It’s part of human nature to seek for safety, validation and pleasure.
The highly convenient and fast-paced society we live in operates on a system of rewards and punishments for us to obtain more things or connections.
So we’ve become deeply conditioned. We dislike unpleasantness and quickly pull away from it. And when it’s pleasant, we chase after.
But life is often very unpredictable. Pleasant and unpleasant experiences constantly pop up whether we want them or not, and cause us to live in this state of continuous reactivity.
Most of us are fearful of being average or unhappy, yet it seems like most of us tend to settle for the easy way out.
There is a funny little story I once heard in Tara Brach’s teaching,
“There’s one picture I have at home of a woman and her husband in the living room, and they’re talking. And he’s saying, ‘You know, if I ever get into a vegetative state, please, pull the plug.’
At which point, the wife reaches over and pulls the plug from the TV set.”
The co-founder of Headspace, Andy Puddicombe, puts the pursuit of happiness this way:
“We get hooked on the temporary rush or pleasure of a new experience… food, alcohol, drugs, clothes, cars, relationships, work, or even the peace and quiet of the countryside. If we become dependent on it for our happiness, then we’re trapped. What happens when we can’t have it anymore? And what happens when the excitement wears off? For many, their entire life revolves around this pursuit of happiness.
Yet how many people do you know who are truly happy? And by that I mean, how many people do you know who have that unshakeable sense of underlying headspace? It’s as if we rush around creating all this mental chatter in our pursuit of temporary happiness, without realizing that all the noise is simply drowning out the natural headspace that is already there, just waiting to be acknowledged.”
Most of us live in strategies and games. We try so hard reach for a state of fulfillment or belonging, to prove ourselves, people-please, or judge others.
But these strategies only make us become more disconnected from ourselves. They simply don’t work.
Like muscles, our minds also need workouts. It takes time, hard work and patience to build strength and clarity in our minds.
“Everything worthwhile in life is won through surmounting the associated negative experience. Any attempt to escape the negative, to avoid it or quash it or silence it, only backfires. The avoidance of suffering is a form of suffering. The avoidance of struggle is a struggle. The denial of failure is a failure. Hiding what is shameful is itself a form of shame.
Pain is an inextricable thread in the fabric of life, and to tear it out is not only impossible, but destructive: attempting to tear it out unravels everything else with it. To try to avoid pain is to give too many fucks about pain.” — Mark Manson
When a sense of discomfort arises, instead of running away from it, sit down with it.
With gentleness and openness, take a good look at the experience and notice how it makes you feel.
Whether the sensations are good or bad, don’t judge, accept all that is there.
If you can, ask yourself,
“Am I acting out of fear, or because I am trying to support a better self?
“What am I trying to run away from?”
The simple practice of acknowledging and accepting the experience can offer you a new sense of freedom.
Not running away from difficult sensations helps us become more present. Not getting lost in the past, future or fantasies bring us fully to where we are.
The sensitivity and immediacy of noticing everything in the present moment is what truly makes us feel alive and humane.
Yes, the bad feels are part of being human as well. How about we take them on face to face, and then befriend them?
Melody Zheng :)