The last book we read in Spiritual Book Club was What Makes you Not a Buddhist by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse.
I highly recommend it. It doesn’t matter your belief system. Just make a few small changes mentioned in this book, and you’ll be happier! Who doesn’t want that?
Here’s what I mean..
The first thing Khyentse discusses are the 4 Seals of Dharma.
- All compounded things are impermanent.
- All emotions are painful.
- All phenomena are empty.
- Nirvana is beyond extremes.
They’re all important, but I’m only going to focus on the second one today because I think it’s something we can all relate to.
ALL EMOTIONS ARE PAINFUL
It’s easy to associate emotions like sadness, fear, and grief with pain, but what about love and happiness? How is that painful?
The first time I heard about this was a few years ago when I read How To Practice the Way to a Meaningful Life by The Dalai Lama where he talks about the suffering of change.
He gives an example of buying a new television, or your dream car or house that you’ve always wanted and loved. He says that one day the excitement of your new purchase will be gone. It might even dissepate over a few hours.
You have that extreme high right after you hop into your new car and drive it off the lot. Then, you need more excitement, so you pick up your friends, call your parents or best friend, and post it on Facebook and get 100 likes!
Yes, you’re feeling so good right now!
But, what about when that goes away?
Will you have the same excitement? Will you be hungry for the next big purchase? What happens if the car breaks down or you get in an accident?
Now, that thing that caused you so much joy is causing you suffering and pain.
How many relationships have you been in? What happened to the ones that didn’t last?
In the beginning could your boyfriend or girlfriend do no wrong? Did you barely ever fight? Did you laugh a lot together, and miss each other like crazy?
What about the time when you had your first fight? The first time you got really annoyed, or the first time you had a disagreement?
That sucked, didn’t it?
How can you get back to that amazing feeling of fresh and new love?
One day you’re in love, and the next you’re crying over lost love. How does that even happen? Sigh.
The point is that what comes up will come down, and vice versa.
STOP TRYING TO RELIVE THE MOMENT.
The problem is that we’re attached to those feelings of happiness, and joy, and excitement. We need to find new appreciation in each moment rather than clinging and trying so hard to relive these moments and feelings that once gave us pleasure.
There’s pleasure in change and growth, but it sometimes it comes from moments of pain and discomfort.
How will you know the good if you don’t experience the bad? How will you ever grow if you don’t experience change? How will you ever learn if you don’t make mistakes? How will you ever succeed if you don’t get out of your comfort zone?
This is non-attachment.
If you always knew things were going to eventually end, and you accepted that completely, then you’d never be attached to the emotions or results.
This doesn’t just mean things you can physically see or touch, but even ideas. Ideas are impermanent. Some people think they’re going to have kids and find out that they can’t. Some people think they’ll get married by a certain age, and don’t.
Once something feels bad, scary, sad, or uncomfortable we try so very hard to get back to that good place.
We cling to those happy feelings, and never really take the time to understand why we feel pain, and the reason we feel so much pain is because of the pleasurable things we once experienced.
What we really need to understand is how to really appreciate the pleasure and be in that moment because we know that it won’t last forever.
CREATE AWARENESS IN EACH MOMENT
If we can begin to create awareness of our emotions as they’re happening, and we’ve accepted that all emotions are pain, then we won’t be so disappointed when the feelings of pleasure go away.
Of course you’ll feel suffering when something bad happens, like a death, fight, or breakup, but it won’t be SO unexpected.
You’ll be so much more grateful of the little things that happen everyday to bring a smile to your face, and then the moments of suffering won’t seem so bad. You knew that this might happen, and you know that you’ll smile again.
Knowing that all emotions lead to pain will actually make you happier, less stressed, and calmer in difficult situations. It’s like meditating in the moment.
Don’t get me wrong, you should have BIG ideas, and dreams, and goals!
You should celebrate love and life!
You should laugh, get excited, and cry tears of joy!
Go buy your dream home! Do all of those things!
Just make sure you do them with total devotion and appreciation of the present moment because that’s all we have.
Make the best of right now.