Written by: Kat Gal
Though it was only enough to get my feet wet, one of my favorite classes in college was an independent study in Buddhism. Though taking this course was initially a way to get around the mandatory religion requirement at my catholic university, I’ve learned ideas that to this day still help me along my journey.
What I love about Buddhism is that it is more of a philosophy than religion; you can immerse yourself as much or as little as you wish.
Of course, you can go off and meditate in a cave for years or live in a temple or an ashram for the rest of your life. If that’s what you are called to do, it’s all cool. But you can also take basic buddhist teachings and implement them into your everyday life in an easy and practical manner.
Practicing the Noble Truths – 3 powerful elements of Buddhist philosophy – can change your life for the better.
Here are the 3 powerful elements of Buddhism that can transform your life and make you happier:
Dukkha: Life Is Painful And Causes Suffering
This phrase may sound like a turn-off at first. The statement “life is suffering” may sound negative or pessimistic to you. But this is not the intention here.
By trying to constantly avoid suffering in your life – by suppressing or avoiding painful emotions – you are actually creating more suffering. Life is life. Difficult things happen that are inevitably accompanied by unpleasant emotions, including sadness, loss, fatigue, boredom and so on.
But by constantly resisting or fearing these feelings, you are setting yourself up for disappointment, frustration, struggle and other forms of pain.
Stop looking for an ultimate resolution, but simply learn to recognize and accept suffering as part of your life. Sickness, loss, heartbreak, disappointment, aging and death will happen. Accept it. Stop fighting it. Stop attaching negative emotions and negative connotations to events and situations.
Stop thriving for perfection. Perfection only exists in photoshopped magazines. If you think about all the criticism photoshopped bodies get – too skinny, too fat, too tanned, too fake, too this and too that – perfection doesn’t even exist there. Perfection is an illusion.
Let go of attachment of perfection and let go of attachment of avoiding suffering. Instead, just accept things as they are. Be in the moment. Everything is okay as it is. Everything is where it is meant to be. You don’t know the future, expect and welcome uncertainty.
Anitya: Life Is Ever-Changing
Anitya means impermanence. Life is a constant flux. Life changes as each moment passes. You can’t go back in time and you cannot replicate this moment. Even as you are reading this, seconds and minutes are passing by and life is becoming different. Just a moment from now, life will be different: your cells change, the air quality shifts and the temperature changes.
There is nothing in life that is permanent. Understanding this idea, you will understand that your pain will pass. It doesn’t matter what you are going through, it will pass. This also means that your joy and positive emotions will pass too.
There is no point to get attached to anything – joyful or painful – because it will pass. “You will never step in the same river twice,” as Heraclitus, Greek philosopher, said.
Instead of fearing change, welcome change. Celebrate the idea of change by accepting and loving it. Understanding impermanence will allow you to experience, to appreciate and to enjoy the present.
It will all pass, so you may as well enjoy it, right?
Anatma: The Self Is Always Changing
You are not an exception from the law of impermanence. You are always changing.
In the world of self-development, healing and spirituality, it is a trendy desire to ‘find ourselves.’ But the truth is that ‘yourself’ is not a simple little thing that is tucked away in a drawer and once you find the key you will have the answer to everything.
Your ‘self’ is ever-changing. Your cells, your thoughts, your memories, your beliefs, your personal stories and all parts of your identity are impermanent and change over time.
Throughout your life, you pick labels to define yourself. But these labels change. A student becomes a worker, but even within that, your job and career labels change. You are a daughter and a son, a friend, but later you add boyfriend or girlfriend, perhaps husband or wife, single, attached, married, divorced, or widowed. You become a parent or a grandparent.
As your health and lifestyle changes, you may go from sick to healthy, from out of shape to fit, from depressed to happy and so on. But it is not only the labels that change, but the entire you that changes. You evolve in all areas.
Your ‘self’ is not constant and that’s magical. It means anything is possible. No matter where you are now, you can be sure that it is not permanent and your potential and possibilities are limitless.
Stop focusing on finding a fixed ‘self.’ Instead, focus on the possibilities. Focus on creating your desired self every moment. Focus on how you want to feel now to create your desired feeling for tomorrow. Stop being stuck in the past: forgive yourself and forgive others.
By understanding dukkha (that life is suffering), anitya (that everything is impermanent) and anatma (that your ‘self’ is ever-changing), you will be able to slowly let go of attachments, expectations and fears.
You will be able to welcome the constantly changing nature of life. You will be able to celebrate the present, be in the moment and by that, create the life you wish to live each moment.
This will bring you the happiness, balance and freedom you desire.
What do you think about these principles? How do or will you implement these in your everyday life? Share your tips and experiences in the comments below. As always, we’d love to hear and learn from you.
You deserve to live a happy and healthy life and Kat is here to show you how to do that. Kat invites you to join the “Happiness Tribe: 2016, the Year of Happiness” on Facebook to create your best year yet within a supportive sisterhood. For more health and happiness tips, visit her website and check out her best-selling program, Your 21-Day Mind-Body-Soul Shake-Up. To contact her for writing assignments, check out her freelance writing website.
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