Like many others, I’ve long been fascinated with Eastern philosophies. There are quite a few, but they’re all a treasure trove of knowledge, advice, and, most importantly, guides on living a meaningful life.
That’s something most people struggle with, so it’s no wonder there’s an infinite number of gurus and life coaches.
But you don’t need to sell all your possessions and go live with a guru in India to have a more meaningful life.
I’ll show you 5 simple ways to live a meaningful life according to Eastern philosophies. They’re the ones I’m trying to follow as much as possible, and as much as the modern way of life lets me.
1) Live in the present
What’s the one thing we all struggle with the most nowadays (besides, you know, inflation, cost of living, etc.)?
It’s being in the present and enjoying the journey that is life.
The concept of living in the present is a cornerstone of many Eastern philosophies. It’s highlighting the importance of embracing the current moment instead of dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.
This principle encourages mindfulness, awareness, and a deeper connection to life as it unfolds.
Eastern philosophies embracing “Living in the present”
Buddhism places a strong emphasis on mindfulness and being fully present. The practice of mindfulness meditation (Vipassana) is a core technique for cultivating awareness of the present moment.
Zen teachings heavily emphasize the practice of “Zazen,” or seated meditation. Here, practitioners learn to be fully present and aware of their thoughts without attachment.
Yoga and Tai Chi are physical and meditative practices that also incorporate mindfulness. They’re encouraging practitioners to focus on their breath and bodily movements, anchoring them in the present moment.
Ultimately, it’s not strange to see that many modern mindfulness practices draw inspiration from various Eastern philosophies.
Ultimately, all mindfulness meditations teach us to be present, observe our thoughts, and let go of attachment.
2) Finding purpose (Ikigai)
- What you love
- What you’re good at
- What the world needs
- What you can be paid for
It’s often described as the “reason for being” or the “thing that gets you out of bed in the morning.”
While it’s not a traditional philosophical system, Ikigai captures essential principles found in many Eastern philosophies.
It emphasizes purpose, fulfillment, and balance in life – things most people so desperately desire.
It’s basically a way of life and a checklist for living a fulfilling and meaningful life.
If you look at your current job, is it something you love doing? Are you good at it? Does it help the society in any way? And lastly, are you earning a living wage and then some?
Now, if your job or position doesn’t check all the boxes of Ikigai, let it motivate you to find one that does.
If someone told you you’d have a dream job in two years that checks all the boxes, but you’d lose two years of your life, would you take it?
What I’m getting at is that you could make this a reality if you put your head down for two years and improved your knowledge, credentials, network, etc.
That’s why I did at least, and now, I’m living the Ikigai philosophy and life(style).
3) Harmony with nature
More than half of humanity lives in urban and increasingly densely populated areas. Living in harmony with nature is, therefore, more challenging than ever.
This concept is also deeply ingrained in several Eastern philosophies, reflecting regard and consideration for the natural world.
It involves an understanding of the interconnectedness between humans, the environment, and the cosmos.
This principle encourages us to connect with nature, respect its rhythms, and live in ways that maintain ecological balance.
Indigenous cultures across Asia, such as those found in various regions of India, Nepal, Tibet, and Mongolia, have deep-rooted connections to the land and its resources.
These traditions often incorporate nature-centered rituals, ceremonies, and beliefs that emphasize living in harmony with the Earth.
In fact, all major Eastern philosophies place a strong emphasis on harmony with nature.
I was first introduced to this in the famous film Spirited Away. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a highly-acclaimed 2001 animated fantasy film by Hayao Miyazaki that was heavily influenced by Shinto – the indigenous religion of Japan.
Shinto views natural elements as kami (spirits) we should respect and revere. Its practices often involve rituals to honor natural entities like mountains, rivers, and trees.
It also teaches us the importance of being present in the moment and appreciating the beauty around you.
Next time you’re in nature, take out the earbuds. Engage your senses fully, taking in the sights, sounds, and sensations.
4) Mind-body connection
The only connection we have these days seems to be the phone-hand-mind connection. People from the past would be shocked at what most of humanity does the whole day.
All joking aside, several Eastern philosophies and traditions emphasize the mind-body connection as a central principle.
They emphasize the interdependence of the mind, body, and spirit. Simply put, they recognize that these elements aren’t separate entities but intertwined components that influence each other’s well-being.
Ayurveda, which originated in India, is a holistic approach to medicine that emphasizes the mind, body, spirit balance.
It incorporates yoga, meditation, diet, herbal remedies, and lifestyle adjustments to maintain health and prevent illness.
In almost all my articles, I mention mindfulness. In my opinion, they should teach this underutilized practice in schools.
There would be less depression and more healthier and more satisfied people in the world.
You see, practicing mindfulness and deep awareness allows you to tune into the sensations, emotions, and thoughts arising within your body.
This heightened awareness promotes a better understanding of your physical and mental state.
Ultimately, studies suggest that mindfulness practices help us manage stress, cope better with serious illnesses, and, of course, greatly relieve anxiety and depression.
5) Service to others
I hate to throw shade at humanity all the time, but let’s face it, we don’t have a good track record, do we?
That’s why I love the concept of service to others, a central principle in different Eastern philosophies and spiritual traditions.
It emphasizes the importance of selflessness, compassion, and contributing to the well-being of others and the community.
This practice not only benefits those being served but also brings profound meaning and fulfillment to the person offering their help, service, and support.
It teaches us that life gains deeper meaning when you contribute positively to the world around you. Plus, serving others allows you to be a part of something larger than yourself.
For instance, in Buddhism, the practice of “Metta” or loving-kindness, is a central component.
Practitioners are encouraged to cultivate compassion and kindness towards all beings, which naturally leads to acts of service and alleviating suffering.
I believe that you can be truly happy only by helping others hands-on, i.e., volunteering.
It’s all good and fine to be “successful” and donate money to good causes (for some, NRA is a good cause), but only when you’re in the trenches do you get absolute fulfillment.
There are many other Eastern philosophy principles I could mention. However, in my mind, these five represent everything that matters – balance, simplicity, acceptance, inner peace, humility, and generosity.
Hopefully, this article helped you grasp and give you ideas for how to live a meaningful life if that’s your priority. And it should be.
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