Category Archives: Stress

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.

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

I just can’t cope any longer! (Part 2)

“Dealing with long-term difficulties or illness affecting a close friend or family member can be distressing and harrowing. The demands of supporting a loved one through ongoing crisis can be stressful and exhausting, especially if we are living with an ongoing situation where we feel we can no longer, physically, do anything more to improve their situation.

We may feel trapped, frustrated and unable to cope, we just cannot do any more to help, their progress, (or lack of)  is outside our control. This is when we may feel we have reached breaking point.

Don’t despair, there is more we can do to improve our capability to cope and to support our loved one.”

Continue reading

I just can’t cope any longer! (Part 1)


Dealing with long-term difficulties or illness affecting a close friend or family member can be distressing and harrowing. The demands of supporting a loved one through ongoing crisis can be stressful and exhausting, especially if we are living with an ongoing situation where we feel we can no longer, physically, do anything more to improve their situation.

We may feel trapped, frustrated and unable to cope, we just cannot do any more to help, their progress, (or lack of)  is outside our control. This is when we may feel we have reached breaking point.

Don’t despair, there is more we can do to improve our capability to cope and to support our loved one. We may not be able to affect the situation by physical means, but we can improve our mental strength, which enables us to deal with the situation from a stronger , less painful position and therefore increases our ability to care for the troubled friend or relative. 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

Tough Love

Sometimes you have to say “No”.

You know it’s the right thing to do, but you know it won’t be well received.

It can be a stressful experience when we have to say “No” to our loved ones, to the extent that we may even back down or ‘give in’ rather than suffer the back-lash.

But it’s a job that often needs to be done so how can we make it easier? Continue reading

What ? Me?

Yes You!

Are you sure?

Let’s check if this is for you…………

Are you interested in being:


b)Less anxious or stressed?

c)More relaxed?

d) Healthier?

If you answered “Yes” to any of the above questions then this article is definitely what you need. Continue reading

This toolkit doesn’t work properly!

What is a toolkit?


In the ‘old days’ a toolkit was considered to be :

” A set of tools to be used for a particular purpose”, or

“A personal set of resources, abilities or skills”

In our modern world we now have the addition of:

“Software designed to perform a specific function, especially to solve a problem”

With either definition I think we can agree that a toolkit is to help us perform a task or solve a problem. The skills we have been learning throughout our life to help us survive our modern world could be considered to be a ‘toolkit’, a set of mental strategies for making our way through life dealing with any hardships or problems that may occur and hopefully having a happy time on the journey.

So just for a bit of fun, here is a teeny questionnaire:

( you wont need a pen and paper!)

1. Your partner/relative/ friend is bad-tempered Angry man

and giving you a hard time, do you:

a) get angry and shout louder than them.

b) phone a friend and complain angrily about the situation

c) slam out of the door and stomp up the stairs.

d) decide they are having a bad day and be calm and patient with them.

2. You have had a piggy day / week and decide you need a coffee and cake treat. The cake, though it looks nice is dry, tasteless and unenjoyable. Do you:

Cakea) buy another, then feel sick after overeating.

b) dwell on your misfortune and feel even more fed up

c) complain loudly to the waitress in no uncertain terms

d) decide you are experiencing some unfortunate Karma and accept patiently.

3. You don’t get the job position you were hoping for. Do you:Hungover

a) feel gutted, miserable, get depressed, have a few too many drinks

b) think of all the reasons why the other person shouldn’t have what you deserved

c) feel very jealous and vow to avoid the other person forever

d) try to develop some good feeling for their good fortune.

Now here’s the scoring:

Answers a) b) c)………………………. Score 0

Answer d)……………………….Score 10 points


If you scored 0:  you are using the wrong toolkit to enable you to live a happy life.

If you scored 10 or above: you have started to collect the necessary mental tools in your toolkit which will lead you to a happy life.


During our brief lives we become familiar with certain mental traits or behaviours which we think will enable us to succeed in our society and establish the  life we wish to experience, we could call this our ‘mental toolkit’. Continue reading

It’s so stressful……

If it’s not one thing it’s another.

Hardly time to draw breath before the next onslaught. One problem solved (maybe), another arises. You feel backed into a corner, you feel overwhelmed, and you feel so stressed. Stressed Does this sound familiar? Stress or anxiety in some form or another are becoming more commonplace in the daily lives of millions of modern people. We attribute our stress to various types of external conditions and situations, often overwhelmed with an inability to reduce or eliminate it, feeling helpless in the face of adversity. But think again…………….. Continue reading