For one who leads a virtuous life,
it is a natural law that remorse will not arise... For one free of remorse,
it is a natural law that gladness will arise... For one who is glad at heart,
it is a natural law that joy will arise. Buddha
This month's Awakening Joy course is all about integrity, or what James Baraz (and the Buddha) call "the bliss of blamelessness". Every year I take this course (I think this is my 5th year), I find this particular theme the most useful and relevant. I listen to the audio from it over and over again and I read the supportive letters from it over and over again. I've posted on this topic before, and today I'm going to share the takeaways from this particular year's session.
I think I find this topic so useful because I see so many parallels between healthy living (eating moderately, getting exercise, getting enough sleep, managing stress), and living with integrity.
By the way, Awakening Joy is an amazing course and I highly recommend it. You can check it out here:
Here are some key points:
1. When we act skillfully or with integrity, we sow seeds for increased happiness in these four ways: 1) the feeling you have while doing the action 2) the response that comes back to you from those on the receiving end 3) the feeling of either ease or remorse when you recall past actions 4) the likelihood that you will act similarly (either skillfully or unskillfully) in the future through practicing that action.
Connection to food: when I eat moderately and take great care of myself, I feel great, I am happy around others who are in turn happy around me, when I think back on my day I feel good about the self care, and the more I do it, the easier it is to keep doing it.
2. When we see clearly that our unskillful actions are creating more suffering for ourselves, we begin to clean up our act, not because we are trying to be some kind of saint, but because we pragmatically realize that we want to develop more well-being.
Connection to food: the better care I take of myself, the better I feel, the easier life is, the more joy and pleasure I experience. It's exponential.
3. Cultivating Integrity is the practice of mindfully listening clearly to your moral compass inside, realizing that the more you follow it the happier you’ll be.
Connection to food: when the binge beast starts to whisper in my ear, if I can ignore that voice I'll feel so much better over time.
4. When we’re lost in an emotion we can easily act on an impulse that may feel momentarily pleasurable or justified, but later experience many moments of regret. The key to choosing wisely is seeing the bigger picture and going for the longer-lasting happiness. If I can imagine how this will feel a week or a month or six months from now, I realize that delaying my gratification is not really depriving myself—it’s actually choosing a longer-term source of happiness.
Connection to food: again, when I think about how I'll feel even 5 minutes after a binge, and stop myself, I'm not depriving myself at all. I'm really taking great care of myself and feel so much better.
5. James Baraz shares a technique by Alan Marlatt: S.O.B.E.R.: Stop, Observe mindfully what you’re feeling in your body and mind, Breathe to calm your system down; Expand your perspective and sense how you will feel after you choose to act; Respond wisely. This is a great strategy, normally shared with those recovering from alcohol or drug addiction, but I again see many connections between this and healthy living.
6. In Buddhist philosophy there is an antidote for guilt. If you act unskillfully, rather than getting lost in guilt, it’s recommended to practice what is called "wise reflection" or "wise remorse." Ask yourself, "What can I learn from the experience that will help me remember to act more skillfully if a similar situation arises again?" In this way you use the painful event as a springboard for more skillful actions in the future.
Connection to food: In Inside Out Weight Loss, a big strategy is self-correcting, and continuous improvement. The idea is that we will make mistakes in life, and the best way to handle them is not to hurt ourselves and beat ourselves up, but think about what we can learn from the experience and how we can handle it better next time.
I hope you enjoy these teachings as much as I do. I leave you with a great quote from another wonderful teacher, Geneen Roth:
"But change really is possible. And it really does take a fierce kind of longing, and a fierce kind of love for yourself. For the life you knowis possible. Ask yourself what you love most of all. Do you love your life? And are you willing to take action on your own behalf?" Geneen Roth