Category Archives: Happiness

Life in a Thorn Bush


Do you find life exhausting?

Constantly chasing opportunities for a little bit of enjoyment, trying to find the right formula for a happy life only to find frustration around every corner. Just when you thought you had found the perfect plan to create the life you wanted,  something else seems to interfere or go wrong.
Our days are filled with frustrating situations. Our plans for adjustments to bring us our long awaited idyllic life don’t quite work out the way we anticipate. Things we think will do the trick often don’t, or if they do initially seem to do the job, the effect just doesn’t last.
We convince ourselves that all we need to do is change our home, partner, job, have a holiday, change our image and so forth yet often those anticipated experiences don’t turn out to be a bed of roses after all;
We go on holiday (great!) but begin to yearn for our own bed and bathroom, arriving home to wish we were back on holiday free from the daily drudge of work and bills.
We meet our ideal partner, every minute apart is excruciating ( for a while), then much as we may still love them, we just want some space.
Our much loved and missed extended family finally come to stay, but how long before we begin to wish their time to leave had arrived.
That dream job wasn’t quite as we expected (if only one irritating colleague would leave, yes! now they’ve gone, but how much extra work do we have now? How boring can one job get?)
Everywhere we look, every plan we make, never quite gives us the lasting happiness we strive for. Something always seems a bit adrift, or the shine begins to wear off , either its not quite as good as anticipated or we get bored and feel we need something else. Maybe that plan wasn’t quite what we needed? Lets try plan B (or C, or D ….)
Everybody else seems to have their life sussed we think, but actually we are all in the same boat. Nobody is ever completely happy, permanently and completely happy.

As Geshe Kelsang Gyatso says in “Transform Your Life

“It is as if we are living in a thorn bush – whenever we move it is as if we are wounded by circumstances. People and things are like thorns piercing our flesh, and no situation feels entirely comfortable The more desires and plans we have the more frustrations we experience .The more we want certain situations, the more we find ourselves stuck in situations we do not want.”


Is your life like this?

Examine your own situation, your own daily experience.

From dawn to dusk we are beset with irritation and frustration, on varying scales from minor to major. It is currently our human experience. Just as we shift a little to find a comfortable spot, we are prickled by another thorn and need to shift again to try and find comfort, happiness, or solve that little niggling problem.

Actually our biggest problem lies with the fact that we are ” out there” focused on the external situation, no matter how much we shift there is always another thorn waiting, we fidget about trying to find the right spot but there is no ” right spot”.

This is the nature of the human condition we are currently experiencing. Hence the only way to address our life in the thorn bush and find a comfortable position free from prickles is to look within. Find a way to the inner stillness and happiness within our own mind that will give us protection from the thorn bush and enable us to discover our own wealth of happiness.

Ultimately we can find our way out of the thorn bush. But our first steps are finding the tranquillity within that removes the constant urge to fidget and look for “something else” to give us some pleasure, hence becoming prone again to the prickles of the thorn bush while grasping for the roses.

We are constantly reaching for the illusory beauty of the roses, enduring and suffering the pain of the thorns then realizing the beauty of the roses is only temporary, they fade rapidly and then crumble to dust.
This doesn’t mean we have to abandon our regular lives and activities, but we now have a more objective, realistic view of what these activities actually provide: temporary enjoyments at best, disappointment and heartache at worst.
We observe the activities of our life from a realistic viewpoint that understands all things are temporary passing events, without becoming ensnared and entangled by the belief that this is the next thing we need to “make our lives just right” .
We discover that real happiness can be created and developed within our own mind and it will therefore be free from external interference.

So where do we begin?

First we need to understand that no matter how much energy we put into changing the external furniture in our life this will not provide permanent happiness 24/7.
Why? Because happiness is a state of mind, and cannot be found outside the mind. Not in flash cars, shiny red shoes, new smartphones or exciting holidays. They may be fun for a while but 24/7? We all know the temporary happiness these things provide is not going to last, we also know that we can have fantastic material conditions and yet be depressed or anxious.
Expecting things outside our mind to provide lasting happiness is pointless, everything is temporary or impermanent, including ourselves, everything is in a constant state of flux.
Don’t take my word for it, judge by your own experiences. When were you happy every minute of a whole day, for a whole week, month, year? Never disappointed, never irritable or angry?
The state of our mind is the key to true happiness. Happiness which doesn’t depend on external circumstances. Happiness which is not shattered by problems, difficulties or the way people behave towards us.
Therefore we need to gradually train our mind until happiness becomes our normal experience and we can enjoy whatever circumstances arise in our life without grasping onto them with the expectations we currently hold.

A good way to begin this process is to try a simple breathing meditation. No special clothes, cushions, incense sticks or singing bowls needed! (Of course feel free to use them if desired)
Just 10 minutes in a comfortable seat in a relatively quiet space.

Make a decision to temporarily leave aside all worries and plans and allow your mind to rest and quieten. Begin to notice the sensation at the tip of your nose as you breathe in and out. Focus only on this sensation when distractions occur, gently let go of those thoughts and allow them to dissolve back into your mind, while returning your attention to the sensation of your breath. Do not make judgement about how well its going, or otherwise. Just making gentle effort is already creating the causes for you to experience inner peace in the future.
This will, with a little practice, give you some experience of how happiness can arise from within our own mind.

“When the turbulence of distracting thoughts subsides and our mind becomes still, a deep happiness and contentment naturally arise from within”
“By training in meditation , we create an inner space and clarity that enable us to control our mind regardless of the external situation”

(Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, Transform your Life)

With meditation we learn how to maintain a happy positive mind, and learn how to avoid distressing painful states of mind .Following the above, simple instructions, is a starting point, your meditation practice can develop with you, and become a framework for building a happier life. More instructions can be found in this free ebook, the book quoted above, or in these articles :

Help, What more can I do?

What, me?

You have nothing to lose but plenty to gain. Learn to live your life, enjoying every minute that arises and freeing yourself from the pain and exhaustion that comes with chasing the roses.

Our Gilded cage

“I’m free, I’m free,

 And freedom tastes of reality” (The Who)

A friend recently lost a furry little pet.

This pet was much loved, cosseted and was given the very best of everything.

Therefore she was initially slightly offended when somebody commented “at least it will never have to live in a cage again”.

This little animal had everything she could offer; fluffy warm bedding, quality hay and fresh vegetables twice a day, healthy pet food, an amazing cage and plenty of grooming and cuddles.

She soon realized, that although this little pet lived in relative luxury, nevertheless it was in fact living in a cage, without freedom, without choice. Continue reading

The Peace of Surrender

Have you noticed how we spend our whole life furiously rushing here and there, busily organising all those things we have to do?

The list of things which are essential to do or organise gets bigger and bigger, somehow the more we do the more there is to be done.

We all know that we have to stick to plan A to get it all fitted in, without successfully completing plan A life would just be impossible to live. Woe betide anything or anyone that gets in the way of completing this plan, everything has to fall into place ‘just so’, or our life would be disastrous.

So we get irritated, annoyed, stressed, anxious, angry and depressed when things don’t go according to plan. Basically we end up miserable trying to do all the things we think we need to do to enjoy our life. Isn’t that ironic?


But have you ever experienced those times when things seriously go adrift, when disaster strikes and we can’t stick to Plan A, or even Plan B or C? An unplanned event or situation has arisen, blasting its way through our carefully laid plans.

We try desperately to hang on to our plan: ” But i really need to be there at 7pm”, “at the very least I have to be there by monday lunchtime”,” I can’t possibly take Monday off work”, we cling on to any semblance of our original plan getting more and more stressed and anxious by the minute. The point eventually arises when we give up all hope of adhering to those plans, the situation is beyond our control, therefore we have to mentally surrender to circumstance, give up resistance to the situation and accept. Continue reading

One second in time.

One second

Are we in the throws of trying to keep our ‘New Years Resolution’ once more? Or are we a bit late deciding on whether to actually bother or not?

Sometimes our resolutions are quite meaningful e.g. we need a new job to provide for our family, or we need to take medical advice on-board, but often they are masquerading under a false identity.

If we looked at a list of all the things we have ever made resolutions about we would see that the underlying assumption we have made is that this course of action would make us happy…this will be the ‘New Me’ we often decide, a new, better, happier me than we were the year(s) before.

Hence we spend our lives with the same or different resolutions year after year and come December 31st we think (once again) ‘Next year will be better’. But will it?

We all like to think we are in control of our lives but it takes only one second in time for our lives to be turned upside down and torn painfully apart. Continue reading

Isn’t it Ironic?

Have you noticed how we spend our whole life planning?

Planning for later, next week, next month, next year?
What we can do, where we can go, what we can buy?

From planning our next trip to the coffee shop to planning our next interview or holiday we are constantly planning on ways to make our life happier. Even right down to the nitty gritty things in our life such as making sure we nip into the best vacant table in the restaurant, get the train seat with a table, or even squeeze in the queue so we get the last piece of cake.

To do
We live our whole life from the same perspective, we are the centre of our whole universe and everything else revolves around us. We don’t knowingly wake every morning and make this affirmation to ourselves but its like a little hidden agenda that governs every waking moment. We devote our whole life to making ourself happy, we probably include our friends and family in this circle because they are our friends and family, so we give them some importance in the grand scheme of things.

We all do this.

We want to be happy so this is the way to go about it, surely?

Ironically, we’ve got it wrong.

As the great Buddhist master Shantideva said:

“All the happiness there is in this world arises from wishing others to be happy
And all the suffering there is in this world arises from wishing ourself to be happy.”

If you thing about it we have followed this view of ourself as the most important thing in the world for some time now, yet we are still not happy 24/7 are we?
We still get irritable, impatient, angry, and generally fed-up at some point every day so we need a new game plan. Continue reading

I just need one more thing……

Are you a collector of ‘things’ ?

We generally imagine collectors to be people who collect stamps, postcards, china mugs and so forth, and maybe don’t consider ourselves to be  a collector, but look a little closer………..

Do you have a collection of shoes, ties, handbags, gadgets? More than you actually need, with some gathering dust or maybe relegated to the attic?

Messy room

Maybe an ever-growing collection of CD’s, DVD’s, Video games? Or even an ‘achieved list’ of countries visited, mountains climbed or exams passed?

You may even recognize this scenario: its been a long day at work, you have to do the supermarket shop on the way home, the trolley is full, the list complete, but you have a feeling that you need just one more thing, one more extra little treat to take home, whatever is already in the trolley just isn’t quite enough, so you set off for a wander for ‘just one more thing’.

Have you ever wondered why we have the compulsion to gather so many ‘things’? We can go through various levels of reasoning such as ‘I like listening to music’ , ‘I enjoy a DVD at the weekend to relax’ ‘Climbing keeps me fit’ etc, and there is nothing wrong with any of the activities or reasons, but have you ever looked at what is the baseline below all these reasons? Continue reading

Dissolve away your self-dislike!

How often do you get a little frustrated with yourself, maybe feel you’re not performing according to your expectations (or someone else’s)?

Sometimes when we have these moments, we may beat ourselves up temporarily, but then we are able to move on. However it’s also possible to suffer recurring moments, days, weeks, months or even years of self-dislike when we can’t move on, we find it hard to accept that we’re not the person we imagined ourself to be, or wanted other people to think we were. DislikeThis can lead to various problems such as lack of confidence and self-esteem, anxiety, and depression. We may find the simplest things in our daily life can trigger the black cloud of self-dislike, irritated at ourself for not being able to perform in thought, word or deed, in some desired way.

Our day may be ruined, we may feel crippled by our imagined lack of self-worth. In this situation its easy to fall into the trap of identifying with this negative view of ourself;  (I should have known I couldn’t do it) (I was stupid to think I could do any better) (Oh well, that’s just me, whatever I try I’m still the same old me underneath). We perceive ourself to be a fixed concrete entity, inherently existing and inherently unchangeable no matter what, then we feel stuck with this self we don’t always like or we feel this useless or hopeless self revisits us regularly just when we thought we had shaken it off . Continue reading

Lose the pain.

How many times a day do we feel uncomfortable, miserable, irritated or upset? Stopped in our tracks by irritating things that tarnish our happiness and take the edge off our joyful day.

Do you recognize any of these scenarios…………..

‘I had to wait 20 minutes to get into the bathroom’

‘All the corn flakes were gone when I went for my breakfast’

‘Somebody pushed past and took the last seat, I had to stand right through’

‘I texted them three times and they still haven’t answered’

‘They all went together but I wasn’t invited’

‘I felt so upset when he answered so sharply’

‘I didn’t even get a birthday card from them’

‘It wasn’t my choice of restaurant so I didn’t enjoy the meal’

These may be relatively trivial situations, but how often do we say ‘I’m really fed up, it’s been a miserable day,just one thing after another’ ?

raining umbrella

All these little things rattle us in one way or another, we feel just a little pain from criticism, dejection or irritation, rather than sailing through our day with a light and happy mind. Sometimes situations really get us down and we feel the scene has been set for a disastrous day, our mind feeling heavy already at the prospect. So how can we avoid all this? Continue reading

The Magic Rug.

After a long hard day, in the fading summer light, I sat down with my fat-free yoghurt and a cup of tea.

My gaze fell to the large burnt orange rug in the center of the room and I was amazed at how bright and vivid the colors appeared. It was almost like new.

Edit rug

I realized that my knee, in my line of vision, was obscuring the grubby stained area that refused to shift despite numerous carpet shampoos, but I chose to ignore it.

I felt happy and relaxed as I enjoyed the toning shades and shapes of the rug. Normally my attention is drawn straight to the grubby section and I feel a bit of tension in my mind when I think “I really must look out for a new one in the sales”. Even when a visitor compliments the rug I usually reply ” Thanks, it used to be really nice but I ought to replace it as it is a bit grubby now”, my mind always focusing on the faults, rather than the lovely colors and shapes.

I realized that if I could view everyone I met in the same way as I was viewing the rug right now, I would feel more open and relaxed, enjoying their good qualities rather than being drawn to focus on their ‘faults’.

As I relaxed and enjoyed the rug, I realised all this was dependent on my mind, I could choose whether to have a tight uncomfortable mind (looking at the grubby patch) or a light relaxed mind (enjoying the beautiful colors), depending on whether I focus on its positive or negative qualities, which in themselves depended on what I labelled with the words ‘positive’ or ‘negative’, again a matter of choice. So I could make a choice depending on the outcome I desired; a grouchy negative mind, or a positive relaxed happy mind.

happy and grouch faces

‘Aha’, you may say, ‘the rug only looked that way due to the fading summer light, it wouldn’t look that way with ‘proper’ lighting’. So then I considered what is ‘proper’ lighting? Bright sunshine is ‘proper’ light, but similarly, morning light, evening light and cloudy daylight are also ‘proper’ light, so the rugs appearance is dependent on the type of light it is viewed in as well as the positive or negative state of my mind, so therefore the rug is neither inherently beautiful or inherently tatty from its own side, but dependent on various factors. Continue reading

Hey, that’s no way to say goodbye.

                            “Your eyes are soft with sorrow,                            

Hey that’s no way to say goodbye”

   (Leonard Cohen)

That time of year is almost upon us. Exam results will soon be arriving and millions of boyfriends, girlfriends, parents and siblings will soon be saying goodbye as young adults leave the nest and set off to distant realms for further education.

sun sad goodbye

For some whose loved ones are leaving this may be a sad and painful time, so how can you prepare in the next couple of months in order to make this a happier event?

Here are some things to consider…………… Continue reading