That’s basically the instruction that Dzigar Kongtrul gave me. And now I pass it on to you. Instead of blaming our discomfort on outer circumstances or on our own weakness, we can choose to stay present and awake to our experience, not rejecting it, not grasping it, not buying the stories that we relentlessly tell ourselves. This is priceless advice that addresses the true cause of suffering – yours, mine and that of all living beings.
Ajahn Buddhadasa, a colleague of Ajahn Chah, made a point of directing his students to look for nirvana in the simplest ways, in everyday moments. “Nirvana,” he would say, “is the coolness of letting go, the inherent delight of experience when there is no grasping or resistance to life. It is always available. Anyone can see that if grasping and aversion were with us day and night without ceasing, who could ever stand them? Instead we survive because there are natural periods of coolness, of wholeness and ease…In fact, they last longer than the fires of our grasping and fear. It is this that sustains us. We have periods of rest making us refreshed and well. Why don’t we feel thankful for this everyday nirvana?”
Jack Kornfield, The Wise Heart, Buddhist Psychology for the West.
What are these false beliefs that block you from happiness? Here are some examples: Happiness will come if you manage to change the situation you are in and the people around you. Not true. You stupidly squander so much energy trying to rearrange the world. If changing the world is your vocation in life, go right ahead and change it, but do not harbor the illusion that this is going to make you happy. What makes you happy or unhappy is not the world and the people around you, but the thinking in your head. As well search for an eagle’s nest on the bed of an ocean, as search for happiness in the world outside of you. So if it is happiness that you seek you can stop wasting your energy trying to cure your baldness or build up an attractive body or change your residence or job or community or lifestyle or even your personality. Do you realize that you could change every one of these things, you could have the finest looks and the most charming personality and the most pleasant of surroundings and still be unhappy? And deep down you know this is true but still you waste your effort and energy trying to get what you know cannot make you happy.
Find meaning. Distinguish melancholy from sadness. Go out for a walk. It doesn’t have to be a romantic walk in the park, spring at its most spectacular moment, flowers and smells and outstanding poetical imagery smoothly transferring you into another world. It doesn’t have to be a walk during which you’ll have multiple life epiphanies and discover meanings no other brain ever managed to encounter. Do not be afraid of spending quality time by yourself. Find meaning or don’t find meaning but ‘steal’ some time and give it freely and exclusively to your own self. Opt for privacy and solitude. That doesn’t make you antisocial or cause you to reject the rest of the world.