You're not going to give up your home and leave the country. There are no orange robes in your future, no major move to Nepal. No Boddhi trees, begging for alms or early morning monastery chanting. You don't have to be a Himalayan monk or the Buddha to live a conscious life.
A conscious life is a deliberate and thought-out life. It's listening to yourself and then making choices.
It's asking yourself why you're doing what you're doing: looking at the reasons behind the actions you take.
It's not wandering adrift in the stream of life, but taking purposeful and intentional action.
Imagine going to a grocery store without knowing what you're going to buy. Living consciously means thinking about a grocery list and knowing what you're going to cook for dinner this week.
Living consciously is like buying a plane ticket before you get to the airport and knowing which airline you're going to take and to what destination.
Surprisingly, most people don't live this way. They are guided by tradition or their families, or do what society tells them to do.
What do you get out of living consciously?
When you live a conscious life, you're more likely to live a life filled with happiness and joy.
Living a conscious life means you're actively evaluating your activities, decisions and options. You're making deliberate choices based on your values and your truth.
We often don't have a chance to live consciously. From the day we are born until we die, we are told what to do.
Our parents push us to be a certain kind of person, to like certain foods, to pick certain career paths. Society tells us that success comes from living in a certain neighborhood, attaining a professional degree, buying a specific type of house or driving a particular car.
On top of family and society, the world's corporations are after our spending dollars so they can sell us stuff and meet shareholder expectations.
When you choose to live consciously, you can question and challenge everything.
You can do what feel right to you and reject the things that don't resonate.
What do I know about consciousness?
Well, one way to discover the light is to live in darkness.
I lived in darkness for a good portion of my life"“believing that everything my family and society told me was true.
I chose a career based on what pays.
I chose a relationship based partly on culture and traditions.
I chose a job based on how prestigious it was.
I bought a house based on society telling me to do so.
Then each of these things began to crumble, and I began to question if all the things I had been told were true.
Maybe no one really knows what's best for us?
What may have worked for one person, for one family or even a generation of people may not be what's right for us.
Instead of doing whatever it was that society told me was right or going with the crowd, I started observing each and every part of my life.
Consciousness, for me, was making my own decisions in life, based on my experiences and my truth, listening less to the chatter and the crowds.
I'd like to share with you some ways that you too can start living a conscious life.
1. Ask yourself what you want.
How often do you NOT take a stand? NOT have a preference?
Don't know where you want to go out to eat? Not sure what you want off the menu?
Not have an opinion? Not know which policy or politician you want representing you?
How about asking yourself what you truly want? What is your say? What are you hungry for?
It's ok to have an opinion and a preference. You will not be judged for it.
2. Do what makes you happy.
Instead of spending much of your life doing things out of obligation and expectation, why not try doing things that make you happy?
If you hate visiting a certain group of friends, don't.
If your monthly get-together with your workmates bores you to death, stop going.
If you hate the gym, find another way to exercise that makes you happy.
Spend more time on everyday activities that bring you happiness.
3. Live in alignment with your truth.
Often society and our families shape the way we think and how we live our lives.
What do you think? Who are you? What do you believe in?
What do you know to be true in your life based on your experiences?
Living your truth means being honest with yourself and choosing those things that resonate with you.
It's also being honest with others "“ expressing yourself and being who you are. Not hiding behind masks.
4. Accept yourself for who you are.
You may have shortcomings and inadequacies. You may not believe you're as smart or as talented or as able as your co-worker or your sister.
Most of these false beliefs have accumulated from a lifetime of being told you're inadequate or incomplete.
You are whole. Even with your imperfections or perceived inadequacies, you are enough. No matter what anyone else has led you to believe.
You don't have to be any thinner, taller, smarter, able to cook better or earn more.
The people around you will try to compare you to others to make you feel worse about yourself. Don't fall for that.
You will try to feel better about yourself by judging others. Don't condition your acceptance by having to feel superior to others.
5. Do work that's in tune with your being.
If you are doing unfulfilling or passionless work, try to find a way out of it. You can transition out of your career. Here's an entire post on how to do it.
If your work doesn't reflect who you are, you are not able to make your greatest contribution to the world.
Take small steps to get out of your day job and do work that is a reflection of who you are. You have after-work hours and weekends to work on your next career or business.
6. Ignore society's guidance and demands.
You are going to be bombarded with a lot of advice and guidance from society, which will tell you what it takes for you to be happy.
Get a job, get a house, get a husband, get a baby, etc etc. Have a retirement account, invest in property, get more education.
Society's way is one way "“ not the only way. You can choose the life you want to make for yourself depending on what's important to you.
7. Spend wisely.
Be careful how you spend your money. Don't waste it unnecessarily on material things or spend it mindlessly.
Do you really need whatever it is you're going to purchase?
Is it a conscious purchase that will really add value to your life, or will it be just one more piece of junk you're collecting for a garage sale down the road?
Ask yourself, "Can I live without making this purchase? Is this purchase absolutely necessary?"
Along the same lines, be mindful of how you spend something far more valuable: your time.
Ask the same questions about your time that you ask about money.
Eliminate wasting your time on mindless and unfulfilling activities.
8. Walk with courage.
While we simply cannot eliminate fear, we can learn to walk with more courage in our lives.
Acknowledge fear for what it is, and then question it.
Is the fear real? Is the worst case scenario likely? What would happen if the worst happened?
Once you acknowledge fear, you can go about your life aware of it, but keeping it on the back burner.
You can exercise courage whenever fear crops up.
9. Say "no" more.
A conscious life allows you to gravitate towards a life that you want to live and places the power of choice in your hand.
The greatest weapon you have for living a conscious life is to say "no" more. You say no more by saying more "noes" to small things. If you don't want to eat a particular dish or attend a particular event, say no.
Continue building up your "no" muscle until you can say "no" to the things that matter.
Until you can say "no" to that boss, "no" to that relationship, "no" to that unhealthy lifestyle.
10. Be picky.
Be more careful in choosing your friends. You become more like the people you surround yourself with. Let go of the negative people in your life.
Your clothes. You make a statement when you purchase a brand. Be more aware of whom your money is going to and what interests your money supports.
Your food. The food you buy also makes a statement. Buy food that is farmed safely and is good for your body.
Your entertainment. Know that the sights and sounds can inspire your creativity and stir your soul. Be more aware of what you're watching and listening to.
11. Go within.
Again, the world loves to give you advice and has many paved routes for you to take your life journey.
If you chose to live consciously and create your own path, be cognizant of what people tell you to do, but ultimately go within to find the answers. Go within to listen to yourself. Trust your inner voice.
12. Let go.
Society wants you to hold on tight to whatever it is you have.
But there are a lot of things that are worth giving up. It's worth giving up your negativity and judgment towards people and circumstances. Both don't serve you well.
It's also worth giving up attachment. Release the need to be attached to your desires, goals, dreams and ambitions.
Work towards what you would like to accomplish in life, but let go in the process. You don't have to have a tight grip and tie your self-worth to your ability to achieve something.
13. Treasure the moment.
You are likely living in a moment that has passed or one that is not yet here.
Will you be here now?
As Eckhart Tolle reminds us, "Whatever the moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it."
No need to repeat your past mistakes and bad experiences and relive the pain over and over again in your mind. Nor do you need to get anxious about events that have yet to unfold.
Live in this moment. Focus on the task at hand.
14. Practice daily acts of forgiveness.
We hold onto grudges and wrongdoings, grasping tightly onto the coal of justice in our palms.
When we hold onto resentment that tightly and refuse to let go of trespasses against us, the hot coal burns our own hands.
Forgive daily and pardon people for all the small trespasses against you.
15. Focus on what you have.
Wouldn't it be more fun if we thought about the achievements and experiences we had in life as opposed to the ones we were seeking and searching for?
The more we focus on what we have and show appreciation for it, the less we will be operating from a place of lack or want.
Focusing on what we have leads to contentment.
16. Give freely.
The one place where you can afford to share selflessly is when giving. If you want to serve, do it.
No need to think much about helping others who are in need.
You almost can't go wrong when helping someone else. Look for more opportunities to help someone daily.
17. Practice compassion.
Practice compassion on yourself and others. Let go of your perfectionist tendencies and don't hold yourself to such a high standard. Vibrate love from within and be willing to release any negativity.
Extend that same compassion to others. Instead of scorn and judgment, feel empathy and seek to understand the plights of others.
18. Capture the silence.
The world is noisy like a bazaar. So is your mind.
The way to slow down your mind and your life is to slow down your thoughts.
Seek and practice silence so you can be more mindful of your thoughts. Being more mindful allows you to live more purposefully.
Awareness leads to clarity and intentional action.
Be ok when the television is off and you don't hear any music blaring.
19. Be observant of the ego.
Our egos like to sit in the driver's seat and rule our lives unless and until you call them out for what they are.
You stop the ego from taking over by recognizing it.
Your ego wants to dominate a room, dominate a conversation, feel superior and own your identity.
Know that acts of superiority, judgment and resentment stem from the ego.
Watch for hints of the ego throughout your day so you can try to infuse the crafty creature with love.
20. Be mindful of your words.
Be sparse and intentional with your words.
Know that words can hurt. If there's an alternative way to say it that will be softer on someone's eyes and heart, say it in a nicer way.
If there's a way to speak that hurts less and inspires more, do that.
If the words are not necessary for the situation, opt for silence instead.
Words have meaning and consequences. Acknowledge the words that you use.
21. Wash anger with love.
When anger erupts like a volcano, be willing to see it. Watch it erupt repeatedly to catch the pattern that leads to your anger.
Have a plan for simmering your anger so you can learn to soothe it.
Anger flows when you don't get your way. Or when someone doesn't live up to your expectations or disappoints you.
Come to realize that no one can trigger your anger. Only you can recognize the triggers that make you angry.
Do you think that you have to become an enlightened spiritual being to live a conscious life? No.
You can strive each and every day to work on living a more conscious life. Living consciously starts with a simple intention to live more deliberately.
To choose to live more consciously is to gift yourself more joy and happiness in your life.