How to Be Good.

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I’m very picky about what happens on this Blog – you knew that.  Right?  And today I’m really blessed to have as my guest Alisa Bowman.  

Alisa is brilliant, funny and generous.  Want to know more? You’ll find it below.

Lately whenever I commit an Act of Negativity—say I lock the puppy in her crate because she just chewed my favorite pair of shoes—my kid quietly commentates, “That wasn’t very Buddhist, Mommy.”

She says this whenever I grumble about other drivers, become impatient while standing in line, or say something nasty about a certain politician. She finds at least one opportunity a day to admonish me. It’s humbling, but also beautiful. After all, not only does her comment remind me of my personal goals, it also brings a smile to my face, forcing me to laugh and admit, “You’re right. That wasn’t very Buddhist at all!”

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that most of us want to be good people. After all, I don’t meet too many people whose daily mantra is, “Evil rocks!” Sure we all might define “good” in different ways, but the following virtues seem to be pretty universal: honesty, compassion, kindness, humility, generosity, patience, and the courage to stand up for the oppressed. Personally, I try to boil all of that down into this simple mantra: Spread happiness; Alleviate suffering.

It’s, of course, one thing to believe this mantra. It’s quite another to practice it. So much negativity gets in the way, and much of this negativity feels so dang justified. Yet, it rarely, if ever, is.

Consider the following negativity traps:

Negativity Trap #1: Disconnecting.

This happens when we see an entire group of people as unworthy of our help. We close our hearts to such people. Rather than digging deep to find empathy, compassion or understanding, we tell ourselves things like, “They need to work hard, just as I did” or “Why should I be kind to people who are so mean?” Rather than see people as individuals—all of whom have their own stories and struggles—we write a false story about them in our minds and we cling to that story, despite evidence to the contrary.

The antidote, of course, is connection. Get to know your neighbors. Ask questions. Really and truly listen to the answers. Find and see the good in others rather than fixate only on the bad. Understand their reality rather than blind yourself to it and spin a piece of fiction in its place.

Negativity Trap #2: Blaming.

You’ve probably heard the expression, “When you point a finger, there are three fingers pointing back at you.” It’s very similar to a well-known teaching from Atisha: “Do not look for faults in others, but look for faults in yourself, and purge them like bad blood.” The thing is, it’s a lot easier to see what’s wrong with other people, isn’t it? It’s harder to see our own anger, impatience, envy, pride, greed, laziness, unkind ways, gossipy nature, and so on. That’s why, whenever I find myself thinking critical thoughts about someone else, I take a moment to reflect. I ask myself, “What does this negativity say about you?” I sit with that question until I arrive at an answer. Usually it’s quite humbling.

Negativity Trap #3: Complaining

Most of us complain about what we have no power to change: the weather, the price of groceries, other drivers, and so forth. While some of it might be justified, complaining never leads to happiness. Here’s more: complaining usually arises out of idleness. When you are busy changing the world, you often don’t have time to complain. When I find myself complaining, I ask myself, “What can I change? How can I improve my circumstances? What can I do to make the world a better place?” Usually the answer lies in spreading happiness—in being kind to every person I meet. I can’t control the price of groceries, but I can smile at the person who rings them up and offer to bag them myself.

Negativity Trap #4: Should-ing.

I should meditate. I should be more generous. I should be more understanding.

That one simple word makes everything sound and feel much more difficult than it really is. Should invites resistance over for dinner and then a sleep over. Eventually the two intertwine and produce guilt babies if you are not careful. Change the word “should” to “want.” Do you really want to be more patient or understanding or kind? Want courts effort and, with enough effort, everything is possible.

Now you know why Alisa is my guest today. 🙂

Encourage one another.

Love Elle
xoxo

Alisa is one busy bee:

The author of Project: Happily Ever After, a memoir about saving her marriage. Not forgetting the blog of the same name.  Also the author of The 7 Day Slim Down, a diet that features vitamin D.

A journalist and ghost writer, she’s co authored more than 30 books, seven of which have been bestsellers.

She runs and practices yoga, teaches meditation and takes Dharma classes.

And best of all, to me, she says that love is the periodic table for her life. “I try to spread happiness in every interaction, with some moments being more successful than others.”

Photo credits:
nyana_ponika 

ElleSommer
Elle Sommer is the author and founder of Live Purposefully Now, a website focused on sharing the insights and ancient wisdom that have collectively changed her life, in the desire to make a meaningful impact on yours. Trained at Coach U and having completed a year long training with Bob Proctor, her mission is to encourage and inspire others to build the business, relationships and life they want. You can also find her on Healthy Natural Oils her new website for helping you get started with essential oils for more natural health, well-being happiness and success in your life!

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16 Comments

    • Hi Dan and thanks for joining in the conversation. I love that question “Where’s your Zen” I’m going to pinch it and use it for myself. 🙂 Thank your wife!

  • Elle and Alisa,
    I really like this post and your list! I need to be careful with the should-ing! I saw one of my should in your example!! Alisa, you are busy with all your books and yet appearing to stay very centered with your yoga and spreading happiness. I will definitely check out your books!

  • Lovely post, Alisa. I can relate to having the mindset of peace and tranquility, and then life gets in the way. You’ve reminded me that we are all meant to face our challenges and each one is another chance to learn and grow.

  • Hi Alisa and Elle,
    Blaming and complaining really touch my uncomfortable nerve. I read this and realized my normal reaction is to feel guilty when I catch myself doing these, then just walk away, like my feeling guilty absolves me. Not so easy to step away from that easy guilt and look at myself for the underlying lesson. So much to learn and practice…

    • Hi Nay, welcome. You’re so right there’s much to learn and practice…but you know what the more we do, the better it gets and the easier it gets and then we look at the life we’re creating and can in all honesty say WOW! It’s pretty cool. 🙂

    • Dear Nay–Life’s too short for guilt. I like to think of it like a hot piece of coal that I’m holding. It does no good to hold it and burn myself. It stops me from moving forward. It drains energy. It’s not easy to let it go, but so necessary. I like to think small. It’s the thinking big that leads to guilt/doing nothing. I think of what I know I can do with who I am right now.

  • Awesome. Profound. Totally where I want to be.. and I’m working on it with fervor! Thanks Alisa and Thank you Melody for sharing Alisa’s wisdom. ~ Peace & Love ~

    • Since reading this article, I have learned to curb how much I say “I should”, I am learning to set my limits and stay strong, I am learning to not take people’s false accusations, judgements or plain lies to heart – I realize it is THEIR issue, NOT mine. I am learning what parts of my behavior attract the wrong people. It just amazes me how much there is to learn about myself, how many wonderful gifts the Universe has to offer when you are ready to receive them.

      • Thanks for sharing your experiences Jacqueline. *Love* the line about how many wonderful gifts the Universe has to offer when you’re ready to receive. That’s so true. We must be willing to receive, holding out our closed hand doesn’t get us very far. 🙂

  • Hi Elle and Alisa, Beautiful post. Spread happiness; Alleviate suffering… It is quite hard to be good at all times but keeping all this wonderful reminders in mind, will definitely guide us along the way. Thanks for sharing. Really Great/

    • Hi Sherill, spreading happiness is really pretty easy isn’t it. Just be kind whenever you can, and basically you always can. I’ve always loved this post from Alisa. 🙂

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