The most obvious example in my life is the giving up of meat. It doesn't feel like much of a sacrifice. Sometimes it is a bit difficult at a restaurant or when invited to a friend's home, but most of the time it is quite simple. I kind of like that at a restaurant there are only a few options that I can eat. It makes it a lot easier to order. When I go to a vegan restaurant it is exciting to have so many options, but also overwhelming. And my friends have all adjusted to my eating habits and have a vegan dish for me or accept it just fine when I bring my own food.
I gave up meat and I gained health, a slimmer body and less guilt over the suffering of animals and the polluting of the environment. I also gained a new community of like-minded people, albeit mostly online. It also has led me to take classes on plant-based nutrition and teach my patients a true way to health.
In March, Kelly and I gave up alcohol. We didn't decide to do this forever and still haven't but what at first would be a few weeks has turned into 6 months. Sometimes I miss a nice glass of wine but I gained better sleep, less pounds, and no hangovers. It also interests me to see what a social life is like without alcohol. I like interacting with people as truly myself and not a slightly inebriated self.
A few weeks ago I decided to stop watching TV. I admit it is an easy time for me to make this change. All my old favorite shows are either gone (Jon Stewart, Colbert, Downton, Larry Wilmore), on hiatus (The Walking Dead), or have diminished in quality or interest (Homeland). And the Padres suck and the Chargers, well, we'll see. On a side note, giving something up when it is the easiest is a really smart thing to do. Especially at first, when it might be challenging, it is nice to not have extra hurdles to get over. (for instance, don't give up turkey on Thanksgiving or TV during the Olympics)
Giving up TV has been surprisingly beneficial. I actually didn't watch that much compared to many people. But, an hour or two a day really gives you a lot of time to practice the piano, walk the dog, read a book, listen to music or play a card game. Or meditate for that matter.
Each of these changes has given me the opportunity to learn something about myself or about my process. For instance, I have noticed how these actions came about. I didn't set out to stop drinking for 6 months but in each moment it has felt right. A zen master wrote about meditation "that you do it not because you are supposed to stick to it but because you enjoy it. When you enjoy it you don't have to worry about sticking to it. " That is the key, right? It doesn't feel hard to not eat meat or not watch TV because I enjoy what I am doing instead.
An important concept in Buddhism is impermanence. Part of happiness comes from not clinging to something because change always comes. So, who knows, I may drink again or watch TV or even eat meat. It's okay if that happens.
Give your fullest attention to what is. Honor the present moment.