Everyone wants happiness, no one wants suffering

“Happiness is not a station you arrive at, but a manner of traveling.”

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Three Methods for Working with Chaos

Posted on Happy Minds!

Times of chaos and challenge can be the most spiritually powerful . . . if we are brave enough to rest in their space of uncertainty. Pema Chödrön describes three ways to use our problems as the path to awakening and joy.

Sometimes late at night or on a long walk with a friend, we find ourselves discussing our ideas about how to live and how to act and what is important in life. If we're studying Buddhism and practicing meditation, we might talk of no-self and emptiness, of patience and generosity, of loving-kindness and compassion. We might have just read something or heard some teachings that turned our usual way of seeing things upside down. We feel that we've just reconnected with a truth we've always known and that if we could just learn more about it, our life would be delightful and rich.

We tell our friends of our longing to shed the huge burden we feel we've always carried. We suddenly are excited and feel it's possible. We tell our friend of our inspiration and how it opens up our life. "It is possible," we say, "to enjoy the very same things that usually get us down. We can delight in our job, delight in riding the subway, delight in shoveling snow and paying bills and washing dishes."

You may have noticed, however, that there is frequently an irritating, if not depressing, discrepancy between our ideas and good intentions and how we act when we are confronted with the nitty-gritty details of real life situations.


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Covering the world in leather

Posted on Happy Minds!

What is keeping you from being happy? Not being able to find the right friends, partner, job, money, car or house? Is someone bugging you? Are your spouse and/or children or any other nasty human beings depriving you from happiness? Whatever it is, consider this story.

“A man was wandering through a vast, burning hot desert, full of sharp-edged stones. A couple of weeks before, he had decided to leave all his belongings behind, and seek his happiness. On leaving, all people in his village wished him good luck and all the best. He had felt elated and left in a sunny mood.
Now, his condition was quite the opposite. He felt horrible, the sun was beating down on his head and he was sweating profusely. But worst of all where his feet; the red-hot sand was blistering his soles and the razor-edged stones where cutting the skin. When looking down, he could see blood staining his robes. The sun was at its peak. He was close to bursting into tears, but envisioning his half empty canteen, he refrained from that.
All of a sudden, he noticed a small speck of shade behind a large boulder. Kneeling down, he found some respite from all torments. A sip of luke-warm water made him regain his senses and he started thinking about his quest for happiness again. He reasoned that his past, he could never change. Considering the possibility of unforeseen events, trying to control the future was a tedious task too. That left the now. Maybe he could do something to change his present situation! In order to find happiness - he had to do nothing more but indicate the obstacle keeping him from bliss right now, and get that obstacle out of the way! Sitting there, resting and considering his options, he noticed a cave nearby. Weary he got up, and stumbled to the aperture. Looking inside, to his surprise he found a large heap of leathery hides. Instantly, it all made sense! The greatest hindrance keeping him from happiness, was the torment of his feet. If he could just stop the burning sand and razor-sharp rocks cutting and blistering his soles, he would be happy! And the solution was right in front of him… All he had to do, was take this huge stack of leather sheets, and start covering the nasty terrain outside! Enthusiastically, he started to drag the leather sheets out of the crevice. He worked all day, and the next day, and many days after that. The stack seemed interminable, and his work progressed steadily. A small stream of fresh water in the cave kept him alive. But of course, one day, he ran out of hides. The cave he had found was completely empty. Looking outside, he pondered that considering the proportions of the desert, he had only covered a very small peace of land. At that moment, it started to rain. It rained for many days, and as he hid in his cave, he saw a large flood of water rise and wash all of the hides away. When finally the rain stopped, he looked outside, and nothing remained but one leather sheet. Having no other options to him, he cut the sheet in half, tied one peace to his left foot, and one peace to his right foot. Thinking that this would not be of much help, he found that from that day on, his feet where protected from harm! He was able travel indefinitely, without ever hurting his feet.”

Trying to find happiness by trying to create the ideal circumstances, is like trying to cover the world in leather. Happiness can be found in love, compassion and friendship, and those are qualities you can only find inside yourself. Do something about the hatred, jealousy, fear, pride, ignorance, arrogance, deceit, lust and craving you find in yourself, and circumstances will change according to your effort.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Abyss

Posted on Happy Minds!

Imagine yourself falling down from a cliff, into a pitch-dark abyss... You just know you are falling, you don’t know whether the ride will ever end! Imagine that you keep falling and falling, and no rock bottom ever seems to appear! Probably, after a while, you’ll start to relax, what else can you do? You may even start thinking that the fact that falling always ends up with crashing, is a myth, simply not true, proven to you by the fact that you keep falling without hitting the ground.
Now imagine that you see others around you falling down too. You can still not see the end of your own fall, but occasionally you do see others breaking every bone in their body while crashing into the soil. Well... you reason... if everybody around me is falling, and all seem to crash in the end, I will most probably crash as well. But still, it seems to take such a long time – how can I be troubled by that? Why not spend my falling time any way I like, eating whatever I like, smoking, drinking and snorting whatever I like, endlessly watch TV, maybe even start annoying and distressing other fallers, by competing with them: watch me stretch my legs while I fall, I can do that much better than you, therefore I should eat, drink and sleep better than you while falling!
Well, and now imagine that all of a sudden, the bottom does appear! While pain and agony start to eat your flesh, you know that now it’s for sure, you will eventually perish and nothing you are and have been will remain. Nothing. Not an inch. Maybe some other falling souls will think of you. For some time. But eventually, your body and everything you have been guarding so anxiously during your fall, will not exist any longer. Just the atoms of your body will remain, as plants, birds, humans, excrement, salt in the sea...
Of course, this story is about life. Life is just like this! You ARE falling in a dark abyss, but you only realize that on an abstract level. Truth is: life can end ANY moment! And it really does not matter how you fall – or live your life. On the level of the senses, it seems there’s only this Universe, and it can support your life and that of others for only some time, in any way you like. It can provide you with relaxation and happiness, or with pain and anger. It’s all up to you. In the end you will die, that’s for sure. Maybe there’s a God, Heaven, Hell, Reincarnation, Ancestors spirits, whatever, nobody really seems to know for sure. You can only believe things are in a certain way. However, consider this:
If there’s a Heaven and a Hell, you’ll end up in endless misery if waste your chances. If there’s reincarnation, you’ll make another being – based on your soul – miserable for countless eons. If there’s just nothing, you have wasted absolutely every change you’ll ever have to feel good, to enjoy life!
We people are like poor beggars, sitting on an enormous treasure-chest, not realizing what life could be if we would just make the effort. We all feel in some way that love, friendship and security are the things we want, the things we need, but we just do not make the effort to realize these in our own lives!
Just become aware of the fact that it is possible to give life your best try ever! Be friendly, and make friends. Be full of love, and feel loved. Be generous, and receive lots of happiness. Give, give, give, and make a good effort to stop craving for a reward! If you feel bad, unable, nervous, anxious, depressed, realize that:
1. these feelings will pass
2. many people have these feelings, feel connected to them, have some compassion for them! You know how bad it feels, so realize in what condition people around you must be!
3. The best way out of misery is to stop creating more misery. Do something positive, there are so many people, animals and objects that desperately need your love and attention! Open your heart!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Happiness and Kindness

Posted on Happy Minds!

"One of the main points is kindness. With kindness, with love and compassion, with this feeling that is the essence of brotherhood, sisterhood, one will have inner peace. This compassionate feeling is the basis of inner peace." --His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Kindness is not something difficult. On the contrary, being kind is very easy! It doesn’t take more then a smile, a small compliment or a little help with carrying groceries, to give another person the feeling that he or she is appreciated and supported. Being kind is so very easy, it can be done throughout the day without causing any fatigue or inconvenience! All living beings long for kindness, so it is never wasted or spoiled.

Of course, we all have this enormous Ego that stands in the way.
“If he or she isn’t kind to me, why should I be kind?”
“I want to be kind to that person, but then he or she acts in this or that way and instead I get mad!”
“If people wouldn’t be so nasty, I could be more kind to them!”

In the end, this kind of thinking comes down to the basic assumption: I cannot give because I do not receive. “Only a fool brings water to the desert”. Well, we all have good and bad characteristics. Spending a lot of time considering negative traits in yourself and/or others, is quite an effective way to create discord, quarrels and dissatisfaction.
In stead, putting some effort in being kind to others contains many opportunities for tolerance, forbearance, friendship and love.

Kindness is like an enormous well. All people are little streams that feed this well. If more and more people dare to open their heart and try to be kind, the well will flood. It will devour all little streams so we can feel connected and easily flush the pain caused by selfishness.

Kindness doesn’t cost you anything, so why would anyone want to tightfistedly persevere in unkind behavior? It really doesn’t make much sense! Of course, long term behavioral patterns are hard to burst, but if you decide to be kind to someone at least one time a day, and gradually increase your kind behavior, this might make a huge difference on the long run!

Read some kindness quotes...

Friday, January 9, 2009

Happiness and Science

Posted on Happy Minds!

Can people increase their level of happiness—and experience associated benefits to health—by learning and practicing meditation as a skill? The answer appears to be yes, says Richard J. Davidson, Ph.D., of the University of Wisconsin (UW)-Madison. Based on his research, Dr. Davidson likens meditation to certain other trainable skills that produce changes in the brain and body, such as playing a musical instrument or being proficient in a sport. His research group has studied meditation extensively in subjects ranging from Tibetan Buddhist monks who have meditated intensively for decades to college students with no previous meditation experience.


Happiness today - Death tomorrow

Posted on Happy Minds!

Working on your happiness has to start NOW. Today, not tomorrow. For who knows what tomorrow will bring? We will all die! You may perish today, tomorrow or in a couple of years. Fact is: you have NO assurances! Your angle on the matter of death does not make any difference: death will always creep up on you, surprise you in your sleep or wake, no matter what age you are, what you own or who is with you.
Many people spend almost all their time worrying about their old age, career, the long term consequences of their relationships, insurances…

How much time are you “wasting”? The future is just as uncertain as the past, so consider spending your time on issues that have to be dealt with right now. Like resolving your anger, greed, jealousy, narrow mindedness...

Listen to what the great sage Shantideva, from the 8th century a.d. has to say about it (from The Bodhicaryavatara, Chapter Two: The Confession of Error)

32. How shall I escape it? Rescue me quickly! May death not soon creep up on me before my vices have vanished!

33. Death does not differentiate between tasks done and undone. This traitor is not to be trusted by the healthy or the ill, for it is like an unexpected, great thunderbolt.

34. I have committed various vices for the sake of friends and enemies. This I have not recognized: "Leaving everyone behind, I must pass away."

35. My enemies will not remain, nor will my friends remain. I shall not remain. Nothing will remain.

36. Whatever is experienced will fade to a memory. Like an experience in a dream, everything that has passed will not be seen again.

37. Even in this life, as I have stood by, many friends and enemies have passed away, but terrible sin induced by them remains ahead of me.

38. Thus, I have not considered that I am ephemeral. Due to delusion, attachment, and hatred, I have sinned in many ways.

39. Day and night, a life span unceasingly diminishes, and there is no adding to it. Shall I not die then?

40. Although lying here on a bed, and relying on relatives, I alone have to bear the feeling of being cut off from my vitality.

41. For a person seized by the messengers of death, what good is a relative, and what good is a friend? At that time merit alone is a protection, and I have not applied myself to it.

42. O Protectors, I, negligent, and unaware of this danger, have acquired many vices out of attachment to this transient life.

43. One completely languishes while being led today to have the limbs of ones body amputated. Parched with thirst, and with pitiable eyes, one sees the world differently.

44. How much more is one overpowered by the horrifying appearances of the Messengers of Death as one is consumed by the fevers of terror, and smeared with a mass of excrement?

45. With distressed glances, I seek protection in the four directions. Which good person will be my protection from this great fear?

46. Seeing the four directions devoid of protection, I return to confusion. What shall I do in that state of great fear?
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