Living can be viewed as an art form, to be studied and played with and practiced and mastered. Of course, few ever master the art of living although many may pursue it.
It seems that nowadays people live to simply get by. Could it be that if one learned a bit about habits, mindfulness, simplicity and love, they’d be able to change their approach to living?
Beginning the Pursuit
The journey begins with a single step, a wise man said:
Admit you don’t know.
Learning begins by emptying your cup, so that you can fill it with what you find. Emptying your cup means getting rid of pre-set opinions.
Saying I don’t know what the art of living is, but I am curious.
And so the path is one of open hands, of curiosity and finding out.
And it’s one of bare feet, of being open and naked, willing to be exposed to life and chaos.
It’s about clear seeing, mindfulness turned to seeing reality as it is, without trying to make things rosy or conform to the story you tell yourself.
Clear seeing, naked, open hands, curious without knowing.
The Art Emerges
With clear seeing, one can start to see why they (and others) suffer, why they stress and get mad at each other and want more and more.
And it’s then that they can apply the art of living to their days.
Here’s what to practice with:
Compassion: Instead of being angry or frustrated, find the pain in others, and open your heart to them. This includes compassion for your self.
Gratitude: Life is filled with wonder, so try to open your self to that wonder, and be grateful it’s there, instead of complaining.
Joy-fear: Joy is an awesome thing to have, but joy-fear is present in the powerful moments in life where joy and fear mix, where we’re taking chances and doing something outside of our comfort zone that both excites us and makes us face the possibility of failure. Embrace these moments rather than avoiding them.
Not avoiding discomfort or uncertainty: When we avoid discomfort, we are limited, and new learning and ventures become impossible. When we avoid uncertainty, we only stick to what we know. But we can purposely become good at discomfort and uncertainty, by practicing in small bite-sized chunks, over and over.
Staying with the moment, even when it’s hard: This is the hardest of all. “Living in the moment,” sounds wonderful, but actually staying with the present moment isn’t ever easy. Try it with your eyes open, sit still and stay with the sights and sounds around you for 1 minute, without your mind wandering away from them. If you don’t notice your mind wandering, either you’re an experienced mindfulness practitioner, or you didn’t notice when your mind wandered.
Relationships are everything: Getting what we want, having things our way, having control, being right … these things matter nothing compared to relationships. Imagine being in your death bed at the age of 80 … will your sense of being right and in control comfort you when you have no good relationships, no one who has loved you? Put relationships first.
Not holding on to expectations & judgments: Expectations and judgments prevent one from enjoying what they have, from enjoying the simple presence of someone else in their life. Practice with noticing these expectations and judgments, and practice with holding them loosely, letting them go.
Letting go: This is the art of living in two words: letting go. It’s letting go of judgments, expectations, wanting to be right, wanting to control, fear of discomfort, fear of uncertainty, fear of failure, fear of boredom, comparing to others, wanting distraction, being irritated, complaining. It’s noticing when you’re holding these, and letting go. Loosening your heart’s grip on any of these, and letting go. And then letting go again. And again.
And so the art of living is a practice, one that doesn’t end, that doesn’t have a mastery level. It’s a constant letting go, a constant picking up again, and then letting go again.
The art of living is the art of always getting back up.