By Vikas Malkani
Ancient yogic masters have always taught that we live in two worlds at the same time—the inner and the outer world. While the external world is not always in our control, we can always hold sway over our inner world.
We must be aware of both these worlds if we wish to become joyful and experience happiness in our daily life. Awareness is the practice of staying awake moment to moment; to be fully present and available to every moment; and to choose deliberately.
Creating this state of awareness is the first step toward becoming stress free and living a life of happiness and freedom. Since the mind is the source of unhappiness or happiness, stress or calm, sickness or well-being, failure or success—it is only logical that we should direct our attention to the mind. “To be aware” is synonymous with meditation; and meditation is your road to a higher level of self-understanding.
Here are a few effective strategies to reclaim your happiness and freedom. By applying these strategies, you will experience less stress. Remember that the entire basis of meditation is to make you enjoy life more, partly by realizing that happiness is not dependent on external factors. With happiness comes freedom.
Apply these 7 strategies to your life and watch the benefits:
- You were born an original, don’t die a copy!
Rushing through life to accumulate more and more, because that’s what everyone else is doing, or because that’s what is expected of you, seems to be a strange modern disease. Happiness and freedom cannot come where a mad race is being run, with a seemingly elusive goal. Dare to slow down and step out of this rush. Have the courage to turn away from a conditioned mind-set and superficial possessions; step out of the daily grind and stop the rat race to find your true life.
- Accept ownership of your life and everything in it
At the deepest level, everything occurring in your life-experience is the result of your own desires, choices, actions and reactions. Whatever you experience in your life is a direct expression of who you are. Good or bad, it’s your life, and it happened with your participation, whether conscious or not. Therefore, accept full responsibility and control of your own life—not only what it is now, but what you want it to be. Resolve that just for today you will not get angry or worried, but will instead take some action to create what you want.
- Stop judging, resenting and blaming; they are toxic to your future
The easiest and most unconscious thing to do is to walk around judging every moment, event and person who comes into your life. Remember that even when you judge, you do so from your own level of awareness—so if you want to raise that, you must turn your attention inwards, and not outwards towards others. Impugning blame elsewhere is another easy trap to fall into, and it ends up making you weaker and impotent. If you truly accept the responsibilities in your life, you spontaneously release all blame and resentments. It’s important for you to see that holding onto some hurt or hatred that’s caused by someone in the past will only make you their slave in the ‘here and now’.
- Look at the bright side
You have two choices in every situation—either curse the darkness, or light a candle. Choose the more positive attitude, always, regardless of the situation. It comes at the same expense as the negative thought or choice, but with extremely different consequences. One produces stress and the other releases it. Remember that if you keep your face to the sunshine, you cannot see the shadows.
- Let your passions lead your life
You were born to share with the rest of the world what you love to do and do best. So do so! Put what you love first, above all. Follow what you love and remember that love never considers fear. When you love what you do, you naturally get better at it and eventually excel at the task. You are also happy doing it, which is more than can be said for the majority of people who work. With love as your guiding light, your success in life is assured because you will enjoy both happiness and success.
- Count your Blessings
We frequently tell ourselves the story of what we lack, what others have that we don’t, what we missed, of opportunities that got away. But you can’t be happy if you spend time focusing on what you should have, would have, or could have done in the past. Instead, begin every morning by consciously counting your blessings, and recognizing the fact that if you’re reading this magazine, you are in a better position than the majority of our world. Stay focused on your full-ness, not your empty-ness. Stay focused on what’s good in your life, and work to make the rest better.
- Be action oriented and take baby steps
Wisdom is meaningful only if it is followed up with action. To learn how to swim, you must get wet. Don’t be too concerned about how much there is to do, or how big some of the tasks seem, just do what you can do. Take baby steps and get one thing done at a time, again and again. Just do what’s in your power, and brush aside all other concerns. Remember what the Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu, said, ‘The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’. Wisdom lays the foundation, but it is action that finally created a better life and future.
Meditation and wisdom are the foundations of the ancient wisdom of the Upanishads (also known as Vedanta). Starting from the sages of the Upanishads and down through the centuries, enlightened have spoken about the importance of meditation to live a happy and peaceful life.
Invest in meditation, joy and awareness—because those are truly the best gifts you can give yourself year after year.
Vikas Malkani is a leading teacher of meditation, a best-selling author and the founder of SoulCentre, Asia’s Premier Centre for Meditation, Mindfulness and Stress Management. To learn more, go to www.soulcentre.org.