The 5 precepts often given to lay practitioners are (with positive instructions in parenthesis):
I vow not to kill (Love and support all beings)
I vow not to steal (generosity)
I vow not to misuse sexuality (contentment)
I vow not to lie (compassionate truthfulness)
I vow not to intoxicate self or other (staying mindful)
We can think of precepts as aligning with our deepest intentions, known and unknown. These precepts are not “rules” as much as they are guideposts which can orient our activity in support of our liberation. We can explore them in deeper and deeper ways that encourage us to understand what it means to not kill, not steal, not misuse sexuality, not lie or not intoxicate. As we practice, our relationship to these goalposts will change, strengthen, and we gain deeper understanding of these vows.
In working with the precepts, we can consider: what does each precept mean to us right now? You can write this down, and then each evening in preparation for sleep, review your conduct that day and perhaps write one or two moments that stand out. Then see how those events might align with the guideposts or not.
Did we kill our own or someone’s spirit? Were we available and helpful to someone? Did we steal our joy or peace? Did we celebrate the success of someone? Were we jealous or selfish in our relationships? Etc. Etc. If we feel we could do better, or need to make amends, we can write that down as well. The list doesn’t need to be exhaustive of your day; just the highlight reel.
We can use this practice as a journaling project, or simply as a way to learn how to examine our life activities with compassion and awareness, in order to begin to move closer and closer to living in accord with our deepest intention. If we are consistent, over time we might begin to see patterns and causes and conditions that perhaps were hidden from us previously. We can begin to heal these hidden portions and notice how we move into and out of accord with ourselves. This can begin to build a practice of self discovery as well as accountability.