Is this really the only way to happiness?

M, modified 1 Year ago.

Is this really the only way to happiness?

Posts: 22 Join Date: 3/25/20 Recent Posts
Is meditation really the only way to happiness? Daniel talks about the importance of having a decent day to day life in Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha. If meditation can lead to the end of suffering, why do the circumstances of your day to day life matter at all? 

Also, please let me know if it sounds like I'm going through a Dark Night. I did a little 6 hour solo retreat last Saturday with a mix of samatha and vipassana and have been feeing so damn angsty since then. But I'm not sure I'm experienced enough of a meditator to be at that stage. 
__

I went through a traumatic breakup a few years ago with a person who I thought would be in my life forever. We haven't spoken since. After this breakup, I became somewhat fixated on the notion of impermanence. Beyond the apparent futility of romantic pursuits, I was perpetually fearful of the inevitable death of people I love - my mom in particular.

I had basically no experience with meditation, but I did my first 10-day course that year (Goenka style vipassana). I finally felt like there was a way out of the despair and nihilism that colored my post-breakup existence. That there was some version of me, maybe in the distant future, that could feel okay without that relationship in my life as long as I would put in the work. 

It's been a couple years since then and I've done 2 more 10-day vipassana courses and practice, on average, for an hour a day. I am able to exist in the world again. I almost never feel anxiety anymore. I have close, fulfilling (non-romantic) relationships. Most of the time, I feel okay.

Yet, I sometimes feel resentful that I feel I have to spend so much time meditating in order to feel okay. I think it's at least partially grief regarding the loss of my old worldview - the worldview that told me I could find a romantic partner and live happily ever after, that my parents would live forever, and that if I figured out how to navigate my career and relationships in just the right way, that I would finally have control. 

I feel so alienated from those around me at times. While they're planning their weddings and having children, I'm sitting alone in my room trying to experience the sensations in my body. I could pursue a relationship, but if I've already glimpsed the true nature of existence (at least on a theoretical level) and realize it won't lead to the kind of deep satisfaction I want, why bother? I think at least part of me still believes that if I find the right person, things will be okay. 

I'm staying with my parents because of corona, and I find myself resenting them for bringing me into existence. For bringing me into a world of seemingly endless suffering. A world where I can be well off, well educated, physically healthy, and have fulfilling friendships ... and still feel terrible some of the time. While they've provided for me materially, they're so emotionally closed off and seemingly indifferent to my inner life. Do I work to get their affection, to improve my relationships with them? It seems futile, particularly if meditation really is the right path to liberation. 

I find myself wondering what the point of all this is and doubting whether meditation will allow me to experience life as I want to. Is the best thing for me to do to continue to retreat into myself? To quit my job and go on retreats until I don't feel like shit, until I don't long for intimacy and connection in a way that makes me miserable? What now? 

As I write this, I can feel a tiny, distant part of myself watching the angst, watching the emotions and not getting caught up in them. Maybe that's what I need to cultivate above all else.  
M, modified 1 Year ago.

RE: Is this really the only way to happiness?

Posts: 22 Join Date: 3/25/20 Recent Posts
Thank you for your thoughts. I especially like what you wrote about different forms of peace. Do you think it's possible to rank some of these and view them as higher or lower? It seems like the first kind you listed can be met and still leave some people with a deep sense of dissatisfaction. 
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Stirling Campbell, modified 1 Year ago.

RE: Is this really the only way to happiness?

Posts: 602 Join Date: 3/13/16 Recent Posts
Happiness is always based on impermanent conditions. 

"If I just had that Porsche I could just stop buying cars."

"That heroin was amazing. I'll just do it one more time, and I'm done."

"My marriage would be perfect if we could just stop fighting about the kids."

There are a million variations, and you know what yours are. You hear yourself tell stories about what conditions would make you happy, as well as stories about why your past means you never can be.

What we are looking for here is something that isn't dependent on conditions. Enlightenment is that. Meditation (in my tradition, anyway) is LITERALLY resting in the quiet, still (M)ind that exists under the churning of the (m)ind that constantly berates you. That first Mind IS enlightenment actualized in this moment, a literal connection between your suffering daily grind and liberation. 

It costs NOTHING but your abundant time to experiment with meditation. Try it for 20 minutes a day for a month. Before you start, make 2 lists of the same metrics, like: Reactivity, General Contentment Wiith How Things Are, Depression, etc. Whatever you want to change. On one, rate them on a scale of 1 -10. Put this one in a envelope and seal it. Leave the 2nd out. When the month is up, fill the 2nd out and open the first. Compare them. Meditation may not be for you, or maybe not yet. See if it is beneficial to you. It costs noting. There are no beliefs necessary. Why put off a possible avenue of mitigation for your suffering?
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Papa Che Dusko, modified 8 Months ago.

RE: Is this really the only way to happiness?

Posts: 1979 Join Date: 3/1/20 Recent Posts
"Happiness is always based on impermanent conditions."

If you dont like the Irish weather, wait 5 minutes! emoticon emoticon
Eva Nie, modified 1 Year ago.

RE: Is this really the only way to happiness?

Posts: 831 Join Date: 3/23/14 Recent Posts
I strongly doubt it is the ONLY way, just the way that seems to work most often for the most people. 
shargrol, modified 1 Year ago.

RE: Is this really the only way to happiness?

Posts: 1574 Join Date: 2/8/16 Recent Posts
I'll put it this way: only basic sanity creates the conditions for happiness. Basic sanity allows us to go through the ups and downs of life without becoming decadent or freaking out. If we have a lot of psychological patterns that aren't healthy, then it's nearly impossible to have happiness.

So go for sanity if you want happiness.

And meditation may or may not be a part of that pursuit. It doesn't have to be. Really the best combo is some kind of psychological therapy along with some kind of meditation. That's a powerful combo.

That it! 

Best wishes!!
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terry, modified 8 Months ago.

RE: Is this really the only way to happiness?

Posts: 1718 Join Date: 8/7/17 Recent Posts
shargrol:
I'll put it this way: only basic sanity creates the conditions for happiness. Basic sanity allows us to go through the ups and downs of life without becoming decadent or freaking out. If we have a lot of psychological patterns that aren't healthy, then it's nearly impossible to have happiness.

So go for sanity if you want happiness.

And meditation may or may not be a part of that pursuit. It doesn't have to be. Really the best combo is some kind of psychological therapy along with some kind of meditation. That's a powerful combo.

That it! 

Best wishes!!



“Mankind does not strive for happiness; only the Englishman does."

~nietzsche
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Brandon Dayton, modified 1 Year ago.

RE: Is this really the only way to happiness?

Posts: 480 Join Date: 9/24/19 Recent Posts
Lots of good thoughts here. Bottom line is that meditation is one area of focus to find greater happiness. Others have mentioned things like cultivating morality and counseling. I totally agree with all of these points.

Another factor that I think is important to look at is relationships and community, by which I mean primarily and mostly in-person and face-to-face (although online communities like this one are priceless in their own way). Our current situation is not conducive to this, but hopefully, at least, it makes it more clear how much we need interaction and how much isolation sucks.

I would recommend reading Robert Putnam's Bowling Alone and George Vaillant's Aging Well for context on this point. We live at a time in history that is unique in the degree of freedom and individuality it offers, but also unique in the degree of isolation and insulation that it causes. That is just not how humans were built to function. It's been the exception to hundreds of thousands, if not millions of years of human history and it causes immense suffering and despair.

To riff off of Shargol's point -- living a solitary life is not sane. Relationships and community also happen to be critical for developing good morality and incredibly helpful in supporting meditation practice. In most cases morality is meaningless outside of community, but relationships and community can also be incredibly supportive of living an individual healthy life. While I appreciate dharmaoverground, it can't replace the support I get from participating in a weekly meditation group or the other in-person relationships I find in my neighborhood or various other local communities I am part of.

This is what religion and Sangha have the potential to be, at their best -- a community of mutual support for living the best life possible. Investing in community and relationships is at least as good of an area to invest your time in as meditation, and the data to support that is very strong.

In my personal experience I have found that the best pay-off for happiness has been in investing in all of these areas together. Morality, meditation, counseling and community, when nurtured in combination, will provide better results than focusing on any area alone.
M, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Is this really the only way to happiness?

Posts: 22 Join Date: 3/25/20 Recent Posts
Thanks for your thoughts. I definitely agree that community can help one's practice. I guess the thing I wonder is -- to what extent is can having a community also foster attachment in such a way that hinders spiritual growth? 

I've had experiences where I've felt like I've been a part of spiritual community that helped foster my growth. But these were fleeting, and I miss them and don't know how to find/cultivate something comparable. 

It seems like having a community can hold someone back spiritually by feeling really good, regardless of how much it's helping one's growth. I sometimes wonder if the positive emotions I experienced while part of a spiritual community were really indicative of spiritual growth or if it just felt nice to belong somewhere in a way I hadn't before. 

I feel like I should be able to make progress in meditation without a community. In fact, I feel like a sign of my progress in meditation is having less of a desire/attachment to the idea of having a community. What do you think? 
T DC, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Is this really the only way to happiness?

Posts: 389 Join Date: 9/29/11 Recent Posts
Positive experiences with a community, spiritual or otherwise, aren't a hindrance to meditation unless they become some kind of fixation, likewise with romantic relationships.  Humans are social creatures and if these things feel good than they are good for us, quite simply. 

Meditation can give us real mental peace, but this always occurs in the context of our greater lives.  There's a quote along the lines of "what kind of world (or life) would you like to wake up to". Meditation and spiritual achievement by itself isn't going to automatically fix all of our life hang ups, but it can give us some increased clarify and ability to deal with these things more skillfully. 

So I don't think shunning community or relationships from our lives is necessary for progress in meditation, or really even healthy, but being aware of our attitudes toward these things can definitely be helpful.  At the end of the day, dedication and time on the cushion is what really matters IMO, how much we want to be involved in the world really comes down to individual needs and desires.
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Brandon Dayton, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Is this really the only way to happiness?

Posts: 480 Join Date: 9/24/19 Recent Posts
To be frank, I think the your concern that community will get in the way of spiritual progress is completely backwards. There is reason that Sangha is one of the three refuges. It's that important to healthy spiritual growth.

Yes, there is work that you have to do alone, but too much solitary work can make you wacky. This is something my meditation teacher has discussed at length with me. There is such a thing as imbalanced awakening. Much of meditation practice happens in the mind, so we need grounding to really be balanced. Part of that grounding happens through work with the body, but an essential part of that comes from engaging with other people in a healthy way.

That having been said, it is incredibly important to emphasize that, while community can help support practice, it is not the fundamental purpose of community. Community and relationships, are by themselves, a critical part of human well-being. This is not constrained to just spritual communities, but all connections with other people we have in our lives -- family, co-workers, friends, neighbors, bowling partners, classmates, countrymen, brothers-in-arms, Rotarians ect. It includes our most trusted and intimate friends, but also casual acquaintances and others we may feel bonded to by common interest, nationality, or sentience.

For me this comes from being a husband, father, brother and son, belonging to a community of local artists, volunteering in my community, interacting with my co-workers, chatting with my neighbors and having friends over to play board games. Sometimes online is the only way to do it, but it is always preferrable IRL.

To be clear, it isn't just about having good vibes from belonging to a club, but the grounding, commitment, practical service and compromise that leads to strong morality and stable sense of belonging, purpose and self. Nothing wrong with the good vibes though.

That's not to say that communities and relationships can't be disfunctional and even oppressive and abusive. Lots can go wrong, and obviously it commonly does, and we shouldn't waste our time with communities and relationships that are harmful. It also doesn't mean that we can't have an identity separate from the various communities we are connected to. But it does mean that community and the quality of our relationships have been an essential part of human well-being for as long as humans have been around, and that's not going to change anytime soon.

Check out the recommended books above for a deeper dive. 
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terry, modified 8 Months ago.

RE: Is this really the only way to happiness?

Posts: 1718 Join Date: 8/7/17 Recent Posts
Brandon Dayton:
Lots of good thoughts here. Bottom line is that meditation is one area of focus to find greater happiness. Others have mentioned things like cultivating morality and counseling. I totally agree with all of these points.

Another factor that I think is important to look at is relationships and community, by which I mean primarily and mostly in-person and face-to-face (although online communities like this one are priceless in their own way). Our current situation is not conducive to this, but hopefully, at least, it makes it more clear how much we need interaction and how much isolation sucks.

I would recommend reading Robert Putnam's Bowling Alone and George Vaillant's Aging Well for context on this point. We live at a time in history that is unique in the degree of freedom and individuality it offers, but also unique in the degree of isolation and insulation that it causes. That is just not how humans were built to function. It's been the exception to hundreds of thousands, if not millions of years of human history and it causes immense suffering and despair.

To riff off of Shargol's point -- living a solitary life is not sane. Relationships and community also happen to be critical for developing good morality and incredibly helpful in supporting meditation practice. In most cases morality is meaningless outside of community, but relationships and community can also be incredibly supportive of living an individual healthy life. While I appreciate dharmaoverground, it can't replace the support I get from participating in a weekly meditation group or the other in-person relationships I find in my neighborhood or various other local communities I am part of.

This is what religion and Sangha have the potential to be, at their best -- a community of mutual support for living the best life possible. Investing in community and relationships is at least as good of an area to invest your time in as meditation, and the data to support that is very strong.

In my personal experience I have found that the best pay-off for happiness has been in investing in all of these areas together. Morality, meditation, counseling and community, when nurtured in combination, will provide better results than focusing on any area alone.


   not to be contrary, BUT....


   solitary life is the only sane life...

   to the onventional solitary life appears insane, as sanity is defined as conventional behavior...

   "investing" in what will produce "the best payoff" in terms of "using" meditation is a transactional metaphor sngularly inappropriate... it is what nietzsche was referring to with englishmen pursuing happiness, he thought utilitarians were "blockheads"...

   hanging with the head is best so we should spend our time running away from our butts...
 

t





"I was walking among the fires of Hell, delighted with the enjoyments of Genius, which to Angels look like torment and insanity" 

~blake
agnostic, modified 8 Months ago.

RE: Is this really the only way to happiness?

Posts: 1879 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
terry:

   not to be contrary, BUT....


   solitary life is the only sane life...

   to the onventional solitary life appears insane, as sanity is defined as conventional behavior...

Not to be contrary, but ... it's possible to live a "solitary" life within the context of a relationship or family. And I don't mean closing yourself off and avoiding everyone. I mean being as present as you can and open to experiencing other people's trips without creating new trips of your own. Immerse yourself in the situation whilst staying aware of your essential inner emptiness. You're fully present but you're not really there right?

M, I'm truly sorry to hear about your misery. What would it be like if you went on a date with zero expectation of any kind of romantic future and just totally emptied yourself out to being as present as possible to whatever that person was vibing out? Even just for a change? What would you have to lose?
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terry, modified 8 Months ago.

RE: Is this really the only way to happiness?

Posts: 1718 Join Date: 8/7/17 Recent Posts
agnostic:
terry:

   not to be contrary, BUT....


   solitary life is the only sane life...

   to the onventional solitary life appears insane, as sanity is defined as conventional behavior...

Not to be contrary, but ... it's possible to live a "solitary" life within the context of a relationship or family. And I don't mean closing yourself off and avoiding everyone. I mean being as present as you can and open to experiencing other people's trips without creating new trips of your own. Immerse yourself in the situation whilst staying aware of your essential inner emptiness. You're fully present but you're not really there right?

M, I'm truly sorry to hear about your misery. What would it be like if you went on a date with zero expectation of any kind of romantic future and just totally emptied yourself out to being as present as possible to whatever that person was vibing out? Even just for a change? What would you have to lose?


   You have no idea, bra.

   I have been with my wife and only lover for over fifty years, and have two happily married sons, and three granddaughters doing fine.

   I spend most of my time in a remote cabin working at my craft, though the pandemic has allowed me the time to upgrade my buildings. My wife lives in a fine old plantation house on the kohala coast, and I visit for a week or more every month. Between the two places I like to think of myself as homeless ("in kyoto, I long for kyoto" ~basho). Even though I live on an island, the two places are 100 miles apart. From hawi I can see upolu (north point) and from the cabin balcony I can see south point.

   I watch every watt, every gallon of water and propane; wash and shit using (separate) buckets. No heat or ac, but the temp over night and day, summer and winter only varies here from 58 to 89 F. I eat fresh fruit and vegetables, and rice and bread I make myself. I grow, mostly from trees I planted 20 years ago, lychee, oranges, macnuts, mulberries, two different avocados, limes, tangerines, bananas, starfruit, two knds of mountain apples, mangos and flowers too numerous to mention. And I grow bud. My wife maintains all this and pays all the bills so I don't have to think about money. She sits next to me at all the farmers markets (soon back to twice a week) and takes the money. I have a number of attractive young apprentices in their twenties I work closely with.

   I'm healthy, my senses are sharp and I have all my teeth. My vision is perfect. I take no medications or supplements, no alcohol, tobacco or meat. No cable tv. Life is good, so far. I don't miss any of those substances, and I've been addicted to them all at some time in my life.

   It's actually your misery I am concerned with. Personally, I'm doing ok. Solitary in my ok-ness, but it goes with the non-territory.

   Going on a date, huh! Is that a proposition? (shy wink)

love, terry

   
agnostic, modified 8 Months ago.

RE: Is this really the only way to happiness?

Posts: 1879 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
I'm sorry terry, I caused a misunderstanding. In my first paragraph I was riffing in general terms on the theme of solitary vs social. It was meant to be for the benefit of the OP, but since I replied to your post I can see how you might have thought it was about you. My second paragraph was addressed to "M" directly. Sorry for the confusion. Your setup does sound pretty sweet though ... I look forward to our "date" next time I'm in Hawaii ;-)
george
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terry, modified 7 Months ago.

RE: Is this really the only way to happiness?

Posts: 1718 Join Date: 8/7/17 Recent Posts
agnostic:
I'm sorry terry, I caused a misunderstanding. In my first paragraph I was riffing in general terms on the theme of solitary vs social. It was meant to be for the benefit of the OP, but since I replied to your post I can see how you might have thought it was about you. My second paragraph was addressed to "M" directly. Sorry for the confusion. Your setup does sound pretty sweet though ... I look forward to our "date" next time I'm in Hawaii ;-)
george


   e komo mai

I'm not only fully present, I'm really here...

t
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terry, modified 7 Months ago.

RE: Is this really the only way to happiness?

Posts: 1718 Join Date: 8/7/17 Recent Posts
agnostic:
I'm sorry terry, I caused a misunderstanding. In my first paragraph I was riffing in general terms on the theme of solitary vs social. It was meant to be for the benefit of the OP, but since I replied to your post I can see how you might have thought it was about you. My second paragraph was addressed to "M" directly. Sorry for the confusion. Your setup does sound pretty sweet though ... I look forward to our "date" next time I'm in Hawaii ;-)
george


as for solitary vs social, I'm perfectly gregarious, not hidden at all


I don't have to seek solitude,

somehow no one seems to want to share my buckets...


solitude is a perk...voluntary poverty is a rabbit hole...


desert life proves to be abundant...




I am never less alone than when alone. - Marcus Tullius Cicero
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terry, modified 7 Months ago.

RE: Is this really the only way to happiness?

Posts: 1718 Join Date: 8/7/17 Recent Posts
terry:
agnostic:
I'm sorry terry, I caused a misunderstanding. In my first paragraph I was riffing in general terms on the theme of solitary vs social. It was meant to be for the benefit of the OP, but since I replied to your post I can see how you might have thought it was about you. My second paragraph was addressed to "M" directly. Sorry for the confusion. Your setup does sound pretty sweet though ... I look forward to our "date" next time I'm in Hawaii ;-)
george


as for solitary vs social, I'm perfectly gregarious, not hidden at all


I don't have to seek solitude,

somehow no one seems to want to share my buckets...


solitude is a perk...voluntary poverty is a rabbit hole...


desert life proves to be abundant...




I am never less alone than when alone. - Marcus Tullius Cicero



Walt Whitman - 1819-1892




SONG OF MYSELF
(walt whitman)


The past and present wilt—I have fill'd them, emptied them.
And proceed to fill my next fold of the future.

Listener up there! what have you to confide to me?
Look in my face while I snuff the sidle of evening,
(Talk honestly, no one else hears you, and I stay only a minute longer.)

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

I concentrate toward them that are nigh, I wait on the door-slab.

Who has done his day's work? who will soonest be through with his supper?
Who wishes to walk with me?

Will you speak before I am gone? will you prove already too late?
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terry, modified 7 Months ago.

RE: Is this really the only way to happiness?

Posts: 1718 Join Date: 8/7/17 Recent Posts
agnostic:
I'm sorry terry, I caused a misunderstanding. In my first paragraph I was riffing in general terms on the theme of solitary vs social. It was meant to be for the benefit of the OP, but since I replied to your post I can see how you might have thought it was about you. My second paragraph was addressed to "M" directly. Sorry for the confusion. Your setup does sound pretty sweet though ... I look forward to our "date" next time I'm in Hawaii ;-)
george


as for a sweet setup, it's just another illustration of murphy's law...everything you ever wanted becomes abundantly available once you no longer want it...

the cosmic joke...
M, modified 7 Months ago.

RE: Is this really the only way to happiness?

Posts: 22 Join Date: 3/25/20 Recent Posts
Hi, I appreciate your empathy. I'm curious what I said that made you suggest I go on a date? 

I tried being fully present without expectations with my parents for a bit. Didn't work well. I basically suppressed emotions for several months and ended up blowing up. Made me realize I was trying to pretend to be holier than I am, but reality caught up with me. I appreciate the sentiment but I'm just not able to consistently do it yet. Definitely a good goal to aim for, but I can't pretend I'm somewhere that I'm not. 
agnostic, modified 7 Months ago.

RE: Is this really the only way to happiness?

Posts: 1879 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
M:
Hi, I appreciate your empathy. I'm curious what I said that made you suggest I go on a date? 

I thought you might be closing off from people, but from your description of sharing with your friend it sounds like you are pretty open. Also it was a pretty dumb suggestion in the middle of a pandemic! emoticon

I tried being fully present without expectations with my parents for a bit. Didn't work well. I basically suppressed emotions for several months and ended up blowing up. Made me realize I was trying to pretend to be holier than I am, but reality caught up with me. I appreciate the sentiment but I'm just not able to consistently do it yet. Definitely a good goal to aim for, but I can't pretend I'm somewhere that I'm not.

I'm definitely familiar with the syndrome of being in the room but withdrawn due to a sense of spiritual superiority. It's basically a form of passive aggression (and people pick up on that) which is why it tends to lead to blowing up eventually. Being present means being in the room AND experiencing your emotions as they come up. If anger comes up then that's useful information and should not be brushed aside. Sometimes it means people really are crossing your boundaries and you need to be more assertive. Other times it's more a reflection of your own feeling of weakness and you are projecting unreasonable strength onto other people which you react against. In that case it's better to just acknowledge the anger and experience it without acting on it. That can be really hard at first, so what I find helpful is to meditate later and revisit the scene where I got triggered - bringing the anger back, experiencing it as fully as possible without any judgements about it, observe how it is experienced in the body, relaxing and watching how it eventually disperses and dissolves. That's building a kind of muscle memory which you can use in real life situations to avoid reacting (so strongly) next time. It can be very liberating once you realize that you don't have to always react in the same way to emotional triggers.
M, modified 7 Months ago.

RE: Is this really the only way to happiness?

Posts: 22 Join Date: 3/25/20 Recent Posts
agnostic:
M:
Hi, I appreciate your empathy. I'm curious what I said that made you suggest I go on a date? 

I thought you might be closing off from people, but from your description of sharing with your friend it sounds like you are pretty open. Also it was a pretty dumb suggestion in the middle of a pandemic! emoticon

I tried being fully present without expectations with my parents for a bit. Didn't work well. I basically suppressed emotions for several months and ended up blowing up. Made me realize I was trying to pretend to be holier than I am, but reality caught up with me. I appreciate the sentiment but I'm just not able to consistently do it yet. Definitely a good goal to aim for, but I can't pretend I'm somewhere that I'm not.

I'm definitely familiar with the syndrome of being in the room but withdrawn due to a sense of spiritual superiority. It's basically a form of passive aggression (and people pick up on that) which is why it tends to lead to blowing up eventually. Being present means being in the room AND experiencing your emotions as they come up. If anger comes up then that's useful information and should not be brushed aside. Sometimes it means people really are crossing your boundaries and you need to be more assertive. Other times it's more a reflection of your own feeling of weakness and you are projecting unreasonable strength onto other people which you react against. In that case it's better to just acknowledge the anger and experience it without acting on it. That can be really hard at first, so what I find helpful is to meditate later and revisit the scene where I got triggered - bringing the anger back, experiencing it as fully as possible without any judgements about it, observe how it is experienced in the body, relaxing and watching how it eventually disperses and dissolves. That's building a kind of muscle memory which you can use in real life situations to avoid reacting (so strongly) next time. It can be very liberating once you realize that you don't have to always react in the same way to emotional triggers.
Thank you. I'm definitely going to practice this more intentionally. One thing that makes it challenging is that when I'm in a situation for a prolonged period of time (several months) with people who don't take an interest in my emotions, I end up feeling numb - and don't even realize it until something wakes me up. So I literally couldn't experience the emotions as they were coming up in the moment because some part of me was shutting them down. But I'm hoping that through awareness and practicing what you suggested, I'll get better at this. 
agnostic, modified 7 Months ago.

RE: Is this really the only way to happiness?

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Shutting down is a very common reaction and it's great you noticed it M! emoticon Feeling numb is the emotion in this situation! It's explained under the space element here.
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Chris Marti, modified 7 Months ago.

RE: Is this really the only way to happiness?

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One thing that makes it challenging is that when I'm in a situation for a prolonged period of time (several months) with people who don't take an interest in my emotions, I end up feeling numb - and don't even realize it until something wakes me up.

I can't help but once again note the language you use, M. And again, I do really think therapy would do you a world of good. I give you a lot of credit for asking these questions and seeking to discover what's going on, but I think your help will come from therapy first, then dharma. Having done both in that order I can speak to it - therapy put me in a much better place to pursue a meditation practice.
M, modified 7 Months ago.

RE: Is this really the only way to happiness?

Posts: 22 Join Date: 3/25/20 Recent Posts
Chris Marti:
One thing that makes it challenging is that when I'm in a situation for a prolonged period of time (several months) with people who don't take an interest in my emotions, I end up feeling numb - and don't even realize it until something wakes me up.

I can't help but once again note the language you use, M. And again, I do really think therapy would do you a world of good. I give you a lot of credit for asking these questions and seeking to discover what's going on, but I think your help will come from therapy first, then dharma. Having done both in that order I can speak to it - therapy put me in a much better place to pursue a meditation practice.
Would you mind elaborating on how therapy put you in a better place to pursue a meditation practice? What kind of therapy did you do? 

I have a therapist at the moment. I only started seeing her recently and she seems pretty good so far. I've had several other therapists in the past, most of whom were not particularly helpful, especially not when I compared it to what I would get out of that same amount of time spent meditating. I started seeing one after a bad breakup a few years ago and it was absolutely useless - I only started feeling relief when I went on my first 10-day vipassana course. 

If anything, I've had the opposite experience of what you described; I feel like my meditation practice has put me in a better place to pursue therapy by helping me cultivate the skill of noticing and acknowledging emotions without getting overwhelmed by them. I unfortunately haven't experienced therapy helping my meditation practice, though that'd be nice. 
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Chris Marti, modified 7 Months ago.

RE: Is this really the only way to happiness?

Posts: 3994 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
Would you mind elaborating on how therapy put you in a better place to pursue a meditation practice? What kind of therapy did you do? 

Therapy helped me understand that I was often tripping over myself - my prejudices, bad behavioral habits, anxieties, and fears were getting in my way and I wasn't aware of those deep reactive patterns or their causes. It taught me how to face them without thinking the world would collapse in on me, or that I would die as a result. I found a really good therapist after trying about three or four over the course of time. The first few are no doubt good therapists, just not for me. Things clicked with the last one.

Knowing this, and then being able to face and experience these personal foibles and understand their roots made it easier to address nasty issues in my meditation practice. For example, the dukkha nanas can be awful, and they pushed me into seeing just how shitty I was - we all are. Our minds are capable of generating some pretty vicious thoughts and learning to be equanimous in the face of those realizations wasn't as hard as it otherwise would have been. Therapy made it easier because I'd done it in a safe setting with an experienced practitioner.

Hope this helps!

EDIT: I want to add one more thought, and it may not apply to you at all, but when you work with a therapist it's worthless unless you're honest with yourself and willing to open up about your psychological and behavioral issues. I've talked to many people who go to therapy but never actually address their real problems. They go and talk about work, or family, but not themselves. A good therapist will cut that shit off pretty fast. A "bad" therapist will let you ramble on about stuff that has no relation to what really ails you, session after session.
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Ni Nurta, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Is this really the only way to happiness?

Posts: 728 Join Date: 2/22/20 Recent Posts
M:
Is meditation really the only way to happiness? Daniel talks about the importance of having a decent day to day life in Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha. If meditation can lead to the end of suffering, why do the circumstances of your day to day life matter at all?
Meditation is best treated like one of your hobbies and not a way to fix everything in your life. If you over-rely on it to make you happy then you will only get disappointed, just like with any other aspect in your life eg. relationships, being part of community, your job, other hobbies, etc.
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terry, modified 8 Months ago.

RE: Is this really the only way to happiness?

Posts: 1718 Join Date: 8/7/17 Recent Posts
Ni Nurta:
M:
Is meditation really the only way to happiness? Daniel talks about the importance of having a decent day to day life in Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha. If meditation can lead to the end of suffering, why do the circumstances of your day to day life matter at all?
Meditation is best treated like one of your hobbies and not a way to fix everything in your life. If you over-rely on it to make you happy then you will only get disappointed, just like with any other aspect in your life eg. relationships, being part of community, your job, other hobbies, etc.


   meditation is neither a job nor a hobby...

   nothing you do is more important...


   "shrouds have no pockets"


   the buddha was homeless, and called it "the middle way"
Tim Farrington, modified 10 Months ago.

RE: Is this really the only way to happiness?

Posts: 2470 Join Date: 6/13/11 Recent Posts
M:
Is meditation really the only way to happiness? Daniel talks about the importance of having a decent day to day life in Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha. If meditation can lead to the end of suffering, why do the circumstances of your day to day life matter at all? 

Also, please let me know if it sounds like I'm going through a Dark Night. I did a little 6 hour solo retreat last Saturday with a mix of samatha and vipassana and have been feeing so damn angsty since then. But I'm not sure I'm experienced enough of a meditator to be at that stage. 
__

I went through a traumatic breakup a few years ago with a person who I thought would be in my life forever. We haven't spoken since. After this breakup, I became somewhat fixated on the notion of impermanence. Beyond the apparent futility of romantic pursuits, I was perpetually fearful of the inevitable death of people I love - my mom in particular.

I had basically no experience with meditation, but I did my first 10-day course that year (Goenka style vipassana). I finally felt like there was a way out of the despair and nihilism that colored my post-breakup existence. That there was some version of me, maybe in the distant future, that could feel okay without that relationship in my life as long as I would put in the work. 

It's been a couple years since then and I've done 2 more 10-day vipassana courses and practice, on average, for an hour a day. I am able to exist in the world again. I almost never feel anxiety anymore. I have close, fulfilling (non-romantic) relationships. Most of the time, I feel okay.

Yet, I sometimes feel resentful that I feel I have to spend so much time meditating in order to feel okay. I think it's at least partially grief regarding the loss of my old worldview - the worldview that told me I could find a romantic partner and live happily ever after, that my parents would live forever, and that if I figured out how to navigate my career and relationships in just the right way, that I would finally have control. 

I feel so alienated from those around me at times. While they're planning their weddings and having children, I'm sitting alone in my room trying to experience the sensations in my body. I could pursue a relationship, but if I've already glimpsed the true nature of existence (at least on a theoretical level) and realize it won't lead to the kind of deep satisfaction I want, why bother? I think at least part of me still believes that if I find the right person, things will be okay. 

I'm staying with my parents because of corona, and I find myself resenting them for bringing me into existence. For bringing me into a world of seemingly endless suffering. A world where I can be well off, well educated, physically healthy, and have fulfilling friendships ... and still feel terrible some of the time. While they've provided for me materially, they're so emotionally closed off and seemingly indifferent to my inner life. Do I work to get their affection, to improve my relationships with them? It seems futile, particularly if meditation really is the right path to liberation. 

I find myself wondering what the point of all this is and doubting whether meditation will allow me to experience life as I want to. Is the best thing for me to do to continue to retreat into myself? To quit my job and go on retreats until I don't feel like shit, until I don't long for intimacy and connection in a way that makes me miserable? What now? 

As I write this, I can feel a tiny, distant part of myself watching the angst, watching the emotions and not getting caught up in them. Maybe that's what I need to cultivate above all else.  

Hi M, Thank you for sharing your story and practice here. And a belated welcome to DhO. I would be interested to hear any updated perspectives you have now, some six months after this first post. 

It doesn't sound to me, from this post, that you are ripe for a complete renunciate's lifestyle, a monastic commitment to a life of pure practice without "worldly" aspects. It sounds like you are busting your ass to keep your balance in the world, like most of us here. The sense of a retreat into yourself you talk about sounds natural enough to me, at a certain phase of deepening meditation practice. You mentioned grief. In many ways, the path mirrors the grief process; both are protracted exercises in letting go, and finally accepting what has been let go as lost, even as some aspects of that lost stuff come back in new and unforeseen ways. You are at the heart of the letting go and losing process right now, and are wondering whether you should not only accept that, but intensify and generalize it in your life. I would have to advise that you hold steady, and not push right now. The lucidity of your post tells me you're in a phase of strong practice, however crappy and alienated and uncertain it may feel. Patience, and gentle persistence, are priceless right now. 

Again, I would be most interested in where you are at, in an up-to-date sense!

best wishes, and welcome again to this sangha,

love, tim
M, modified 8 Months ago.

RE: Is this really the only way to happiness?

Posts: 22 Join Date: 3/25/20 Recent Posts
Thanks for checking in several months later. This in particular really resonated with me: "In many ways, the path mirrors the grief process; both are protracted exercises in letting go, and finally accepting what has been let go as lost, even as some aspects of that lost stuff come back in new and unforeseen ways." I definitely feel like I am going through grief and find it useful to think of my experiences in this way, as opposed to just thinking of myself as depressed or broken.  

Honestly, my perspective hasn't shifted much from my original post. I've made some changes in my life, but I largely feel like I'm in the same headspace. In particular, I continue to be disappointed by the extent to which people around me seem to dismiss my emotions. I'm tired of being disappointed by the same thing - even when I change my environment and adjust who I interact with, this pain keeps rearing its head. The frequency with which it comes up for me makes me feel like it's on me to address it within myself. So I am practicing more. 

I'm still practicing regularly. Probably averaging around 1.5-2 hours a day now. Sometimes it feels like meditation is the only thing I feel genuinely motivated to do. 

I'm curious why you suggested not to push right now. My impression is that meditating more might speed things along and get me out of this Dark Night. 
Tim Farrington, modified 8 Months ago.

RE: Is this really the only way to happiness?

Posts: 2470 Join Date: 6/13/11 Recent Posts
Hey, M, I’m glad to hear from you. Maybe I should wait a couple of months to reply, so this conversation doesn’t get all hectic, lol. At this breakneck pace of one post every couple months, all sentient beings will have found true happiness before we come to any resolution. We can close down the bar.
 
I’m glad the angle from grief resonated. It helps me keep the “spiritual path” in human context, to realize that meditation practice is not some eccentric extracurricular luxury thing, but a way of grappling with what is deepest and most fundamental in human nature and our experience as human beings. The fruition of grief, by all accounts, is acceptance, which is a compete mystery right up until we actually taste it, unimaginable. And the grief stage before acceptance is depression, despair, the sense of an unfixable brokenness. The good news is that you’re beyond denial, letting go of anger, and ever more impervious to empty negotiations with reality, beyond trying to paper this shit over with words. The bad news is obvious.
 
And you’re still meditating, and genuinely motivated to persist in that practice. The motivation to persist in prayer, and the absence of desire to do much of anything else, is one of John of the Cross’s criteria for distinguishing between a dark night and what he called melancholy, or bad humors, what we call depression nowadays. I think there’s a vast gray area here in which the wheat is mixed with the weeds and can’t be sorted out until the harvest; our contemporary world “understands” depression and our society rightfully devotes a lot of resources to trying to alleviate it. So all the fine print applies, take whatever normative medical/psychological steps to address depression and dysfunction that you can. But there is a point, existentially, where for whatever combination of reasons, you feel like you’re beating a dead normative horse. You’ve tried everything reasonable, and then some unreasonable stuff too, and nothing gets to the heart of your condition. And you’re no longer able to believe that the normative solutions will ever be able to address the situation. And so you persist in meditation, which is radical as fuck, a square peg in the round hole of normality just about any way you look at it, and which actually sharpens and deepens your sense that nothing really holds up, at this point in your dark night.
 
You’re using happiness as your word for the mystery of the fruit of the process. But you know by hard experience that you’ve used up a tremendous variety of attempts at happiness, at this point, and found every notion of what will make you happy to be empty, so far. So “happiness” at this point is a koan, an undefined term, a mystery. It is easy to suspect that you’re fooling yourself that “happiness” is even possible. But from everything you say, there’s no way to go backwards for you. The things being offered to you as routes to happiness all ring false to your experience right now. You’re all in, on the meditative path. And it sort of looks like jumping off a cliff into a bottomless abyss, for 1.5-2 hours a day. The only reason you can jump at all is that everything behind you, right up to the cliff edge, is burning.
 
There’s an old joke about a depressed guy who jumps off the top of the Empire State Building. As he goes past the 86th floor, a man in an office there looks out of the window and says, “How are you?” And the guy falling says, “So far, so good.”
 
It actually sounds to me like one of the things bothering you in your life right now is how many people can still look out their office windows at you and ask how you’re doing and expect a nice well-behaved answer, as if the world they live in is not on fire. So tell them, “So far, so good,” and just keep falling. If your meditation has showed you nothing else yet, I suspect that it has probably showed you that there ain’t no sidewalk. That’s a pretty interesting datum in its own right, I would say, and certainly worthy of further attention.
 
love, tim
 
P.S. That’s why I suggested not pushing right now, and in general under deeper dark night conditions. But honestly, push as much as you want, if pushing seems to you that it might help. My experience is that all that happens when you push at this point is that you use up all the ways you can come up with to push, and it doesn’t do shit, and also that pushing hurts, while not pushing, honestly, doesn’t. There is already a weird and incommunicable peace, in realizing that.
M, modified 7 Months ago.

RE: Is this really the only way to happiness?

Posts: 22 Join Date: 3/25/20 Recent Posts
It is simultaneously comforting and disappointing that I've been picking up on something real about reality that others see as true as well. I'm glad I'm not just going crazy. But I also wish there were an easier path to fulfillment, like I used to think there was (marriage, conventional job, etc). 

"Happiness" is indeed a koan, sigh. But I have hope because of states I've experienced during meditation. After my first vipassana course a few years ago, I experienced a state of unconditional peace and acceptance for several days. Part of what felt so good about it was that I'd done it myself (with guidance, of course) - but it wasn't because some perfect romantic partner had swooped in to save me. From what I described, a friend of mine thinks I hit stream entry at that time.
 
Yes, I do feel like I need to hide my true experiences from most people I interact with - don't wanna freak them out too much. However, I recently spent a lot of time with a close friend who's going through one of the darkest periods of her life, and it was oddly comforting? Her boyfriend died unexpectedly a few weeks ago from an accidental drug overdose, and I was able to be with her while she grieved (she's now in inpatient treatment). She was in such a dark place that it gave me permission to share my darkest thoughts as well. I initially did so because I wanted her to feel less alone in the darkness, but I was surprised by how good it felt. We talked openly about thoughts we've had of suicide and of being fundamentally alone. As challenging as the experience was, one positive aspect was the openness we shared with one another. We didn't pretend like things were okay.
 
As a result, I feel like I've been making more rapid progress in my meditation. Being able to vocalize all those thoughts has allowed me to give less weight to them. I've been writing them down in a notebook as I meditate so that I can see them as what they are -- thoughts that I've gotten used to believing.
 
I hear what you're saying about pushing. I think I was conflating meditating a lot with "pushing", when in reality it just feels like the right thing to do a lot. It feels like pushing to do pretty much anything else. Let's see how long I can get away with this mentality in my job...
 
Thank you for your thoughts. I really appreciate them.
 
P.S. Is there a way for me to get notifications when someone replies to me?
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terry, modified 8 Months ago.

RE: Is this really the only way to happiness?

Posts: 1718 Join Date: 8/7/17 Recent Posts
M:
Thanks for checking in several months later. This in particular really resonated with me: "In many ways, the path mirrors the grief process; both are protracted exercises in letting go, and finally accepting what has been let go as lost, even as some aspects of that lost stuff come back in new and unforeseen ways." I definitely feel like I am going through grief and find it useful to think of my experiences in this way, as opposed to just thinking of myself as depressed or broken.  

Honestly, my perspective hasn't shifted much from my original post. I've made some changes in my life, but I largely feel like I'm in the same headspace. In particular, I continue to be disappointed by the extent to which people around me seem to dismiss my emotions. I'm tired of being disappointed by the same thing - even when I change my environment and adjust who I interact with, this pain keeps rearing its head. The frequency with which it comes up for me makes me feel like it's on me to address it within myself. So I am practicing more. 

I'm still practicing regularly. Probably averaging around 1.5-2 hours a day now. Sometimes it feels like meditation is the only thing I feel genuinely motivated to do. 

I'm curious why you suggested not to push right now. My impression is that meditating more might speed things along and get me out of this Dark Night. 


yo m,

   The root of your problem is your disappointed expectations in regard to relationships. People dismiss your (precious) emotions, and you can't get over the feelings of ... drip, drip, drip.

   As long as your happiness depends on the behavior and feelings of "others" you will never be content.

   All the love you will ever know is within your own heart. When love is scant, you have to dig deep. When love is abundant, even pigs and fishes rejoice.

t




from the yi jing, trans wilhelm




61. INNER TRUTH

. . .

THE JUDGMENT

INNER TRUTH. Pigs and fishes.
Good fortune.
It furthers one to cross the great water.
Perseverance furthers.
M, modified 7 Months ago.

RE: Is this really the only way to happiness?

Posts: 22 Join Date: 3/25/20 Recent Posts
terry:
M:
Thanks for checking in several months later. This in particular really resonated with me: "In many ways, the path mirrors the grief process; both are protracted exercises in letting go, and finally accepting what has been let go as lost, even as some aspects of that lost stuff come back in new and unforeseen ways." I definitely feel like I am going through grief and find it useful to think of my experiences in this way, as opposed to just thinking of myself as depressed or broken.  

Honestly, my perspective hasn't shifted much from my original post. I've made some changes in my life, but I largely feel like I'm in the same headspace. In particular, I continue to be disappointed by the extent to which people around me seem to dismiss my emotions. I'm tired of being disappointed by the same thing - even when I change my environment and adjust who I interact with, this pain keeps rearing its head. The frequency with which it comes up for me makes me feel like it's on me to address it within myself. So I am practicing more. 

I'm still practicing regularly. Probably averaging around 1.5-2 hours a day now. Sometimes it feels like meditation is the only thing I feel genuinely motivated to do. 

I'm curious why you suggested not to push right now. My impression is that meditating more might speed things along and get me out of this Dark Night. 


yo m,

   The root of your problem is your disappointed expectations in regard to relationships. People dismiss your (precious) emotions, and you can't get over the feelings of ... drip, drip, drip.

   As long as your happiness depends on the behavior and feelings of "others" you will never be content.

   All the love you will ever know is within your own heart. When love is scant, you have to dig deep. When love is abundant, even pigs and fishes rejoice.

t




from the yi jing, trans wilhelm




61. INNER TRUTH

. . .

THE JUDGMENT

INNER TRUTH. Pigs and fishes.
Good fortune.
It furthers one to cross the great water.
Perseverance furthers.

You are absolutely right. But how do I do this in practice? Here's a question I just posted that develops this idea a bit more. 
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Tommy M, modified 7 Months ago.

RE: Is this really the only way to happiness?

Posts: 116 Join Date: 12/1/20 Recent Posts
Hiya M,

I think a few people have given solid advice already here, so I'll throw in my two cents in the sincere hope that it helps.

First up, I would suggest dropping the idea that this is all down to going through the dukkha ñanas because, while that may be the case, it's not going to change the immediate suffering you're experiencing. Sure, it could be a protracted case of Dark Night but there appears to be more involved here than just side-effects of practice.

As Chris has pointed out, there's a few tells in the words you're using and his suggestion regarding therapy is worth considering.

What I would suggest in terms of your practice is to cultivate a feeling of gratitude. I know that might sound ridiculous given how you're feeling, but I cannot stress how much my own life, my mental health and my practice improved simply by cultivating gratitude every morning. It can seem like nothing, but simply being grateful for even waking up in the morning and not being dead can be helpful.

There's a practice called tonglen which is the practice of taking on the suffering of others, and sending them your merit and good karma. On the surface, that might sound miserable but in practice it's very, very powerful and can give you a clearer perspective on your own suffering. When we understand how much other sentient beings suffer - from a homeless person to an insect - our own mundane problems can be seen for what they are.

Outside of meditation practice, I've found that forcing myself to do at least one thing that's difficult for me, every single day can make a huge difference. By voluntarily doing what's hard for us, the involuntary hard times become much easier to deal with. I say this as someone who's been a serious yogi for over 20 years, and who also battled mental health problems and took medication until fairly recently.

Start off by doing things like waking up early every morning. This is especially useful if you don't like waking up early. Gradually add more and more challenges for yourself each day, e.g. in my case, I wake up at either 0500 or 0600 every day and go out running, then I come home and meditate, write a blog post, work out with bodyweight exercises and deliberately push myself to do uncomfortable things. It develops a mental resilience that becomes unbreakable and then, when negative emotions arise, we can handle them far more skillfully.

There's more I could add but I hope there's something useful in this. 
M, modified 7 Months ago.

RE: Is this really the only way to happiness?

Posts: 22 Join Date: 3/25/20 Recent Posts
Tommy M:
Hiya M,

I think a few people have given solid advice already here, so I'll throw in my two cents in the sincere hope that it helps.

First up, I would suggest dropping the idea that this is all down to going through the dukkha ñanas because, while that may be the case, it's not going to change the immediate suffering you're experiencing. Sure, it could be a protracted case of Dark Night but there appears to be more involved here than just side-effects of practice.

As Chris has pointed out, there's a few tells in the words you're using and his suggestion regarding therapy is worth considering.

What I would suggest in terms of your practice is to cultivate a feeling of gratitude. I know that might sound ridiculous given how you're feeling, but I cannot stress how much my own life, my mental health and my practice improved simply by cultivating gratitude every morning. It can seem like nothing, but simply being grateful for even waking up in the morning and not being dead can be helpful.

There's a practice called tonglen which is the practice of taking on the suffering of others, and sending them your merit and good karma. On the surface, that might sound miserable but in practice it's very, very powerful and can give you a clearer perspective on your own suffering. When we understand how much other sentient beings suffer - from a homeless person to an insect - our own mundane problems can be seen for what they are.

Outside of meditation practice, I've found that forcing myself to do at least one thing that's difficult for me, every single day can make a huge difference. By voluntarily doing what's hard for us, the involuntary hard times become much easier to deal with. I say this as someone who's been a serious yogi for over 20 years, and who also battled mental health problems and took medication until fairly recently.

Start off by doing things like waking up early every morning. This is especially useful if you don't like waking up early. Gradually add more and more challenges for yourself each day, e.g. in my case, I wake up at either 0500 or 0600 every day and go out running, then I come home and meditate, write a blog post, work out with bodyweight exercises and deliberately push myself to do uncomfortable things. It develops a mental resilience that becomes unbreakable and then, when negative emotions arise, we can handle them far more skillfully.

There's more I could add but I hope there's something useful in this. 
Thank you for taking the time to send your thoughts. 

I have a therapist right now. I'm curious if there's any type of therapy you'd recommend? Most therapists I've tried have been useless. 

I like your idea about gratitude. I used to write down a few things I was grateful for every day. Maybe I'll start doing that again. 

With regards to your ideas with tonglen and doing challenging things, I have some hesitations. I'll write down what they are. If you think either of these are unfounded or that I'm missing the point in some way, please let me know. 

1) I had an experience recently that reminds me of tonglen or how I imagine it would feel if I did tonglen regularly. My friend's boyfriend overdosed and she found his body. I spent a week in her bed with her, being wth her while she grieved and holding space for all the emotions she was going through. As challenging as it was, it was extremely powerful and allowed me to experience a deep love during the best moments.

You mentioned how tonglen can allow us to see our own mundane problems for what they are. I can see how this is true. After seeing the depth of my friend's suffering, the problem now is that I'm really struggling to motivate myself to do anything. Most of the things I work on seem so mundane and meaningless relative to the role I was in with my friend. Even though I'm trying to do things to improve the world, the things I'm working on seem so small relative to the vastness of suffering in the world. It's making my second guess my career choices, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. I'm mentioning this because it seems like you were suggesting that problems being seen as mundane could relieve stress, which is true. But it can also sap all motivation. 

2) I have a lot of practice doing challenging things. It seems like our experiences with that may differ. I've found that when I force myself to work on things, I often end up suppressing negative emotions because they get in the way. I can end up doing this to the point where I end up feeling numb/depressed. Perhaps we have differing intuitions because of the degree to which we've tried this - the daily schedule you're describing sounds fairly manageable compared to some of the things I've pushed myself to do in the past. 

As an aside, the activities you mentioned make me feel like you'd like the Wim Hof method. 
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Tommy M, modified 7 Months ago.

RE: Is this really the only way to happiness?

Posts: 116 Join Date: 12/1/20 Recent Posts
My pleasure entirely! Thanks so much for sharing what must have been a painful and difficult experience, and I can understand your fears about tonglen so I'll see if I can offer anything useful.

I have a therapist right now. I'm curious if there's any type of therapy you'd recommend? Most therapists I've tried have been useless.

In truth, I'm not at all qualified to offer that sort of advice. All I can speak on is stuff that's worked for me, but it may be worth your while examining why you find your therapist useless. Not saying they're good/bad, but I know a lot of people experience those sorts of feelings towards their therapist when it comes to dealing with challenging emotions.

I like your idea about gratitude. I used to write down a few things I was grateful for every day. Maybe I'll start doing that again.
Honestly, cultivating a sense of gratitude is a practice in itself; it takes time and we learn by making mistakes, so don't get disheartened if you slip. If you really stop and think about your life, the gratitude will gradually become boundless because there is no end to what we can be grateful for when we see clearly.

1) I had an experience recently that reminds me of tonglen or how I imagine it would feel if I did tonglen regularly. My friend's boyfriend overdosed and she found his body. I spent a week in her bed with her, being wth her while she grieved and holding space for all the emotions she was going through. As challenging as it was, it was extremely powerful and allowed me to experience a deep love during the best moments.
It's not necessary to really feel the depths of the suffering of others during tonglen, and nothing will force you to do so. I totally get your concern, but one thing you really need to know: The way you handled the situation with your friend and took on her loss was absolutely beautiful, and you've shown yourself already that, if you even did literally feel that level of pain and grief - which we all will until we extinguish the root of suffering - you have strength, courage, compassion and more far beyond what you give yourself credit for. You made it through the darkest night and saw that, no matter how dark it gets...nothing is permanent, and you can make it through to the next day, every day until we leave. What's the old saying? Hard times don't last, but hard people do.

Furthermore, your actions during that time and your conscious shouldering of her suffering earned you huge amounts of merit. You have so much merit from handling that challenge that you can give it away, never having to worry that you can't get through any challenge.

Think of it like a game where your good and helpful actions earn you these 'power-ups'. You think that, if you give them away then you'll loose energy and won't be able to complete the game...but they're special, and giving them away/taking the knocks actually helps you to access special areas of the game. I wish you knew just how literally I mean this.
You mentioned how tonglen can allow us to see our own mundane problems for what they are. I can see how this is true. After seeing the depth of my friend's suffering, the problem now is that I'm really struggling to motivate myself to do anything. Most of the things I work on seem so mundane and meaningless relative to the role I was in with my friend. Even though I'm trying to do things to improve the world, the things I'm working on seem so small relative to the vastness of suffering in the world. It's making my second guess my career choices, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. I'm mentioning this because it seems like you were suggesting that problems being seen as mundane could relieve stress, which is true. But it can also sap all motivation.

Totally get it, don't worry. A useful, super simple practice that I do is to remind myself that, no matter what I'm feeling - whether it's good, bad or indifferent - it's nothing special. It sounds like it saps the world of its joy and vibrance, but in actuality it's the opposite. If we can continually remind ourselves that these feelings are really nothing special, it can short-circuit our habitual identification with our feelings.

After all they're not unique to us since everybody's going through the same thing, somewhere in the world, aren't they?

What makes "me" so special?! Why should "I" matter so much that "my" feelings are different anyone elses?!

I know, it probably sounds a bit daft but give it a try and play around with it. It's fun! It's not tonglen, but it's a useful way to start our small and gain a bit of perspective at a deeper level.
I've found that when I force myself to work on things, I often end up suppressing negative emotions because they get in the way. I can end up doing this to the point where I end up feeling numb/depressed.
You mentioned Wim Hof and I love a bit of Wim. He's a bit of a pseudo-scientist with the patter, but I have great respect for him. His technique will introduce a lot of people to something very important about the nature of our reality, and hopefully lead them to other practices.

Have you heard of David Goggins? If not, check out some of his stuff on dealing with your negative emotions. Given your familiarity with doing difficult things, I think you'd appreciate his take.
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terry, modified 8 Months ago.

RE: Is this really the only way to happiness?

Posts: 1718 Join Date: 8/7/17 Recent Posts
M:
Is meditation really the only way to happiness? Daniel talks about the importance of having a decent day to day life in Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha. If meditation can lead to the end of suffering, why do the circumstances of your day to day life matter at all? 



As I write this, I can feel a tiny, distant part of myself watching the angst, watching the emotions and not getting caught up in them. Maybe that's what I need to cultivate above all else.  


aloha m,


   Meditation is part of a decent day to day life. Try do it with no expectation of any improvement in your life, just as mental hygiene, like brushing your teeth, don't even think about it.

   The image of cultivation is a good one. 

   Don't concern yourself with the achievement of the goal, concentrate on treading the path. If it is the right path, you'll get there eventually, or you won't, but at least you'll be on the right path, and that's the best you can hope for. You can't do anything by your self.


terry




from "cultivating the empty field; the silent illumination of zen master hongzhi" trans taigen dan leighton



Poem to Universal Enlightenment Bodhisattva


Medicine and sickness oppose each other, a pair difficult to separate.

The mind flower opens and radiates its own house of Zen.

Naturally real and lustrous, without practice or enlightenment, 

Its daily use is magnificent, granting transmission.

Stepping high from red earth to the clouds, its knowledge can be fathomed.

Stopping cries (of children) with golden leaves provisionally produces faith.

When the bottom is filled with rubbish, just walk through the sludge.

Do not laugh at the snail, meandering through its own slime.
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Ni Nurta, modified 7 Months ago.

RE: Is this really the only way to happiness?

Posts: 728 Join Date: 2/22/20 Recent Posts
M:

I find myself wondering what the point of all this is and doubting whether meditation will allow me to experience life as I want to. Is the best thing for me to do to continue to retreat into myself? To quit my job and go on retreats until I don't feel like shit, until I don't long for intimacy and connection in a way that makes me miserable? What now?
Really terrible idea emoticon
Tim Farrington, modified 7 Months ago.

RE: Is this really the only way to happiness?

Posts: 2470 Join Date: 6/13/11 Recent Posts
Ni Nurta:
M:

I find myself wondering what the point of all this is and doubting whether meditation will allow me to experience life as I want to. Is the best thing for me to do to continue to retreat into myself? To quit my job and go on retreats until I don't feel like shit, until I don't long for intimacy and connection in a way that makes me miserable? What now?
Really terrible idea emoticon
amen to the terribleness of the idea. M, give yourself an honest chance to develop and grow into yourself here. You have a strong practice and are finding some refuge in it, even in a dark night. Give yourself some generous space and time to do whatever you have to do gently. This is not an emergency requiring immediate action, it is life. So no hurry. To long for intimacy and connection, and to grieve for its loss or absence, is close to the heart of what drives human beings. Take that seriously as a work for the long haul; it's a life work, not an emergency.

and hang tough, amigo.

love, tim
Laura Be, modified 18 Days ago.

RE: Is this really the only way to happiness?

Post: 1 Join Date: 7/3/21 Recent Posts
Yes! It's the only way.  
i have a similar story to yours but only when i practice, when i look, i see it's just that - a story. then it doesn't bother me anymore, I return back to self, to reality, and it's the best! (: over and over again and again , im getting t/here...
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Stefan R, modified 18 Days ago.

RE: Is this really the only way to happiness?

Posts: 109 Join Date: 3/28/21 Recent Posts
Probably not. But it's probably the most accessibly easy thing we can do to get, what Shargrol brilliantly states as basic sanity.

You know, I like to think of meditation as just a way to get really really intimate with reality. And of course, the realisation that we are simultaneously an inseparable part of this reality, and simulating this perceived reality in our minds. Learning the three characteristics is pretty simple and observing them is quite simple too for the most part. They're not really hidden, they're just tangled up in lots of perceptions or useful lies that we used to escape these truths. 

Because spirituality at its core is really just learning (or un-conditioning/de-programming) ourselves to pleasantly abide in this ebb and flow of sensations called "life". And you find that in all religious/spiritual schools, the idea of surrender, there being a plan, etc. but none other than the Buddhist contemplative path asks us to investigate this for ourselves. 

​​​​​​​So you can probably find another path to travel, but the journey, methods, and "destination" will all be very similar at their core. I guess what makes meditation special is that nobody can question your expeirence, it's there and it's yours. 
Kieran Yonatan Hill, modified 5 Days ago.

RE: Is this really the only way to happiness?

Post: 1 Join Date: 7/20/21 Recent Posts
Well, that's not the only option. There are different practices that are very helpful. Psychotherapy helps me maintain my mental health. 

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