You should never…
1. Hide from the truth.
Most people, at the first sign of distress, would rather deny the hard truth than face it. The truth does not cease to exist when it is ignored. When you try to ignore it, you will find yourself living a lie every day as the truth haunts your thoughts. It’s always better to be hurt by the truth than comforted by a lie. Because the truth hurts only once and then gradually fades, but a lie hurts just as bad every time you remember you’re living it.
What is the problem with this? This kind of avoidance falls under the Buddha’s definition of “ignorance.” Avijja, the Pali word for ignorance, is the opposite of vijja, which means not only “knowledge” but also “skill” – as in the skills of a doctor or animal-trainer. So when the Buddha focuses on the ignorance that causes stress and suffering, saying that people suffer from not knowing the four noble truths, he’s not simply saying that they lack information or direct knowledge of those truths. He’s also saying that they lack skill in handling them. They suffer because they don’t know what they’re doing.
2. Cling to the fantasy of a pain-free life.
Always anxious is this mind,
The mind is always agitated,
About problems present and future;
Please tell me the release from fear.
from the Devaputta-samyutta
Pain is a part of life, and life’s pains have many shapes and sizes.
There’s the cold feet pain of moving on like “rites of passage”, graduating, taking the next step, walking away from the familiar and into the unknown.
There’s the sharp growing pains of trial and error, of failing as you learn the best way forward.
There’s the immense pain of life when everything you thought you knew wasn’t true, or everything you had planned for falls through.
There are the more ambiguous aches and pains of success, when you actually get what you had hoped for, but then realize that it’s not quite what you had envisioned.
There are the warm, tingling pains you feel when you realize that you are standing in a moment of sweet perfection, a priceless instant of achievement or happiness which you know cannot possibly last, and yet will remain with you forever.
Even though so many folks forget, pain is actually a good thing. It means you’re breathing, and trying, and interacting with the endless possibilities in this world.
Pain is for the living only; it’s worth fully accepting and dealing with while you still have a chance.
3. Revisit the past over and over in your mind.
People all over the world continuously tell their one dramatic story and how their entire life has turned into getting over this one event from the past. Every day of their lives are more about something that no longer exists, rather than the real life experiences waiting for them in the now.
Although we are to a certain extent products of our past, we don’t have to be prisoners of it. You become a prisoner when you cling to what no longer exists. The past has nothing to do with you right NOW.
4. Hold on to who you were before the problem arose.
You must let go of who you were so you can become who you are. Until we reach enlightenment we are doomed to be constantly in some sort of becoming. Holding on to who we were once upon a time holds us back from growing and progressing in the world and space.
In the Yoga Sutta (Anguttara Nikaya 4.10) the Buddha said, “Monks, there are these four yokes. Which four? The yoke of sensuality, the yoke of becoming, the yoke of views, & the yoke of ignorance.”
By holding on to who we think we used to be we have fallen into the trap of all four yokes. 1) Our senses create the person we think we were. 2) We hold on to the desire to be that person again. 3) We become oblivious to the facts of stress, change, and conditionality. 4) We delude ourselves into thinking our thoughts of who we were is the same as who we really were. The snapshot of my mother is not my mother. My thoughts about the past are not the past.
5. “Worry” or “think” a situation into something worse than it is.
What worries you masters you. Needless worry and negative thinking will never lead to positive change.A positive attitude and a little action can change everything. If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.
Being hurt is something you can’t stop from happening – being miserable is always your choice.No matter how bad things are, you can always make things worse. Negative thinking creates negative results.
…the uninstructed worldling, with no regard for Noble Ones, unskilled and untrained in the Dhamma of the Noble Ones,… of those who are worthy… regards body as the self, the self as having body, body as being in the self, or the self as being in the body. Change occurs to this man’s body, and it becomes different. Because of this change and alteration in his body, his consciousness is preoccupied with bodily change. Due to this preoccupation with bodily change, worried thoughts arise and persist, laying a firm hold on his mind. Through this mental obsession he becomes fearful and distressed, and being full of desire and attachment he is worried. He regards feeling as the self,… change occurs to his feeling… he is worried. [Similarly with ‘perception,’ ‘the mental formations’ and ‘consciousness’]. In this way, monks, grasping and worrying arise.
– Upaadaaparitassanaa Sutta: Grasping and Worry
Samyutta Nikaya 22.7
6. Act like it’s not OK to smile.
The Dalai Lama asserts that the goal of life is to be happy. In a very real sense this is true.
If dukkha suffering ends then we are left with only happiness. This isn’t the happiness of a laughing lunatic. It is the serene joy of being alive.
There is, O monks, worldly joy, there is unworldly joy, and there is a still greater unworldly joy. There is worldly happiness, there is unworldly happiness, and there is a still greater unworldly happiness. There is worldly equanimity, there is unworldly equanimity, and there a still greater unworldly equanimity. There is worldly freedom, there is unworldly freedom, and there is a still greater unworldly freedom.
– Niramisa Sutta: Unworldly
Samyutta Nikaya 36.31
7. Give in and give up as soon as the going gets tough.
All things are difficult before they are easy. Which is why you must endure the discomfort. Do what needs to be done when it needs to be done. This was well taught by the Buddha as “Right Effort.”
“And what, monks, is right effort?
[i] “There is the case where a monk generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the non-arising of evil, unskillful qualities that have not yet arisen.
[ii] “He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the abandonment of evil, unskillful qualities that have arisen.
[iii] “He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the arising of skillful qualities that have not yet arisen.
[iv] “He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the maintenance, non-confusion, increase, plenitude, development, & culmination of skillful qualities that have arisen: This, monks, is called right effort.”
– Samyutta Nikaya 45.8
8. Want to have all the answers.
Accept the feeling of not knowing exactly where you are going.
Train yourself to love and appreciate this sensation of freedom. Why things happen is never important – what is happening always important. The freedom in not knowing is that there are no expectations. Expectations are a kind of a clinging that leads back into the suffering trap.
From ignorance as condition, the formative mental functions; from the formative mental functions as condition, sensory consciousness; from sensory consciousness as condition, name-and-form; from name-and-form as condition, the six sense bases; from the six sense bases as condition, contact; from contact as condition, sensation; from sensation as condition, craving; from craving as condition, clinging; from clinging as condition, being; from being as condition, birth; from birth as condition, old age and death, grief, lamentation, suffering, distress and tribulation all together come to be. Thus there is the rise of this whole complex of suffering.
– Samyutta Nikaya 12.61
In times of confusion,this is all we really need to know. Needing to have answers beings us back into craving.
People invest great amounts of energy in the notion they must find the meaning of life. Here is the secret of the universe: life has no innate meaning. We give meaning to life.
9. Obsess yourself with negative news.
For heaven’s sake, stop watching FOX cable news. There is enough negative in the world. We don’t need to add to it. As we allow negative information to stimulate us we tend to become more negative about our own lives.
In Pure Land Buddhism there is a saying that works quite well and is literally true. “It’s all a delusion. Create a better delusion.” We create our own happiness an sorrow. It is up to each one of us to create an experiential reality that serves us in our search for spiritual happiness and awakening.
Mudita means appreciative joy at the success and good fortune of others. Evaluation of achievement is a precursor to mudita, and appreciation a component of mudita. Seeing the good in others and learning to recognize and admire what good there is, is what mudita tacitly implies. Laughter and exhilaration are not characteristics of mudita. Mudita is joy and appreciation flowing quietly out of the core of one’s heart towards others like the waters from a spring flowing outwards from the bowels of the earth. Spontaneous and sincere participation in another’s glorious hour is possible only when the quality of mudita is developed to its fullest.
Genuine joy in the prosperity of others is indeed a rare quality. The virtue of mudita may be best noticed at work in the joy of parents over the success of their offspring, and in the genuine ecstasy of teachers over the success of their pupils, particularly in the latter situation when the threat of the younger eclipsing the older is always imminent. While it is easy to practice mudita within the narrow circle of one’s family and friends, to identify oneself with the joys and triumphs of outsiders requires deliberate effort. Yet the capacity for doing so is rooted in man’s nature. Smiling faces of adults make children respond readily with their own smiles. This potential in the child should be nurtured and activated by parents and educationists. For the seed of mudita planted early in a child will grow and blossom and bear fruit in his adolescence and in his adult life. To some extent, man is a product of his environment – with this in mind, adults, parents, teachers and wardens who handle children should be of a cheerful disposition and an appreciative nature.
If a child lives with criticism,
He learns to condemn;
If a child lives with hostility,
He learns to fight;
If a child lives with ridicule,
He learns to be shy;
If a child lives with jealousy,
He learns to feel guilty;
If a child lives with tolerance,
He learns to be patient;
If a child lives with encouragement,
He learns confidence;
If a child lives with praise,
He learns to appreciate;
If a child lives with fairness,
He learns justice;
If a child lives with security;
He learns to have faith;
If a child lives with approval,
He learns to like himself;
If a child lives with acceptance and friendship,
He learns to find love in the world.