HAPPINESS, SADNESS, AND COMPLETENESS
I think that happiness is often associated with feelings of pleasure and having fun, having a good time, and also with the absence of pain or discomfort. And most sadly, people are increasingly loosing touch with the inner dimension to experience, and turn to external stimuli for sensations of pleasure which get labeled as happiness. This superficial approach can be both frivolous and unrealistic, frivolous because pleasure is a transient state, subject to change, and dependent on many conditions, internal and external, and unrealistic because life is unpredictable and pain can arise at anytime. This attitude deeply trivializes the human experience, and limits our capacity to access our natural resources and qualities which are crucial to mental and emotional balance.
The popularity of books about happiness can be troubling because they can lead people to believe that this is a viable objective in life, and, worse, that one should be happy. In addition, pharmaceuticals may be very happy themselves with this type of belief in place, and seem to be presenting themselves as fulfilling a cultural need by providing all kinds of drugs for SAD (social anxiety disorder), grief, shyness, worry, and other conditions which are increasingly being regarded as medical and mental pathologies instead of part of the ups and downs of the human condition and personal dispositions.
Also, the search for happiness is, in another way, the continuation of the traditional view of religion and spiritual practice, namely, a way of transcending the human condition. Paradise, heaven, nirvana all hold out the promise of eternal life, bliss, purity, and union, all at the heart of all our suffering and struggle. Or, religion and spiritual practice may be approached with a view away from transcending the human condition and toward a view that religion is about embracing the human condition. These approaches underscore the belief that we need to pursue a happy feeling, which is at the core of much of the anxiety, narcissism, loneliness, and alienation so many people experience.
The practice of Dharma is not so much about this type of happiness, transcendence or acceptance, but more about fullness, completion. The truth is that at times everyone experiences positive feelings, feelings of elation and happiness, and at other times everyone can become fearful, sad or depressed. This phenomenon is to be observed without attraction or repulsion to it. First, because this rhythm is part of the natural cycle of the mind, and second because the mind’s vast emotional spectrum is the very source of all its positive qualities. By being very patient and not being attached to pleasurable aspects of experience and grasping at them, and not being repulsed by the less pleasant phases of experience or pushing them away, one is able to drop into deeper and deeper levels of feeling and thereby experience openness and space in the mind and heart. Life is not what one does. Life is what one experiences. Dharma practice entails learning that there are methods for experiencing life in its completeness every moment. Knowing that masters in the past have practiced these methods and gained realization gives confidence, and knowing there are living masters today who exemplify these teachings instills these qualities in those who meet them. Not long ago, these methods were taught to a very select few, but that is no longer the case. Now, these methods are available to anyone, and everyone has the opportunity to learn, contemplate, and practice these methods and gain the same realizations for themselves.
Marcela is an ordained Buddhist nun and gives dharma teachings in my office alternate Saturdays at 5:30 pm and will be giving a workshop called ” Dharma and Creativity” in the Salon Astoria ” Light the Match ” series November 18.
Contact me for more details!
Thank you Marcela!!