A belief that doesn’t change your day isn’t spiritual.
If we’re not careful, we’ll approach a spiritual practice as if it is elevated and esoteric, never connecting it to the daily grind of life. When we do that, our beliefs and devotions can seem like they are extraneous to our “real” life, and even worse, something we don’t have time for.
My first teacher Maezumi Roshi once answered a student wondering how to combine Buddhism with his other mundane obligations. “Forget Buddhism!” my teacher replied. In that spirit, I offer these variations on Zen Buddhism’s precepts, the vows for enlightened living. Do just one of these today and it will change everything.
1. Make your bed. The state of your bed is the state of your head. Making your bed enfolds your day in respect and gratitude.
2. Use butter. Be generous with yourself and others; there is no need to skimp or settle; there is always enough; and it tastes much better that way.
3. Say hello. This is a genuine act of true love: to give and accept friendship for no good reason.
4. Floss your teeth. It really will keep your teeth and gums in better shape; you will feel good about it; and, most importantly, you will no longer have to lie to the dentist.
5. Slow down on the yellow light. Save yourself the effort of making an excuse.
6. Be quiet. Nearly all of conversation is complaining, blaming or criticizing, which is so much fun until someone gets hurt. Silence never judges. It is infinitely kind.
7. Rake the leaves. Not because you’ll finish and not because there is a prize, but because somebody has to.
8. Answer the phone. There is nothing in life that doesn’t belong there. You can always hang up later. If it’s a smart phone, by all means turn it off every now and then.
9. Exhale. This is what it really means to let go. Every other form of letting go is just imaginary. If you call yourself a “control freak” – and who isn’t – remind yourself that you already know perfectly well how to let go. Then exhale. You’ll feel pounds lighter right away.
10. Be. Forget all about this list; you already know how to live and you’re doing it beautifully; there are no rules required, and no authority elsewhere.
Karen Maezen Miller is a Zen Buddhist priest and teacher at the Hazy Moon Zen Center in Los Angeles. She is the author of two books on spirituality in everyday life: Hand Wash Cold and Momma Zen, and blogs regularly at karenmaezenmiller.com.
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