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Beating ourselves into happiness

This is a transcript from a recent lesson at The Mindsprings Practice Space

There’s a lovely teaching, by Pema Chodron about not mistaking control for love. If you want to control somebody or something or control your experience, we might think of that as being meditation or- even worse – we might think of it as being love. We think: “I want you to be happy, I want you to lose some weight and be happy. I want you to stop eating all my cakes and lose some weight and be happy. I want you to stop knocking on my door and eating all my cakes and lose some weight and be happy.“ It’s actually nothing to do with them being happy. It’s about them not annoying you anymore with their problems.

It’s like I want to be happy. So I’m going to beat myself up with a brick until I’m happy.

And we just do the same thing with our own experiences. So, for example, I want to be happy. And no less than the Dalai Lama says we all want to be happy, but we go about it in this really weird, perverted way. It’s like I want to be happy. So I’m going to beat myself up with a brick until I’m happy. And, one of the crassest examples of this is “I’m not going to accept the way I am. I’m not going to. This experience is the wrong experience. It’s not me, it shouldn’t be there. I’m going to be beating myself up until it’s gone”. And we can do this our whole life and – in some sense – that is what the Buddhists call samsara. Constantly trying, desperately trying to get all our ducks in a row: “If only I could be this if only I could have that. And if I didn’t feel this and I wasn’t anxious and didn’t have this injury and I wasn’t on this medication, if the ceiling wasn’t dripping and there wasn’t all this traffic and if I didn’t have this pain.“

Our thoughts are slightly less jagged or the emotion is slightly less intense.

It’s exhausting, exhausting. And there’s no stillness, there’s no peace, there’s no release in that. But the minute we go, “Okay, this is what I’ve got.” And we start to turn towards it and we start to give it some space and just be curious about it and interested in it and then have these other options. We can go to the breath, or we can go to the sounds, or we can go to the floor and then come back and oh, it’s slightly changed. It’s got a different tint to it. Our thoughts are slightly less jagged or the emotion is slightly less intense. Then we can work with what we are and this is the beginning of love or respect. And until we do that, it’s just exhausting and it’s very difficult to enjoy life. Because we’re so preoccupied with ourselves and getting ourselves perfect. But we can experiment with this spacious quality that happens by just having these other objects.

When we start with where we’re at, then there’s nothing to fall off

Yeah, we’ve got this feeling, we’ve got this jumpy mind, we’ve got this anxiety. But then there’s also the sound of the traffic, there’s also the sound of the drip, drip, drip, there’s also the feeling of my fingers stroking my thighs. There’s also the breath coming in, breath going out. It’s not that that first object is being erased in any way. It’s just being contextualised in a more spacious, more option-rich context. And pretty quickly, this brings a great sense of groundedness. Because we’re not on this tightrope. Francesca was saying when she first started practising that she’d get into the state of happiness or wellbeing and then: she’d open her eyes and bam! It’s gone. Sometimes when we ‘fall’ out of meditation like that it feels like we’ve fallen off a tightrope walk. And there’s this sort of precariousness to our mediation. But when we start with where we’re at, then there’s nothing to fall off. You’re not on any high wire. You discover that the high wire is actually on the floor. So it takes all the effort out of meditation. There’s nothing to ‘fall out’ of.

So you don’t have to strive to be something different to enjoy your life. As Pema says, you just start where you are. It’s got a lovely, lovely feel to it.

I’d love to know your thoughts about meditation. Drop me a message with any thoughts, comments, questions, queries or insights that pop up while reading the blog. I’d love to hear from you!

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