Skip to main content

3 Buddhist Practices For a Better Life

The practice of Buddhism is full of rules and rituals that can be over-whelming to the average person.  Remembering when to bow, how to sit, and where to go to the bath room can be frustrating when all we want to do is ease our mental suffering.

Thankfully, there are many dharma practices that translate easily into everyday life, and they don’t require years of practice to learn.  Incorporating these gems into your daily routine will make life calmer, simpler, and more fulfilling.


This is a Japanese word that is most often translated as mindfulness. However, in the context of Buddhism it would be more accurate to call it loving attention.  This practice is demonstrated in the way that Zen practitioners carry themselves during meditation sessions. 

Everything is done with ceremony.  The hands are held just-so when bowing. The incense is placed on the altar in a very specific way, and there is often an elaborate ritual for signaling the beginning and end of practice.

The reason for all of this attention to detail is that Buddhism teaches that every moment is sacred.  In fact, this present moment is the only thing that's real! The past is a distant memory and the future is a dream.

So the here and now is treated as a rare and precious gift because it's literally all we have.  The practice of menmitsu trains us to appreciate how special this moment is by causing us to focus with rapt attention on what ever we happen to be doing at the time.

However, you don't need to be in a Zen monastery to practice menmitsu.  Remember, every moment is sacred. And that includes the mundane ones in which we are going about our day at work or having dinner with friends. 

Menmitsu isn't about what we are doing, rather the focus is on how we are doing it.  By giving loving attention to the minutiae of every day life (driving, washing dishes, speaking with friends, etc.) you gain a greater appreciation for the specialness of every day life. 

In this way, putting away the groceries takes on the same importance as attending the altar in a Zen center.  And getting dressed for work is just as special as putting on bowing robes for meditation.  By attending to regular life with menmitsu we can recognize the sacred beauty of life's mundane events.


This is the word for effort or great zeal in Japanese Buddhism.  Nothing in life gets better without hard work and dedication.  Life itself is no exception to this rule. It's common in conventional society for people to think that hard work should be reserved for only the most important things in life.  We do calculations in our head, and we decide how much energy will be devoted to a given task based on the expected reward.

That being said, Shojin requires us to take a different approach.  We don't do a task in the hopes of getting a reward.  Rather, we train ourselves to see the task as its own reward.  In this way, we elevate ourselves by elevating the importance of our work and the energy that we put into it.

An example of this can be seen in the practice of Shojin Ryori which requires Japanese monks to prepare vegetarian meals without the use of modern equipment.  A delicious meal is the end result, but the process of creating that meal is where the real training is done. 

The early morning visit to the market where vegetables are selected, the long hours spent chopping them by hand, and the meticulous process of balancing colors and flavor-profiles into a tasty, visually-appealing meal are where the true marrow of shojin are found.

In this way, we can turn literally anything into part of our spiritual practice by doing it with a mindset of shojin.  There is no such thing as busy work or killing time.  Every task is important, because each one is an opportunity to practice the dharma. 

Standing in line at the grocery story teaches us patience. Being stuck in traffic teaches us how to endure.  And a friend who asks us for help is kindly letting us practice generosity.  When we approach the world with a mentality of shojin we shift our mindset.  And when we shift our mindset we simultaneously change our lives for the better.


A rough translation of intoku is, "good done in secret".  It epitomizes the Buddhist ideal that we should do good works without expectation of reward. This is empowering because a sad fact of life is that doing the right thing is no guarantee of a good outcome.  When this happens it can be easy to think, "Why did this happen to me?" or "I don't deserve this."

But intoku teaches us that we don't do good deeds in the hopes of a reward.  Instead we do them because the deed itself is the reward.  The feeling that comes from helping someone in need is priceless. More importantly, it's very easy to do. 

We can listen intently while someone talks about their day, compliment a friend on their outfit, or simply refill the coffee pot at work when it's empty.  This practice isn't about doing something big and flashy.  Instead, it's about constantly being on the look out for small things we can do to make life nicer for both ourselves and the people around us.  In this way, we make the world warmer, and more welcoming for everyone.

Over the past 2,600 years Buddhist teachers from countries all over the world have found ways to incorporate the dharma into daily life.  To that end, the practices of menmitsu, shojin, and intoku represent three methods that have been proven to create positive change.  By incorporating them into our daily lives we can make things better for all sentient beings.

Visit my YouTube channel to hear Dharma Talks!

If you'd like to support my work, please consider making a donation.

3 Buddhist Practices For a Better Life


  1. Buddha held up a flower, everything else is bull.

  2. Well-crafted and well-said. Thank you.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

3 Buddhist Practices for Creating Harmony

Sangha (community) is one of the three jewels of Buddhism.Buddha cultivated the practice of building community when he created the monastic order, and laid out rules which allowed his monks to live in harmony.

These rules have changed slightly as Buddhism has spread between different countries and sects.However, they are still a key part of practice.
In fact, it’s not uncommon for practitioners to recite the rules of their sangha together prior to a meditation retreat as a reminder of what is expected. This ensures that whether one is visiting the center for a couple of hours or a couple of years, they will have a quiet, contemplative space to train. That being said, it’s not just monastics who need to live and work peacefully together. Householder Buddhists who have bills, jobs, families, etc. also have a responsibility to build cohesive communities. Thankfully, there are several Buddhist practices that help lay Buddhists live harmoniously with their neighbors.Incorporating the followi…

Why We Don't Need More Angry Buddhists

A while back I read a book called, The Ape in the Corner Office by Richard Conniff.  In it, Conniff uses examples from the animal kingdom (everything from fish to primates) to explain why people do the strange things they do.  
For example, have you ever wondered why bosses can show up late to meetings, but their employees can't?
In short, showing up late is a dominance display.  He or She is the alpha of the office, and the meeting doesn't start until they get there.  
So, either consciously or subconsciously they're reinforcing their position in the group hierarchy each time they make people wait.  
In contrast, when an employee shows up early and puts a hot cup of coffee by the boss's chair, they're showing that they're both competent and respectful of the group dynamic.  These are important traits to have when it's time for year-end bonuses.
Reading the book was humbling because it reminded me that humans aren't as evolved as we think we are.  Many…

Literal vs. Symbolic Truth in Buddhist Practice

I grew up in the evangelical Christian church.  The word evangelical comes from the Greek word euangelion, which translates to "good news' or "the gospel.  In this case, the good news was that our souls had been saved by the loving sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross.
So, we spent a lot of time at church talking about Jesus, hell, and all of the terrible things that would happen to us if we didn't accept him as our lord and savior.  
Again, this was "good news" because the only thing we had to do in order to avoid an afterlife of torment was to have an unbreakable faith both in Jesus and the holy bible.
We were told that we had to "act out" our faith in daily life both by recruiting friends and co-workers to come to church and by accepting the bible as the literal word of God.  Thus, the earth was created in six days, Noah put two of every animal on the ark, and the story of Genesis happened exactly as it was written; talking snake and all.
It …