So how can we both attain Gandhihood? The first step is to forget about that as a goal. Let’s take it day by day, adding one good thing, eliminating one bad thing. Keep your eye on the moral compass. When you see yourself losing your way, as I have many times, gently steer yourself in a direction that leans toward the winds of change.
This is an experiment so there will be many fails. But as the old Zen counsel goes, fall off the cushion seven times, get back up on it ten.
These are nice aspirations, but how does one uphold them in the face of temptations, deviations, distractions, discipline slips, and simple human weakness? How do you hold yourself accountable to the lofty morals you’ve set? It’s not complicated. If you have trouble figuring out your Truth and purpose, don’t wait until you are thirty, like me and Gandhi. Here’s a to-do list to kick-start your attempt.
•Set written goals.Research from Dominican University in San Rafael, California, shows that people are 42 percent more likely to achieve their goals if they write them down. Do an internal inventory. Think about your ideals, principles, standards, and morals. Then think of your physical, emotional, and mental talents, strengths, and abilities. Clear your mind and get to what you really want to contribute to the world. You’ll know you’re getting close when you have a strong emotional reaction to something you’ve written. Create your personal purpose statement. Follow your nose to incorporate what you like to do and where you can share your talents.
•Find a partner.Find someone to whom you can communicate your life purpose, along with a plan for realizing it. It can be a friend, a family member, a spouse, or a colleague. Use their honesty as a sounding board for your plan of action.
•Listen to your instincts.Let your gut do the talking, especially when you’re about to do something that doesn’t fit your personal moral code.
•Talk to a pro.Speak with a mental health therapist or psychologist. They can help remind you of your essential beliefs to make moral decisions based on them. They can help you forgive yourself when you fall short of them. They can offer a nonjudgmental, unbiased space to explore all this.
•Follow the golden rule:Treat others the way you want to be treated, with a heavy dose of empathy.
•Speak the truth.Speak up for what you want. Share what others may need to make their own decisions for themselves.
•Keep your word.Don’t make promises that you can’t keep. Do what you say. Follow through. Put your skills into action. Use your passions as a launchpad for your life. Besides (or perhaps because of) the satisfaction that comes from doing good, people who do so have lower rates of cancer, heart disease, and depression, as well as lower health-care costs.
• Dedicate a place in your house to display your passions, accomplishments, and the things of which you are proud. Every time you walk by, you’ll be rewarded with a surge of pride and a reminder of how you fit into the world.
Sexual abstinence may or may not be your path to attaining some sort of enlightened perspective on what is right and what is wrong, both with yourself and with society at large.
Ask yourself if you personally think sexual activity leads to a value system based on a moral code of ethics. Ask yourself if you feel even thoughts about sex are diverting your attention from things that should matter more to you.
Sex happens as much in the head as in the loins. If you feel you’re thinking too much about sex to the detriment of your well-being, just as I suggested how to deal with the onslaught of violence in society and from the media, turn your eyes and ears from the barrage of sexually enticing imagery and messaging.
If you think sex enhances your appreciation of life through the tactile connection of skin to skin, go for it. If sex equates to the wholesome expression of love for a mate, go for it.
Keep seeking, keep your heart and mind open.
Make space in your day for contemplation, gratitude, and growth.
It’s not important which exact religion or ideology you choose to follow.
To believe in something outside yourself, whether you call it God, the Force, or the Universe, is the heart of faith.
Excerpted from Becoming Gandhi by Perry Garfinkel, with permission from Simon & Schuster India.