-by Jim Emerson | 01/10/2017 |
Have you ever wondered how to embody a better way of living? Instead of simply reacting to whatever the universe dishes out—reincarnate your modus operandi with four timeless traits and experience the immeasurable benefits.
The alternative is sticking with business as usual, with our mind operating in something like automatic pilot mode. It’s the opposite of mindfulness, a continuous phenomenon, seemingly random, though actually it’s quite reactive to patterns of feelings, thoughts and anything we do in the present moment—in relation to our past actions, thoughts and feelings. It’s all simply karma.
All our thoughts, feelings and actions chase after one another. They’re constantly zigzagging in loops, crisscrossing and overlapping, shifting backwards and forwards through memories and projecting how our future might unfold, all of which collectively propels us from one momentary experience to the next.
How we feel affects how we think, and how we think affects what we do; what we do affects how we feel, and that affects what we think next, or what we might do next. One thought may trigger another thought or a feeling that morphs into a different feeling or thought, triggering us to do something else, or another thought arises that leads to a different feeling, etc., and so forth and so on—in endless cycles.
Fortunately, it’s possible to achieve a more harmonious and balanced life through cultivating traits that many Buddhists call the Four Immeasurables: compassion, loving-kindness, sympathetic joy and equanimity. Buddhist or not, anyone can cultivate these illuminating qualities for living less reactively and more mindfully.
Compassion—is the foundation for caring about the well-being and suffering of yourself, friends, family, enemies and indeed all living creatures. It’s an antidote to negative thoughts, feelings and actions, as well as indifference. It encourages acceptance.
Loving-kindness—is a genuine wish for living beings to be safe from harm, to experience happiness, health and life circumstances unfolding with ease. It’s an antidote to many forms of hostility and negativity. It promotes openness, love and random acts of kindness.
Sympathetic joy—is optimistic and celebratory for the good fortune experienced by others, as well as yourself. It means the glass is always at least half full. It’s an antidote to jealousy, depression and pessimism. It promotes contentment and bliss.
Equanimity—is a means of liberation, freedom from preferences and prejudices. It means treating all people and living creatures with equal respect and consideration. It’s an antidote to divisiveness. It promotes harmony and peace.
The Four Immeasurables are truly positive alternatives to mindlessly defaulting to repetitious patterns or past life conditioning, which may or may not be helpful or life enriching—though more likely not. Operating on automatic pilot limits our potential for improving our lives.
Cultivating these four qualities brings immeasurable benefits, as each individually and collectively influences subsequent arising feelings, thoughts and whatever actions we take in infinite ways—by refocusing us to outwardly reflect these positive qualities. In short, it generates good karma.
Embody and practice the Four Immeasurables by making these qualities the focus during meditation – and more importantly, during ordinary daily activities -- choosing one or more of these qualities as a frame of reference—when considering whatever arises and how to respond or not.
Winging it on automatic pilot might cause you to wonder if there’s a better way. Well, there is.
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