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 :
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.