How to Be Like Swami Vivekananda

"1. Face your fears. Once, while a wandering monk, Vivekananda was chased by a large group of screeching monkeys. He was running as quickly as he could when a monk instructed him: 'Face the brutes!' He stopped, stared at the creatures and they quickly dispersed. Use Vivekanada's experience as a reminder to face your own fears with the same courage rather than running away from fear.

"2. See God in every person you meet. Vivekananda said: 'The more I live, the more I become convinced every day that every human being is divine. In no man or woman, however, vile, does that divinity die.' Work to see all people that way.

"3. Lighten up. Many people take life so seriously and intensely that joy is squeezed out. Vivekananda was well known for his frequent laughter and his enjoyment of jokes. In fact, when asked about this, he said: 'I become serious sometimes — when I have a stomach ache!' Vivekananda could smile and laugh because he was constantly aware of God's presence in everyone and in everything.

"4. Wander. Vivekananda wandered all over India for several years, often starting a day without knowing where he would end up. Consider wandering by going for a walk in an area you don't know well. Follow a sidewalk or path without a destination or time frame. Permit the unpredictable to emerge. Just wander in order to explore and experience something fresh and new.

"5. Let more light in. Learn from people who worship differently than you. If you're a Protestant, have some conversations with a Catholic. If you're a Christian, read about what a Muslim believes and practices. An important part of Vivekananda's spiritual formation was studying and learning about religions other than his own Hindu faith. When you do this you will bring more light into your life. Here's how Vivekananda challenged listeners: 'We should be brave to open our doors to receive all available light from outside. Let rays of light come in, in sharp-driving showers from the four quarters of the earth.'

"6. Put your faith into action. Vivekananda noted: 'We need to have three things: the heart to feel, the brain to conceive, the hand to work.' Put your faith into action. When you see that someone needs assistance, help them. This was something Vivekananda always did. For example, after the Parliament was over, Vivekananda remained in Chicago for a few months. While there he often walked over to Lincoln Park, where he would sit on a bench and enjoy nature. Because he did this regularly, he became friends with a woman and her six-year-old daughter who also came to the park. One day the mother asked Vivekananda if he would mind looking after her six-year-old in the park while the mother quickly ran some errands. Without hesitation, he agreed. After that, the three met weekly in the park with Vivekananda providing child care, giving the mother time by herself to run errands.

"7. Find a spiritual teacher. For Vivekananda, his spiritual teacher was Sri Ramakrishna. For you it may be your priest, pastor, or rabbi. Or your spiritual teacher could be someone you don't know personally but whose writings speak to you. Find a spiritual teacher and learn as much as you can from him or her. If available, read a biography of your teacher.

"8. Meditate. Ask yourself, 'Am I managing my mind or am I being managed by my mind?' Vivekananda taught that meditation brought wisdom and that lack of meditation brought problems. 'The reason why a criminal is a criminal is not because he desires to be one, but because he does not have the mind under control and is therefore a slave to his own conscious and subconscious mind, and to the minds of everybody else.'

"9. Expand your social circle. Too often our circle of friends is made up of people who are like ourselves. Expand your social circle by getting to know people who are not like you, who don't see the world the way you do. Engage them in conversation and listen carefully, compassionately. Vivekananda did this during the years he was a wandering ascetic. He met and learned from people who were poor, wealthy, educated, uneducated, men, women, children. It was a highly formative period of his life.

"10. See Christ the way Vivekananda did. Vivekananda was troubled by much of the ritual and pageantry connected to Christian worship services. He felt they were pompous displays which had little to do with Christ, whom he viewed as a sannyasin, a world-renouncing monk who taught the love of God, love of self, love of neighbor and that the 'kingdom of God is within you' (Luke 17:21)."