Summer reflections: 3 commitments and 4 doors

Summer Reflections

Recently, I’ve been over-scheduling myself – taking on more responsibilities at work, while keeping family and friends a priority, and trying to fit in the hobbies I enjoy in the margins. I sometimes take work problems home and family concerns to work. I’ve forgotten to schedule “unscheduled” quiet time when I can relax and revitalize myself.

This summer, let’s take time to reflect on three commitments we can make to help us let go of stress and anxiety, and four doors we can open to live a more meaningful life.

“We have a choice. We can spend our whole life suffering because we can’t relax with how things really are, or we can relax and embrace the open-endedness of the human situation, which is fresh, unfixated, unbiased,” writes American Buddhist nun, teacher, and author Pema Chӧdrӧn.

We can learn how to live with uncertainty and change by following the Three Commitments, explained in “Living Beautifully: With Uncertainty and Change” (2012) by Pema Chӧdrӧn. These teachings were given at Gampo Abbey, a Tibetan Buddhist Monastery in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, in 2009, and are loosely based on the traditional Buddhist Three Vows. Chӧdrӧn teaches us that pain is neither good nor bad – “It’s our interpretation of it that makes it so” – and that we need to acknowledge our pain and anxiety, giving it our full attention, so that we can let it go.

  1. First Commitment: Committing to not cause harm (Pratimoksha Vow). Refrain from speech and actions that are harmful to ourselves and others. This makes us more aware of what we’re feeling and helps us trust in our basic goodness. It’s like walking down a very narrow corridor – if you lose your awareness, you’ll veer off course and bump into a wall.
  2. Second Commitment: Committing to take care of one another (Bodhisattva Vow). Invite everyone to be your guest, even if it’s just for a day or a week. Then gradually lengthen the invitation. Do what you think will bring the greatest benefit. It’s like being on a sinking ship and vowing to help all the other passengers get off the boat before you do.
  3. Third Commitment: Committing to embrace the world just as it is (Samaya Vow). Surrender to life – engage with and appreciate the unique and precious moments in life. Live in the present and be fully open to whatever is coming along right now. It’s like standing at the center of a mandala – a vast, limitless circle, experienced in short moments again and again.”

“Everyone has problems. It’s how we choose to deal with our problems that matters. Some people choose to be whiners – some choose to be winners,” writes novelist Richard Paul Evans.

As we start to live in the present, we can learn how to live a more joyous and meaningful life from “The Four Doors: A Guide to Joy, Freedom, and a Meaningful Life” (2013) by Richard Paul Evans. The book is a 30-year journey about the principles “to live life joyfully, with freedom, power, and purpose.” Evans teaches us that we have to notice and build on our small daily achievements and successes. “Great things can happen in the margins of your own day and the spare moments of your life.”

  1. PURPOSE. Believe there’s a reason you were born. Sometimes our purpose is given to us, sometimes we find it by following our passion or listening to our inner voice.
  2. IMAGINATION. Free yourself from limitation. Imagine a better life. We have to overcome our negative belief, self-doubt, and fear of failure. We have to take control of our lives (don’t think of yourself as a victim!), learn from adversity, offer forgiveness, and feel gratitude.
  3. VISION. Magnify your life. Have a dream. Ask “what if?” and “why not?” Take risks.
  4. LOVE. Develop a love-centered map. Love that wishes good for someone else is an act of will and a skill to be developed. “Love is the destination and the journey.” The fourth door leads to all others.

Do you experience a lot of stress and anxiety in your life? How do you recharge yourself?

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