Staying consistent to your spiritual practice using principles from popular productivity hacks and ideas

Below is a post I’ve had in my buymeacoffee page where I create and provide free calendar downloads. I provide the  Buddhist observation dates calendar (have been doing one each year since few years ago) and the Chinese lunar calendar for free downloads. As these are related to Buddhist practice, I thought of sharing some ideas for those who are struggling to stay consistent in their own spiritual practice by applying principles from Atomic Habits, Compound Effect and Elastic Habits.  As these are widely used and popular productivity and consistency techniques, it is easy to find motivation and inspiration on how to apply the concept of forming and maintaining a good habit and forming systems (not goals) into our spiritual practice.

I am reposting the post here in this blog:

Hi, I am a full time caregiver for my mom since 2017. Each year, I would list down observation dates. If time permits, I would create a Buddhist calendar, and a Chinese lunar calendar because I realized that these dates are hard to access in certain parts of the world. Eg Buddhist observation dates are printed on almost every calendar in Thailand but hard to find in many countries. While the Chinese Lunar dates are usually listed in Chinese characters- and those who wish to observe but cannot read Chinese would find it hard.

I’ve moved the downloads to buymeacoffeepage instead of this blog as I sometimes encounter bandwidth issues when the pdf files were hosted in my site. It is also a good way for me to know if anyone is finding these calendars useful. And seeing the downloads encourage me to continue creating these calendars in future.

I’ve created these free resources which I wish to make it as a gift to you.

My only wish is that you try to set aside time to practice based on your own spiritual path. If you are starting out, start small and consistently. You can apply conventional habit forming principles such as Atomic Habits, habit stacking, Compound Effect through just commiting to 2 or 5 minutes a day and eventually increasing the time (search via YouTube and there would be tonnes of videos teaching you how to build these habits). Once you are used to doing it, the positive and profound effects you feel would form the momentum and motivation for you to practice.

Practice can be simple….nothing complicated. Decades ago, my mom just pick up a free distribution booklet from a temple and memorized two lines each day while taking the minibus to and fro from her work as a nurse. After 2 months, she had memorized White Robe Guan Yin chant and Dai Bei Zhou. She could have just read from the booklet during her practice but she wanted to memorize it so she could chant it anytime, anywhere.

Do note that when starting out any spiritual practice, you would probably encounter obstacles to deter you. In the case of my mom, she had insomnia but when she sat down to chant each morning, the first two weeks she felt so so sleepy. As if there was a force pulling her towards the floor to lie down to sleep. But mom was determined to see it through and after two weeks, the tiredness just disappeared, to be replaced by extreme alertness that lasted through 30 over years of her daily chanting practice. Over time, she added some chants like Buddha Jaya Mangala Gatha and Metta. And while she had a formal practice during each morning, she would chant silently on her own throughout the day.

When I asked her how could she do it each day without feeling bored…..she said the practice was like breathing for her. And she said we all need to breathe, so she also need to practice. My mom had a hard life…. with beauty and intelligence she could have chosen a life of luxury or migrating to UK and Australia to start a new life as demand for Commonwealth trained nurses were high. But she chosen to stay back to look after the servant lady (not her birth mother) who raised her and paid for her education, and she chosen to stay back to raise us instead of going out to enjoy herself. She would have to work hard each day as a nurse in a busy ward serving the poorest segment of society. Then take the commute back only with tonnes of work like laundry and cleaning waiting for her (we were too young to be of real help and she had no one to help her).

Hardship and suffering gave her heart a profound understanding which given her the urge to start and stick to her own spiritual practice. The practice brought a lot of inner peace, followed by blessings and protection for her towards later part of her life. Seeing the positive effects of her practice was what motivated my brother and I started our own practice. My mom had taught us by example.

That is why don’t begrudge if life has not been easy and filled with hardship and suffering. It is through such a life that a profound deep spiritual understanding take root. If we have an easy life, where people bow to our whim and fancies, our lives would be controlled by our defilements and greed, which would only grow more and more eventually causing us to spiral downwards.

Don’t give up. If you fall off the practice, resume back by starting small. Don’t pressure yourself by building high expectations. Also, don’t go by the all or nothing approach, ie if you cannot chant or practice an hour a day, then you don’t do it. If we cannot spare the usual hour, doing it for 5 or 10 minutes is better than not doing at all.

If we slip up for one day, it is okay but make sure we do not skip for 2 consecutive days. I heard this advice from creators who used to be addicted to smoking or alcohol. Even after stopping for years, sometimes at moment of extreme stress or when attending a social event, they may just have a cigarette- and if they did it, they don’t beat themselves but they make sure they don’t do the bad habit two days in a roll.

The principle of compound effect (book by Darren Hardy) is also is applicable in spiritual practice. In the beginning when we try to practice, we would encounter a lot of resistance. Also, we can practice for a long while before seeing any noticable results. Most people get discouraged and may just give up.

When we are starting out and don’t see results, we need to just have faith. Reflect on the spiritual masters whom we look up to…. they all started like us, born into a normal family with worldly commitments before they decided to practice. And if everyone of them say practice is good, then there must be some truth in it that is worth trying out for ourselves. What do we have to lose if in the beginning we are just starting out with 5, 10 or 15 minutes? After all, if we are not doing practice we would probably be wasting it on other things like hitting the snooze button (to sleep in) or mindlessly scrolling through social media.

Then one day, after sometime, the compound effect would set in….. and suddenly the fruits of our practice would ripen in our own hearts. Again, giving a normal life example, if we start exercising and eat healthily, we would not see results for months especially if we start small. But one year of doing small wholesome actions consistently will add up. That is how people who used to be lifelong coach potatoes and ended up running marathons started….. they start small by just walking round the block for 5 minutes, then after sometime, they start to jog, then start to feel good, and see the weight loss, then it becomes an intrinsic habit ……the motivation comes from within because they see and feel the results for themselves.

Always it is getting started that is the biggest hurdle. If you still find yourself unable to start or stick to it consistently, try habit stacking. That is pair it up with an existing habit. For example, let’s say you love to have your cup of morning coffee first thing in the morning….. you can tell yourself okay before you allow yourself to have that cuppa, you would sit and meditate for just 5 minutes. So that cup of coffee become like a positive reinforcement or reward that get us started and eventually we would build into an automatic habit.

In this world of constant distractions and instant dopamine inducing fixes (like doom scrolling through the phone), video games and Netflix, it is hard to start, and even if we start to continue to practice. So we gotta learn to think out of the box and not be too rigid. Again, doing it for 5 minutes is better than not doing it at all.

Consistency is the key- you can just set aside a fixed time each day to practice, and then get on with your day. Once you feel the positive effect, and you would with time because the compound effect is real (after you overcome initial hurdles which tend to always come to lure a person from pracdticing like sleepiness, extreme wondering mind, doubt, restlessness, etc) ….. it would become automatic and a part of you.

A final note is that when you download the free resources, your email address would be captured. Please be assured I would not spam you by attempting to sell you anything. Maybe you would get a few emails from me throughout the year but when come end of this year and if I come out with next year’s calendar, I would try to send an email to notify so that you can come to this site to download….. I would always make it free.

May you practice progress and may all your obstacles be overcomed. Take care and check back again for next year’s free calendar download.

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