Everywhere you look a book, podcast, or listicle has a new spin on the key to living a good life. From encouraging mantras like “You’re a Badass” to rebuttals such as, “You’re Not That Great (But Neither is Anyone Else)“; everyone has a different take on your well-being (or your winding path to finding it). The monetization and over-saturation of self-betterment has created a substantial road block to succeeding at it.
You’re Making a Huge Mistake (And So Am I).
Let’s take me for example. I’ve been dedicating a lot of time to filling every possible moment with instructive and spiritually-based resources. I read books about achieving inner solitude on the bus and transition to podcasts about finding contentment in the subway car. At work, I pepper in an article here or there about staying centred and letting thoughts or emotions pass. I top off my evening with a good night story about Zen Buddhism’s core teachings toward enlightenment.
My brain was filled to the brim with knowledge from seasoned meditative teachers to Harvard psychologists, and yet I was still getting uptight about the person walking too slow in front of me on the sidewalk. Turns out I was making the mistake that many individuals aspiring to grow and improve make; I was putting seeking before being. I was knowing instead of practicing. I was living in my head instead of living in the moment.
It’s Only Through Practice You Gain Understanding.
The first meditation workshop I went to was at the Zen Buddhist Centre in Toronto, Canada. I remember sitting quietly for an introduction as the Roshi entered the room. The Roshi shared briefly on the history of Gautama Buddha and the origins of Buddhism. When it came to practice however, I was surprised to find that he said little. He told us that we would only understand through practice itself. I wanted to know about what I would experience and what to expect, but he simply dismissed this curiosity again: “It is only through practice that you gain understanding”.
Knowledge is powerful but gaining knowledge without intention to harness it in practice, simply facilities living in the mind. I was putting this seeking above my practice. I realized that I knew the core teachings I needed to make real change in my life, but I didn’t want to sit on the bus bored without a podcast to distract me. Sometimes I would even find myself playing a guided meditation while I got ready in the morning and act as though this was synonymous to a daily sitting.
The Practice is Harder Than The Preaching.
Practice is hard. The truth is, reading self-help books or studying the benefits of meditation or reading listicles about all the things that we should be doing, are all easier than actually doing them. Reading “10 Reasons You Should Go to The Gym” and snapping closed our laptops in passive agreement, is easier than going to the gym and sweating our asses off for a solid hour.
I am resolving to unplug for a while and rather than overloading on information, I resolve to apply this knowledge in practice. I resolve to sit and meditate. I resolve to be present on the bus, subway, and sidewalk. I resolve to live my resolutions rather than simply write them down. I resolve to make real change. My mom wisely would repeat to me, “sometimes it’s not enough to simply know something, you have to act on it” and mom, I resolve to act.
Today’s Daily Practice:
Choose one piece of information you have heard somewhere about self-betterment and put it into practice today. This could be simply meditating without distractions, performing a selfless deed for another person, or going the entire day without your phone. Take a break from the information overload.