Again and again I therefore admonish my students in Europe and America: Don’t aim at success – the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long-run … success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it
Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
Some more reflections on not going anywhere, from a lovely recent book by Thomas Bien, entitled The Buddha’s Way of Happiness. Letting go of our instinctive need to “fix” ourselves – of the drive to do more and more – is the key to change. Staying put is a secret to getting places.
We get stuck in the drama of our lives. If we are to find happiness we instinctively feel that we have to go through something, endure some difficulty, go on a quest, slay dragons or monsters and ultimately find the gold or the princess in order to find the resolution and the peace which we seek. When we are told that happiness is available right now, we can hardly escape thinking what we have to do, endure and struggle to find it. We almost can’t help it.
Seeing life as “story” gets us caught in the notion that we don’t have happiness. We have to go after happiness somehow.…When we learn that we can be happy right now, just breathing in and out, and seeing a leaf for the miracle it actually is, instead of the idea of “leaf”, we’re almost disappointed. We want it to be a great achievement. If we can’t find a way to see it as an achievement, then we can’t feel special and feed the ego. Instead, in seeing things as they actually are, we step outside the ego.
I have noticed that folks are generally as happy
as they make up their minds to be
In meditation we first become familiar with a technique: to recognize and release thoughts and emotions and return our attention to the breath. As we learn to abide peacefully, we also become familiar with what I call a healthy sense of self. We become strong, caring, clear-minded individuals in harmony with ourselves and our environment. The meditation posture itself embodies this healthiness: grounded, balanced and relaxed.
Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche
Today was another beautiful day here, with early Spring sunshine. And in the afternoon I was fortunate to walk the lanes near my house and look over the fields at the Jura mountains nearby. It was another day where I was struck by the ordinary, simple, kindness of people and their support, as well as moved by the struggles and pains of others who are simply trying to make the best of life with the gifts and talents at their disposal. On days like this it is easy to find space in one’s mind for kindness and spaciousness and practice appreciation for all the good things, big and small, that come our way. This wakens us up to all the gifts which are given to us. When we do this we strengthen our capacity to be calm and relax with life as it is, not as how we want it to be. We are looking at the abundance that it already present in our heart and in our life, not complaining about what we do not have.
Appreciation is a relaxing and peaceful state of mind. It creates a space in which we can accommodate the vicissitudes of life and even think of the welfare of others. Complaint, on the other hand, is frustrating and painful. There’s an element of anger and fixation involved. We are believing our thoughts, taking them to be real. Our attachment to the concept of how we want things to be is stressful, because that concept is always disintegrating. What we wanted to happen is not happening. We think complaining is going to get the world back on our track, but really it results in our being deaf, dumb and blind to the present moment. Narrowing our mind with complaint is unpleasant and claustrophobic, the opposite of contentment.
When we complain, we’re saying that the world needs to change in order for us to be okay. If only our parent or partner would behave differently, if only the food were better, if only there were less traffic, if only the service were quicker—then we’d be happy.
Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche.
We need to rediscover the energy that was in us as a child, before we got caught up in our roles and masks. This freedom, that comes from deep within, is needed to cross the obstacles that face us and overcome the limitations which our fears impose upon us. We sometimes have to dare to reach out. If not, we stay trapped where we are, divided, unable to reach beyond the hurt or the problem we find ourselves in.
As once the winged energy of delight
carried you over childhood’s dark abysses,
now beyond your own life build the great
arch of unimagined bridges.