What’s the secret to feeling calm and focused?
It’s not an easy question to answer.
So why do Buddhist monks appear peaceful and present all the time?
How do they do it? Do they know some hidden secret that you don’t?
Actually, yes they do!
For thousands of years, Buddhist philosophy has focused solely on how to reduce human suffering and keep the mind focused on the present moment.
And today, we’re going to go through Buddhism’s most important principles and habits that we can all adopt in our daily lives.
While they may appear difficult at first, if you keep at it, they’ll benefit you for a lifetime.
Habit 1 – Outer de-cluttering
Did you know that the Buddha was born a prince? Yep, he could have spent his life in a big, beautiful palace where everything is done for him.
But he didn’t.
He abandoned everything when he realized the frustrating nature of materialism.
2300 years later, Buddhist monks do the same. They keep material possessions to a minimum and only hold what they need to live their life. Usually this will all fit in a small backpack.
They completely de-clutter their life.
Habit 2 – Inner de-cluttering: taking care of others
In many Buddhist circles, monks learn to do things not for themselves, but for the whole world.
When they meditate, it’s for the sake of everyone. They attempt to attain enlightenment to reach their full potential and help those in need.
When you can develop this kind of selfless attitude, you focus less on your personal problems. You get less emotional about small things and your mind becomes more calm.
This is what’s called inner de-cluttering: making room for others and dumping selfish habits.
Habit 3 – Meditating A LOT
One of the main reasons you become a monk is to have more time to meditate. Most monks wake up early and meditate for 1 to 3 hours and do the same at night. This kind of practice changes the brain. If you’ve read any articles on the benefits of meditation, then you know what I mean.
You don’t have to adopt this kind of rigorous schedule, but what if you started the day with 30 minutes of meditation?
(To learn more about meditation techniques and Buddhist wisdom, check out our no-nonsense guide to using Buddhism and eastern philosophy for a better life here).
Habit 4 – Following the wise
In western society, we have an unhealthy relationship with old age. But for Buddhist monks, they see elder people as having wisdom. They seek elder spiritual guides that can help them on their path.
If you look around, there are always insightful people to learn from. Older people have more experience which means they can offer countless life lessons.
Habit 5 – Listen mindfully and without judgment
Our brains naturally judges others. But according to Buddhists, the point of communication is to help others and ourselves suffer less.
Criticizing and judging obviously doesn’t help.
What’s wonderful about mindfulness is that it’s judgment-free. The main goal of mindful communication is to take in everything that someone is saying without evaluating it.
So many of us pre-plan our answers while we’re listening but the main goal here is to simply take in all that they are saying.
It leads to more mutual respect, understanding and chances for progress in the conversation.
Habit 6 – Change is the only law of the universe
According to Buddhist master Suzuki, a crucial principle we all need to learn is to accept change:
“Without accepting the fact that everything changes, we cannot find perfect composure. But unfortunately, although it is true, it is difficult for us to accept it. Because we cannot accept the truth of transiency, we suffer.”
Everything changes, it’s the fundamental law of the universe. Yet, we find it hard to accept it. We identify strongly with our fixed appearance, with our body and our personality. And when it changes, we suffer.
However, Suzuki says we can overcome this by recognizing that the contents of our minds are in perpetual flux. Everything about consciousness comes and goes. Realizing this in the heat of the moment can diffuse fear, anxiety, anger, grasping, despair. For example, it’s hard to stay angry when you see anger for what it is. This is why Zen teach that the moment is all that exists.
Suzuki says: “Whatever you do, it should be an expression of the same deep activity. We should appreciate what we are doing. There is no preparation for something else”
Habit 7 – Living the moment
As humans it can be tough to simply embrace the present moment. We tend to think about past events or worry about what the future holds. Our mind can naturally drift.
But mindfulness encourages us to refocus. Practising mindfulness enables us to get better at redirecting our thoughts back to what we’re actually engaged in.
Without judging ourselves for getting lost in our thoughts, we simply acknowledge that we lost our attention and direct our focus to our senses or any task we’re engaged in.
It takes discipline but it’s what we need to do if we want to be present for the miracles of life.
Habit 8 – Focus on one thing
This is a simple point, but underlines a key aspect of Buddhist philosophy.
Buddhist monks are taught to focus on one thing at a time. Whatever is happening in your present moment, give it your full attention.
When we multi-task, we often think we’re getting more done. Yet it’s been scientifically demonstrated that the brain doesn’t cope well with multi-tasking. In reality, the quality of your work when multi-tasking isn’t as high.
If you can be like a Buddhist monk and focus on one thing at a time, you’ll be more engaged with what you’re doing and probably will experience more peace and calmness as a result.
Habit 9 – Give it everything you’ve got
Giving something your all is similar to focusing on one thing at a time.
When you are doing something, embrace it with every aspect of your being.
This doesn’t mean turning into an aggressive work horse, creating stress for yourself and people around you.
Instead, focus on the present moment with a sense of peacefulness and sustained concentration.
After all, you’re living here right now. There’s nowhere else to be, nothing else to do. Give what you’re doing everything you’ve got and wait for the results to kick in.
Habit 10 – Let go of what you can’t control
Letting go of things you can’t control is a huge part of how Buddhist monks live their lives.
When you realize how impermanent everything is, you begin to let go and enjoy life for what it is in that moment.
The opposite way of living life is to get attached to things and try to hold onto them.
But this isn’t how life works. Everything changes over time. When you try and keep things fixed, you’re resisting the natural way things are.
Embrace the journey
Buddhist monks offer us a fascinating insight into living a life filled with calmness, focus, and presence. These ten habits—ranging from external de-cluttering to internal mindfulness, from accepting change to living fully in the present moment—invite us to explore a different way of being.
You don’t have to become a monk or adopt all of these habits overnight to start benefiting from this wisdom. You can begin with just one habit that resonates with you and incorporate it into your daily routine. As you become more comfortable with it, perhaps you’ll find others that speak to you as well.
These habits are invitations to slow down, simplify, and engage with life more fully and authentically.
In an increasingly chaotic world, we can look to these principles for guidance on how to live a more mindful and serene life. Perhaps the real secret to feeling calm and focused isn’t hidden at all but has been here all along, waiting for us to embrace it.
And as you walk this path, remember the words of the Buddha: “No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.”
As for what to do next, check out Justin Brown’s video on the benefits of doing nothing. He shares some principles for decluttering your mind and living with more relaxation.