Thursday, April 14, 2022

Think Like a Monk

My two youngest sisters have been concerned about my well being by recommending self improvement books.  I remember thinking my father didn't benefit from a Dale Carnegie course until I took it and realized it didn't make me perfect, but made me better.  Thanks also to Barb Martin who also suggested I read "Think Like a Monk."

 The author Jay Shetty talks about his life as a monk, but the cover shows a guy with hair.  The explanation is that as a young adult he did live as monk for three years and had his hair shaved off.  He underwent the life style of a monk with meditation, no possessions, early rise, etc.  He learned a lot that served him well when he was advised to re-enter his old world but bringing his new ideas. 

We all want to be better, but we all deal with distraction.  We all have them and they keep us from deciding on priorities and focusing on them or even more basically on who we are.  I can identify with this as I set out to do this blog I found the task too daunting and found lots of excuses to put it off.   I will hi-lite a few points that hit me personally, but readers might respond to others of the many interesting points.

The author quotes Kalidasa, a Sanskrit writer of the 5th century:  "Yesterday is but a dream.  Tomorrow is only a vision.  But today well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness, and every tomorrow a vision of hope."  In another passage Shetty suggests you should focus on what you can control, which are the decisions and actions of right now.

Listening to understand what another person is trying to convey is considered a gift by Shetty.  To make the other person feel comfortable you should try to build trust. One way to encourage someone to express themself is a question,  such as "What's on your mind?"

Service is an experience Shetty advocates as giving life meaning and purpose and he gives many examples.  I reflect on my mother who spent much of her time nursing her mother in law and then much time visiting her in two nursing homes.  At one she felt compelled to help out other patients and eventually she was hired, even though she never applied for any job.  After my grandmother died and my parents moved, my mother did apply for a similar position and was accepted.  Money was a factor, but it was something she genuinely felt joy doing and gave her a feeling of purpose.

Meditation is something I have read about and even studied, but found very difficult.  Shetty suggests various ways of tackling it and what to expect.  Breathing is an integral part of a monk's existence, but it is also something we tend to take for granted.  In the chaos we live in it too often seems we react without fully thinking.  A deep breath before saying something can make a big difference.

One concept that I had taken up was that the next day starts the night before.  Thanks for reminding me.  When I adopted the idea it was to make myself more effective/efficient at work--I would lay my clothes out, make my lunch, check my schedule and try to get a good night's sleep to get a good start the next day.  Now I am retired and I have perhaps slacked off a bit, but the next day is still an opportunity to get more out of life.  Try not to stay up too late, focus on a plan for the next day realizing every day is unique and you may have to make adjustments, but without a plan you will just be blown along.

Forgiveness is easy to say, but hard for many of us.  No one is perfect and we all have a past.  We can never really understand what another person has gone through.  If we have learned from our mistakes we should allow others to advance.  Gratitude for where life has placed us and we can be happy. 

Neil deGrasse Tyson "We are all connected to each other biologically.  To the earth chemically.  And to the rest of the universe atomically."

I haven't reached perfection, but would like to think I am better for reading this book.  There are lots of spiritual advisors, lots of self improvement leaders, but few who have taken a monastic life and come back to what might be called normal.  Jay Shetty carried much of the discipline and tools of his former life and is able to explain it to the rest of us with some credibility.  Approach this book with an eagerness to swallow its wisdom and you will find much that can change your life.  You already know some of it, but being reminded helps.  Some perhaps you have not thought of or at least not from a monk's perspective.

For another take on self improvement my youngest sister Jennifer offered:  A very different perspective, but with its own merits that I like to think pushed me in a better path.

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