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It’s surprisingly easy to achieve lasting happiness — we just have to understand our own basic nature. The hard part, says MINGYUR RINPOCHE, is getting over our bad habit of seeking happiness in transient experiences.
have traveled all over the world teaching people how to meditate.
Whether I am talking to a large group or chatting with a few people in
private, it seems that everyone wants to know the same thing: Where is
lasting happiness to be found? True, not everyone phrases this question
the same way—some people may not even know this is what they are
asking—but when we reduce our many desires, hopes, and fears down to
their essence, this is usually the answer we are seeking.
those of us who follow a spiritual path, we may think we know the
answer. Anyone who studies the Buddha’s teachings, for example, will be
able to tell you that true happiness is found within. But if we really
understand that our basic nature is already whole, pure, and complete,
why do we continue to act as though our level of contentment depends on
the size of our paycheck, the quality of our relationships, or on the
number of pleasurable experiences we can surround ourselves with. In
other words, why do we expect things that are ephemeral and changing by
their very nature to provide us with something stable and secure?
answer is quite simple: It’s a bad habit. We have believed this myth
for so long, that it takes a while for any new understanding to filter
down to the core of our being. What’s more, we often bring this same
mindset—the expectation that temporary experiences can produce lasting
happiness—into our meditation practice as well. We mistake fleeting
experiences of peace and relaxation for the true relaxation of feeling
at ease with whatever manifests in the present moment. We think that
calming the mind means to get rid of thoughts and turbulent emotions,
rather than to connect with the natural spaciousness of awareness
itself, which doesn’t get any better when there are no thoughts or any
worse when there are. And we chase after ephemeral experiences of bliss
and clarity, all the while missing the profound simplicity of awareness
that is with us all the time.
I’m getting at here is that we need to be patient with ourselves, and
with the process of loosening this deep-rooted conditioning. The good
news is that everything we hear about meditation is actually true. Our
essential nature really is completely pure, whole, and infinitely
spacious. No matter how trapped we may feel by anxiety, depression, or
guilt, there is always another option available to us, and one that
doesn’t ask us to stop feeling what we already feel, or to stop being
who and what we are. Quite the contrary, when we know where to look, and
look, we can find peace of mind in the midst of raging emotions,
profound insight in the midst of complete confusion, and the seeds of
compassion in our darkest moments, even when we feel completely lost and
This may sound too good to be true. In fact, I must admit that the first time I heard this, it did seem a little too easy, and too convenient.
It took me a number of years, actually, before I stopped using
meditation like a hammer, trying to beat all of my painful feelings and
cruel thoughts out of existence. I can’t tell you how hard it was to be
confronted continually with the tempest of my own anxiety while still
holding onto the idea that difficult thoughts and emotions were keeping
me from tasting true peace of mind.
wasn’t until I gave up in desperation that I finally saw the truth of
what my teachers had been telling me all along. What they taught me over
and over again, waiting patiently for me to see in my own experience
what they had learned themselves, was that love, compassion, and wisdom
are manifesting all the time. It’s not that we are pure way down in the
depths of our being, but somehow up on the surface everything is messed
up. Rather, we are pure inside and out. Even our most dysfunctional
habits are manifestations of this basic goodness.