7 months ago I moved from Europe to the heart of South East Asia, Bangkok. It’s been a big change on many fronts: workwise, friendships, food, you name it.
But probably the biggest change is in my approach towards life.
Coming from a mindset which was dominated by time pressure — whether it was in my daily commute, office schedules or social appointments — it felt truly liberating to get acquainted with the Buddhist way of life.
Now, you don’t need to move across the world to experience this.
Here are 3 valuable lessons from Buddhism that you can apply wherever you are, starting from today!
1. Stop craving impermanent joy and find your true happiness
One of the key principles of Buddhism is “dukkha”. It can be translated as “incapable of satisfying”, referring to a human craving for impermanent things that can never be satisfied. We seek wealth, professional success, power,… things that don’t last and will only bring us short-term pleasure.
Moreover, this craving can actually hamper us in finding the things that make us truly, permanently happy. Buddhism has encouraged me to reflect on what true happiness is for me — I’ve realized this isn’t another job promotion, but working with people from across the world and creating a business that promotes local craftsmanship.
2. Don’t miss out on the present cause you’re caught up in your past or future
One of the (many) things that struck me when arriving in Thailand, is the pace of living. Being used to the daily rush of commuting, it surprised me that Thai people walk calmly to their work (or wherever they need to be). Though it may be annoying at first, adopting this slower pace of living can truly be liberating.
It’s all about living in the present moment, without worrying about the past or future. Practicing mindfulness helps to let go of our constant craving. In the words of Buddhist Master Thich Nhat Hanh:
“We have negative mental habits that come up over and over again. One of the most significant negative habits we should be aware of is that of constantly allowing our mind to run off into the future. Perhaps we got this from our parents. Carried away by our worries, we’re unable to live fully and happily in the present. Deep down, we believe we can’t really be happy just yet—that we still have a few more boxes to be checked off before we can really enjoy life. We speculate, dream, strategize, and plan for these ‘conditions of happiness’ we want to have in the future; and we continually chase after that future, even while we sleep. We may have fears about the future because we don’t know how it’s going to turn out, and these worries and anxieties keep us from enjoying being here now.”
Stopping the rush and enjoying the present moment is a big game-changer for me. It prevents me from missing out on experiences because I’m caught up in past or future thoughts.
You can start by simply enjoying your daily food and drinks more mindfully, as Master Thich Nhat Hanh points out:
“You must be completely awake in the present to enjoy the tea. Only in the awareness of the present, can your hands feel the pleasant warmth of the cup. Only in the present, can you savor the aroma, taste the sweetness, appreciate the delicacy. If you are ruminating about the past, or worrying about the future, you will completely miss the experience of enjoying the cup of tea.”
3. Control your karma and create the energy you want to be surrounded with
Moving to a Buddhist country has made me reflect on the concept of karma. Contrary to what many think, karma does not refer to a fixed fate but it’s based on your actions and thoughts in every single moment.
You can think of karma as an energy that you’re creating in every single moment. Every intentional action or thought generates this energy.
For example, if you usually react with a anger, you condition your mind for anger and will receive similar energy from people around you. If instead you react to situations with peace and calm, you’ll receive the same energy back.
The notion of karma has made me more aware of the energy we create every day. We have the power to steer our actions and intentions, and influence the environment we live in. Be the change you want to see!
Now that you’ve learned about what Buddhism says about living a stress-free and mindful life, check out this article exploring whether Buddhism is a religion or a philosophy.