Skillful Habits Practice

Creating skillful habits is paramount towards life change. It is the foundation for a transformative life. Ethical conduct from the Buddha’s teaching such as no killing, no stealing, no sexual misconduct, unskillful speech and the not taking of intoxicants can be reframed into concrete action measures. For example, the ethical conduct against unskillful speech can be re-framed with the phrase, “Did I engage in unskillful speech today” (yes or no?)

The PhoneApp HabitBull for the smartphone is a favorite app of mine that i use to track my habits. I found it to be a powerful way to change your habits. However, the hard lesson that I learned in regards to changing my habits is to phrase the habit change that I want to do in binary or quantitative terms. I use to phrase my habit as “being kind today.” That is too amorphous. A good phrasing is (Did I engage in seven acts of lovingkindness today?) If you put a timer on your phone, like I do, so that it can go off at breakfast, lunch, dinner and bed time, then you can track to see how are doing with regards to these habits throughout the day. It is helpful for the alarm to go off on my IPhone at lunch to see that I have not practiced my centering walk yet today. It keeps my stated habits at the top of my awareness everyday.

Here are some of the habits that I review on a daily basis.

  • Drink two large canteens of water a day.

  • Eat only 2 small snacks a day

  • Practice yoga, cycling, or physically demanding work 5 days a week.

  • Write One SOARR Entry per day

  • Did I practice centering walk today?

Sometimes, you may change the wording of you habit, because it gets closer to what you are trying to do in this particular life area. For example, “Did I practice centering walk today?” became “Did I put on the Armor of the Dharma today.” (You can read the Dharma Armor blog to see what I mean.) When I fail to do my stated habit, this is just as informative as when I achieve it. By not practicing my habit, I ask myself, what is my obstacle for internalizing this habit. Some of my SOARR entries were based on habit practices.

Paul Duhigg, In is book “The Power of Habit” talks about keystone habits or habits that encourages other powerful habits. Habits such as having family, dinners, making your bed every morning, exercising regularly, tracking what you eat, developing daily routines, meditating, planning out your days, having strong willpower are keystone habits that flourish more skillful habits because you engage these foundational habits. You see that practicing skillful habits will have a ripple effect through the Awakened Practices path and life. Drinking water, no doubt, has a intimate connection to brain function and therefore intuition and discovery. This is wisdom of what the Buddha calls dependent co-origination. One thing can effect many things almost simultaneously. This is why, when you read the phrase mental, verbal, emotional actions are sacred, what I mean is that a single action can have an incredible and profound effect like a butterfly which flaps its wings can being a hurricane in another part of the world. Skillful choices that become skillful habits will craft liberating character that moves you to a life-transformative destiny and (perhaps) socetial awakening.