There are no hard and fast rules but a good daily practice would be to start with paying respects to the Buddha, the Taking of Refuge, then taking the Five Precepts. You can do this before a Buddha image, but it doesn’t really matter if you don’t have one.
You can pay
respects to the Buddha and express gratitude for His Teachings by reciting
with sincerity, the
traditional salutation three times :
Or in Pali :
Traditionally, Buddhists affirm themselves to be such by reciting the Taking of Refuge in the 'Triple Gem' of the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha. As you recite this, it may help to mentally visualize the Buddha, teaching the Dhamma, to the Sangha :
Taking the Five Precepts would be simply reciting and mentally resolving to try your best to keep these basic rules of morality :
If there is time for meditation, then some people go straight into practicing the form of meditation they choose such as Vipassana meditation, while others may start by doing some Metta meditation first. Alternatively, many prefer to do Metta meditation after the main session as the mind is then more calm and focused. Again, these are all individual choices, and keep in mind that even a short meditation session can be very beneficial.
It will be good however, to occasionally devote some meditation sessions specially to Metta meditation. This is to cultivate the qualities of Loving-Kindness and Compassion, and to radiate Metta not only to people who are close to you, but also to all sentient beings in existence whether they are small, medium or large, visible or invisible, near or far, etc.
Meditation is a wholesome action, and reaps positive kamma. An excellent way to conclude a meditation session would be to share this positive kamma with others, also known as the practice of sharing merits.
Just mentally share the good kamma you have accumulated with all beings, and also with any departed relatives you may have. This enables one to cultivate generosity, and also allows all sentient beings to share in the happiness of your positive actions.
In fact, sharing merits can be done after any kind of good deeds. For example, after you have done some voluntary services to help the less fortunate, after making a donation to help the old, poor or sick, or even after talking about the Dhamma with anyone interested.
Everyone goes through ups and downs in life. In times of stress and difficulty, more emphasis can be placed on practicing Metta meditation and the sharing of merits. If need be, after these practices, you can mentally request the help of any beings that may be able to assist you in the trying times you could be facing.
Depending also on your past kamma, it may be possible that things will soon start to change for the better. If so, don't forget to be grateful and give thanks!
Something often overlooked but extremely
valuable is the constant practice of mindfulness,
This is related to the practice of
Vipassana or Insight meditation which gradually increases
self-awareness and the ability to see things as they really are.
This practice has been shown to have significant
health benefits by enabling one to better manage and control
Sati can be practiced
not only during meditation, but as much as you can
throughout the day or night. Just
be aware whenever you can remember to do so, of your bodily postures and
movements whether you are standing, walking, sitting or even lying down.
Even to merely be aware, at any one point in
time, that you are breathing is a
large step forward.
Be aware of your physical sensations (through the five senses), your thoughts, feelings and emotions. Observe all these phenomena, and note in a non-judgmental manner whether they are positive, negative or even neutral.
It is simply a 'stepping-back' or observing with awareness whatever is happening. For example, when the phone rings, be aware of your hearing the sound, your intention to answer it, the physical movement of reaching for the phone, etc. You can even try to make yourself fully aware that you are walking from one room to another room in your house!
A further example is when you feel anger rising. Simply take a step back and observe. Take your attention away from the person or situation you are angry with and just acknowledge the anger as ‘anger’. Look for the source of the anger within yourself, why and at what you are angry with, and even try to 'measure' the intensity of your anger.
It will not be easy but eventually you will be able to observe how anger arises and how it fades away. In time you will quite easily be able to remain calm and mindful in the face of just about any frustrations and difficulties.
The emphasis is on self-awareness in the 'present moment'. The past, even of a minute ago, is dead and gone. The future is yet to occur, and may not be at all as expected. The idea is not to dwell in the past, or dream of the future. Observe and live each present moment as it comes about. You will then be truly living and able to see life as it really is.
The Buddha said that the only way to repay our parents for bringing us into this world and taking care of us from birth, is to teach and instil them in the Dhamma.
When you share the Dhamma, it is a gift for this life as well as for many, many lives to come.
Finally, always be
open, patient and humble. Treat
everyone with respect, and everything with kindness.