Everyday Practice to Benefit Others

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 What I like about Buddhist thinking, is the idea of non-attachment and selfless service for others. Also in order to serve others, one must first learn to take care of oneself, which is not an easy task. In fact taking care of oneself becomes an everyday responsibility, because even when one learns the skillful way to deal with anything that occurs, one must also keep on sustaining that habit. Sustaining is the daily practice, that is why masters train every day.

If we want to be the masters of our own lives, we should start to practice also taking care of ourselves every day. Once we overcome our own anxiousness and confusion, we can finally start truly benefitting others as well.

In everyday practice, we must first each morning take care of our own unskillful thinking and then we can turn our practice into selfless service of others, I think this is suitable enough philosophy for a layperson.

Reasons for the ‘best’ way to be helpful diverge after the point has been made that we might need to take care of ourselves first, that’s why we have different philosophies, different branches of Buddhism and even different forms of service.

Almost any rule is a simplification and thus cannot be fully applied. In the sales profession it is necessary to prioritize the needs of others from your current position. However, the Buddhist could argue that one might benefit all the people more, if you first would take the time to reach enlightenment yourself and then remain in this world and help people. Such people are called bodhisattvas and it is certainly interesting perspective.

In my current thinking, combining ideas from many sources and philosophies, I think the taking care of your own thinking in the morning and then retaining skillful practice through the day is a sufficient way for the layperson to progress. You make your life your practice by not attaching to the fruits of your labor. This kind of selfless service idea is strong in Bhagavad Gita and Zen schools of thought and I think it is rather practical philosophy.

Self-Help Signals

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I used to get easily annoyed by almost anything. In fact word “self-help” itself was a bit red alert for me. Yet I felt like this is exactly the time I need to use this word that I’ve almost banned from my dictionary.

This is so fun topic: the signals that we need to find in order to help ourselves.

Helping ourselves is the second best option, right after the fact that there might be someone who is more qualified to see what we really need. Self-help is almost the best option!

How do we know that we need self-help? I think understanding that we need to help ourselves and to accept this are the most difficult parts. Who would like to admit that they are insufficient? Who would, because we are not!

In fact we are masterpieces in construction and never to be completed. Life is an oscillation rather than linear start and finish point. However, it’s each day we must wake up and start to chisel at our masterpieces.

Have you ever wondered how do the masters know that their masterpieces are ready? I think there are several unfinished masterpieces of art out there in the exhibition.

In the same way, ourselves we are an unfinished masterpiece which we must ourselves work on each day. This is why we need self-help: it’s part of the cure, not the only cure. Rest of the cure comes from those who can see what we really need.

Good way to know if you need some self-help is that if you do not get any help from outside. So then you might need to help yourself a bit, so you can receive a bit from outside 😀

Have a great day!

Janne

Motivation

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I’ve spent whole day preparing for Tuesday’s speech at work and important component there is motivation. Because it has been all I’ve been thinking today I shall write something about it here as well.

Interesting thing about motivation is that although it is very popular concept, the scientific definition behind motivation tends to be forgotten. Then you can easily find articles which describe motivation or sources of motivation without really defining what the motivation it is.

One particularly satisfying part was for me to deep into the etymylogy of the word and break it down. According to Dictionary.com motivation appeared in English around 1870 consisting of the word motive and suffix –ation, meaning action. So motive for action could be understood. The source for the word was in latin “movere” which means to move.

Makes sense!

Motivation has been theorized and researched a lot, no wonder many businesses are interested what makes us tick in order to make more profit.

To put it in simple terms there is internal world: your interests and strengths. From this internal world you can decide quite a lot, or little depending on your own decision. Those who are conscious and control are strongly driven through these internal worlds.

Then there are people who do not ask themselves these questions such as, why I do this, where I am good at and what else there is I could do to increase the wellbeing of others… Are instead moved by external world’s demands such as having to pay the rent, then they motivate to do that in order to be motivated to pay the rent again in 30 days.

Internal needs are always there. External pressures only add to those.

We all actually can operate from internal world if we come to accept our current situation, what we can control, what we can decide about. Then we should work to clear the urgent external demands out of our needs list and lastly focus to prepare for the important things in life.

This is the nature of motivation. Reasons for action.

Often our basic needs are rather simply taken care of. Then there are loved ones whose basic needs we want to take care of. After that we are not driven so much by needs, we have time to contemplate greater things.

We still could be fooled to be driven by external needs, demands, however we could choose as well not to.

Ask yourself why you are doing what you do five times, find the underlying reason and think if there could be better match for your strengths, interests and the external worlds needs.

We Get What We Are Able to Give Others

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Life is not so much about ourselves, but what we can do for others. Then in turn if there are good people around you, your needs will be met as well.  We get what we are able to teach others. By teaching we have internalized the thoughts and transferred into something valuable for others.

When we first help as many people to get what they most need in life, then eventually in time we will get what we need. All of us are in service profession, from different skill sets we need to look how we best can benefit the lives of others.

Giving happens through selfless service with no expectations of return. With no expectations of return we can focus truly to serve, without getting distracted by rewards. Working this way allows us to truly prioritize the human and the needs.

 

Anticipate Needs, Accept and Fulfill Them

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Life becomes very satisfying when we realize that our needs are met through other people. We are often too blind for our own needs, we simply live our own life every day and thus cannot see the bigger picture very well. Other people we meet on the other hand can start to see a lot better than ourselves the ways what do we rebeally need in life.

It is through others that we can satisfy our needs at high levels.

I want to add, that we may have the wisdom about ourselves to know the difference between a need and a want. We may even understand that we do not need much. It’s about there where our understanding about the needs tend to get blurred. Often our greatest needs are social needs, because we are really social beings.

As example, much of the feeling of safety comes from group and society. Feeling of belonging as well. Even feeling of meaning and purpose: doing good to others and to the whole society at large.

When we become good at anticipating needs of others and also our own our life becomes meaningful. Our purpose literally becomes anticipating and fulfilling the needs of others at high levels.

When we operate at high levels, there is playfulness, curiosity, experimentation and exploration! We want to improve our societies, we want to live exciting happy lives.

Yesterday when I watched Elon Musk talk about Making Life Multiplanetary I see that he is working from what do we need or even must do as a species in order to increase the odds of basic survival and safety.

Elon Musk has anticipated the need, as has many others. Anyone who has anticipated and accepted the need starts to talk about the importance of doing something, in order to find collaborators to find a way to fulfill the need. Then there are those who are resourceful enough find the people and with limited resource start to work towards fulfilling the need. Eventually they will succeed.

Whatever it is a big or small need, in our own lives or in the lives of others. Try to anticipate, accept and fulfill them. Be a good stoic and you won’t be disappointed.

Unique, Not Apart

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 We are individuals who are who are part of greater self. We seek naturally to be a part of something greater than us. People are hypersensitive pack animals, because this is the way we have survived. Prioritizing first our own safety comes through belonging to group.

Our first need is safety. Only after safety has been satisfied we begin to look for some sort of variance of excitement. On the next level there is uniqueness and belonging. And finally there is fulfillment and altruism.

Because we are pack creatures pretty much all our needs are fulfilled through other people. Sure we can be physically safe alone, but we cannot be psychologically and emotionally completely safe and sane alone.

Once we feel safe within the group, our needs to show our individual and unique side begins to grow. In this way the individual flourishes within the group. We all have need to express our uniqueness and to be ourselves to a some degree.

With the individual now in mind it is easy to think that we are just individual. In reality we are just self that is part of greater self where we all are connected.

Having both interconnectedness of everything in mind, while at the same time seeing each other as unique individuals we are is a skill to practice 😉

Two Superpowers: Accepting the Circumstances and Focusing to What is in Your Control

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I was writing my life story today morning and I realized a pattern emerge: Whenever I’ve accepted present, taken responsibility and focused to do my best in the given circumstances I’ve ended up well.

Sometimes grass is greener other times. Other times it isn’t. You yourself have a hunch, are you just escaping the responsibilities of the present, or is the present influence negative to you. You have to search inside your heart for these answers. Once you know, you probably know if the present actually could be improved significantly just by assuming massive responsibility of the situation.

I’ve been in such situations often and I still end up being. As example, last spring there was a project I felt completely miserable with. When I noticed that something is wrong, I am focusing my effort to things that are not under my control. Then I decided to refocus my attention to what I can do. With this my thoughts clicked, and I began to do my best in what is under my control. The sense of control was restored and I began to feel better.

Sometimes our attention wanders off to wrong things, or we get caught off guard with something which we need to process: accept what is and find our circle of control where to focus to.

I have been in so lucky in life, that I’ve learned to recognize the negative influences to my life and find good influences. In environment of good influences, it is merely I that needs to grow into acceptance, responsibility and focus.

Only once we accept our circumstances we can begin to improve those. We should only focus to what is in our control, otherwise we gonna burn out or get depressed.

Contemplation on Needs: What Does One Really Need?

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Quick glance around at local hypermarket. I sense a lot of excess people drinking soft drinks, wearing brand clothes, playing with fidgets, etc.

Living in middle of such abundance may make people easily forget that most of this is not very not very well focused with the what they or people close to them need.

I’ve found great joy in reducing a lot of luxury out of my life. Last summer, I also happened to find great joy in trying to travel with as little money as possible. This challenge was fun, a day budget of about 50€ which includes everything in big cities such as Paris and Berlin, was rather interesting. I sense still a lot of many levels for improvement, however from the traveling I’ve used to this was rather cheap way to travel even.

My traveling diet for example was less luxurious than what normally eat. Mostly my breakfasts were just multigrain bread and tomatoes or some other kind of fruit. For lunch I tried to have variety maybe 10€ or smth. For dinner mainly a salad kind of thing and more bread if I was still hungry. Fruits, mostly bananas for snacks through the day.

Living and eating simply, made me happy about simple things. Best of all, after the trip, I began to appreciate many everyday things in a totally new light.

Over the years I’ve been gradually trying to have less and less luxury in my life and I feel like this has been the right way to go. I’ve learned to distinguish better between the needs and wants.

Now even the slice of cheese on top of the bread feels luxury.

Two years ago I dropped the meat and cucumber from top of my bread. Although cucumber is a rather fresh idea that I might get back, the meat thing was a biggie. From my childhood I had learned such a habit to eat some ham or wurst of top of the bread, so I had been following that. After I stopped, I haven’t really wanted it back anyway.

So now I’ve found even new ground, that I don’t really need even the cheese there. Well perhaps nutritionally it would be alright, yet question is also when?

I am beginning to lean towards trying some sort of fasting as well in the future as I’ve grown to understand that it is a wonderful way to start appreciate food and to learn more about my needs.

Give Up Wants and Find Out How Little You Need

 

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One of the authors I’ve been fascinated with past year and half has been Neil Pasricha. Especially the wisdom of positive psychology what he has summarized very well in his book the Happiness Equation: “Happy people don’t have the best of everything. They make the best of everything. Be happy first.”

In life you get what you are willing to give up. You always get something you really need in turn for what you are willing to give up. It takes a lot of humility and also presence. Often when things happen quickly, our minds have tendency to cling on then our capacity to prioritize and on to give up is also measured.

If we really try, how much we are willing to sacrifice for our wants? What we truly want to get accomplished, we can, but what price we are willing to pay? Those with a true purpose, mission or calling know this intuitively: they are willing to give up much for something greater story.

We all have the capacity to delay the gratifications of lower level needs, for the higher level gratification. For what story are you delaying gratification? What story is worth the sacrifice?

Life is Long Enough to Discover and Give Your Gift to the World

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On Wednesday I wrote Purpose of Life which is to fulfill the needs of others at higher levels. In the end once we start to fulfill the needs of others at higher levels, we will also in the end get what we need the most.

In there I mentioned the shortness of life, which I today want to overturn.

My thinking before has based on accepting the shortness of life, today I decided to look a bit deeper in what does it actually mean. Therefore I decided to study some texts of Lucius Annaeus Seneca, one of the Stoics. Unlike settling for the plain quotes, I read his Shortness of Life. Here the famous quote about the shortness of life continues with another equally important sentence: “it’s not that we’ve a short time to live, but that we waste much of it. Life is long enough, and it’s been given to us in generous measure for accomplishing the greatest things, if the whole of it is well invested.”

Combined with the second sentence, there is an abundant world view and gratitude in place. Length of life is enough, we’ve been given plenty it’s just the matter of how we use it.

Brilliant! So we have plenty of time, the question is then for what?

Here I would like to bring another Stoic called Marcus Aurelius to reply to this one. I listened his audiobook and one thought in particular has stuck with me: it is to work according to ones’ nature.

Nature here means your tendencies, strengths and inclinations. Literally it is about around which activity are you willing to persist and master in order to benefit others? These abilities, activities can be rather creative and used through times in combination with other qualities and abilities often resulting in unforeseen consequences.

Diversity exists; whole evolution is based on advantages and strengths. For example in the nature there are for example 20 000 bee species alone, each with certain specializations. Human mind is also capable of such diversity, so therefore we have huge diversity of personalities, strengths and tendencies.

Effort to discover and develop that nature is what matters. With such effort you will fulfill your purpose manifold.

In this time – purpose continuum, our conscious ability do direct our attention (focus) is the one thing that determines, if our time is abundant or short.