VGL says in Eight Steps to Happiness that the path to enlightenment is very easy, all we need to do is change the object of our cherishing from self to others and everything else will come naturally. The essence of the Mahayana path is to have our every action be for the benefit of others. Once we have made this shift, then we naturally look for ways of increasing the quality of the benefit we bestow upon others through our actions. The most valuable thing we can do for others is help them overcome the real cause of their problems, their delusions. To do that, we need to gain the wisdom knowing how to overcome delusions. We acquire that through our own practice of Dharma. Once we have this logic, then it is just an issue of taking things to their logical conclusion. If only Dharma realizations provide any lasting freedom or happiness, then we should not stop gaining realizations until we have gained them all – in other words, attained enlightenment.
But the linchpin to all of this process is making this change in the object of our cherishing. It is not enough to just mentally know we should or understand this logic, we need to bring about a genuine transformation in the reason or purpose behind our every action. Every day, no matter what our circumstances, we are engaging in actions. The easiest and most important method for transforming our life into a retreat is to mentally do everything we are normally doing anyways, but do it mentally for the benefit of others. If we can do this, then our transforming the rest of our life into a retreat will come naturally. If we fail to do this, then it will be impossible to really transform our life into a retreat. Like with the path itself, this is the key step.
In the beginning, we should not worry about trying to do our every action with a bodhichitta motivation, but even just simply train in doing our actions for the benefit of others. We happily serve others. So in our work, we help our boss and clients/students, at home we help our kids, with our partner we support them in their goals and help with a disproportionate share of the household work, with our friends we try help them be happy, on the road we let others go first, when we are with strangers we give them a warm and friendly smile, when we bathe we do so so others don’t have to smell our bad human odors, etc., etc., etc. We are doing all of these things every day anyways, we just need to change our reason for doing them from doing them for our own benefit to doing them for the benefit of others.
There is no mental habit more important than this to develop. From this mental habit, the rest will come naturally and essentially effortlessly.