Last April, when I got fired from my glamorous job in one of the most traumatic ways, I was looking for a way to recover from that setback, to cleanse myself of disillusionment – and shame. I wanted to withdraw from the materialistic society, I wanted to heal. This is how, after a 5-hour journey, I set foot at the Guang Jue monastery, the place I had chosen to retreat from the world and find back my inner peace.
During the five hours of daily meditation at the monastery, one teaching in particular stroke me. It is called the “Five Principles for Well-being and Happiness”, and to these I’m adding Inner Peace. This is how it works:
There are five essential and interrelated foundations to human well-being. Each of these elements impacts on the other and a deficiency in one will cause a deficiency in the other.
The Right Spirit
A spiritual approach to understanding ourselves and comprehending the world around us will help us look at our daily problems with a deeper, yet simpler way. Putting aside all materialistic consideration and social norms will not only lessen the pressure, but also help you get back to the essential. Who said we had to follow the worldly views and be blind and passive in a decadent system?
The Right Mind
It is the mental process of our thoughts. Do I have a positive or negative view on what is happening to me and around me? Am I gentle and benevolent, or harsh and unforgiving, with the others and with myself? A calm and peaceful mind develops a calm and peaceful character.
The Right Relationship
Who surrounds me? Do I have a healthy network of relationships? Is there anybody in my circle having a toxic influence on me? We grow and understand ourselves and others through personal relationships. Each person we meet is a lesson, may it be the one of joy or the one of pain. How do I manage to look at relationship as a gift?
The Right Consumption
We all know that diet is a vital component of physical and mental well-being. The right consumption is not only what we consume with the mouth, it includes also what we consume with the eyes, the ears and the nose. Contemplate beautiful Mother Nature, get rid of all superfluous distractions (smartphones and other toys are NOT essential to your well-being!), enjoy a moment of peace and quiet, and remember to breathe in fresh air!
The Right Movement
We are leading ourselves to our own death by choosing a sedentary lifestyle. The Right Movement refers to putting our body into motion, not only the external body, but also the internal body, its organs and the Qi, the vital energy. When energy is obstructed, this is when balance is lost and disease starts to settle insidiously. Practices such as Qigong, Tai Chi or Yoga, are designed to move the Qi through the body and maintain good health. However, even a 20-30 minute walk everyday can make the difference. And if you do it in a meditative state, it’s even better.
What I like about these Five Principles is that there is no particular order to how to proceed. Start with one and the four others will follow naturally. As easy as that! Don’t believe it? Take me as a live example:
It all started in 2007 (or much earlier of course, but word count forces me to make it short!), when I had one of the worst lifestyles ever, involving a lot of self-destructive stuff, and drove myself literally sick. I was so far away from any of the five principles! Doctors announced six months for total recovery. It included one spent in bed, with my mom almost feeding me and helping me to go to wash. That’s pretty tough when you’re 26 and were partying hard every single night just a week before. Stuck at home, I had to face the fact: “What the hell did you have in mind? Is this the kind of life you want for yourself?” This is when the Right Spirit knocked at my door. The first of the five principles.
The second principle came after 3 years of that spiritual quest. Yep, that’s quite long, but hey, happiness is not supposed to be easy to find, is it? In October 2010, the Right Movement stepped in. Tai Chi, welcome into my life! When people ask me, “How did you start Tai Chi?” I usually reply, “Tai Chi came to me when I was ready for it.” 100% true.
After that, very quickly and naturally, with my whole body, mind and soul involved in the first two principles of Spirit and Movement, Consumption and Relationship aligned with my new lifestyle. This comes from someone who had been subject to eating disorders and all kinds of toxic relationships for almost a decade. Believe me (or ask my friends), these issues were so deeply rooted in me that I almost gave up on myself. So how did I manage to shut the door to them and instead welcome the Right Consumption and Right Relationship?
You see, when you’ve finally had a taste of well-being, you don’t want to let anything threat that precious and hardly-found new balance. With Spirituality and Tai Chi taking more and more space, wrong consumption and wrong relationship just didn’t fit in anymore. I used to read all the “How to Say No and Go for the Life You Want” self-help books I could find, but did only little progress. With the Right Spirit and Right Movement, it just became natural to get rid of the unnecessary, the energy consuming, the harmful and pernicious.
When Malcolm, our spiritual facilitator at the monastery, shared that wisdom with us, I realized that had been following these five principles without knowing it. I’m still pursuing and working hard to get the fifth one, the Right Mind (toughest one!), it’s a fascinating job… and so rewarding for myself and, I want to believe, the people who surround me.
May all of you be well and happy.