open. Instead of opening up my phone and wasting time, like I might have done in the past, I decided to meditate.
If you make something a priority, you'll find extra moments in your day you never knew you had.
Guiding Your Life With Mindfulness
I mentioned walking meditation and mindful breathing (as sitting meditation) already, however, mindfulness is something you can do at any point in your everyday life.
Also, mindfulness is itself is an important aspect of the practice of inner peace, so it's by far the most important thing you can do to "find time for yourself".
To clarify why this is finding time for yourself, I need to explain something. When people say they're taking time for themselves what they're really doing is recharging and rebalancing. Rebalancing as in regaining your sense of inner peace.
It's never been about freeing or finding time, it's about regaining your mental balance. This is inner peace. Without knowing it, this is really what so many of us care about.
Mindfulness can be done anytime and anywhere. While driving your car, walking, sitting, cleaning and working you can practice mindfulness. When you look at it that way, we only ever need to regain our inner balance because we live mindlessly.
If we can live more mindfully we'll have no need to "rebalance", because we'll never have lost our balance, to begin with. That's how you don't just find peace, but maintain it consistently.
Think on that.