July 20, 2015

The Buddhist Way to Find Contentment.


“Letting go gives us freedom and freedom is the only condition for happiness.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

We all search for happiness. However sometimes we look for it and try to grasp it from everywhere but the place it is found.

We often look for happiness outside of ourselves. We create our lives and fill them full of pretty, expensive and sentimental things believing that they will add a layer of depth to our self-worth and in return, provide us with happiness.

Something that eludes many of us is that happiness does not depend on anything that is around us.

Regardless of who is around us, how much money we have, what car we drive or the value or beauty of our material possessions—none of these things will bring us true and lasting inner happiness.

Having attachments to people or material things pins us down emotionally and also physically.

The trouble with attachments is that they also come with a fear of loss.

Buddhism teaches that attachment is the root of all of our suffering.

Often we believe that we need certain things to keep our own inner happiness stable. Whilst having certain physical or emotional connections around us can lift our spirits and bring joy and pleasure to our lives, they are not responsible for providing us with happiness or a deep sense of internal peace.

In fact, the attachments we place on things are a direct link to our suffering, not a link to happiness.

We hold on to things that feel familiar whether it be relationships or material possessions and we find comfort in them. We place a great deal of pressure on things outside of our self to create our own happiness, instead of taking responsibility for creating the happiness within.

Often, we depend on relationships, friends or family members to create our happiness. We put a great deal of pressure on people so that they are responsible for the way we feel.

We do not need to depend on anyone or anything to feel okay. We have all the power within ourselves to create our own happiness, we just need to know how to tap into it and release the things that are preventing us from experiencing the full pleasure in each and every moment.

Letting go is the most effective way to destroy attachments that aren’t necessary so that we have an abundance of space for happiness to settle. We build mental walls and barriers and block our flow of energy which causes unnecessary grief and discomfort when we cling to things that we believe make us happy—when ironically the very things we believe make us happy cause us the most suffering.

These are a few of the things I regularly remind myself to let go of:

Negative thinking. Every thought we have has a direct link to our emotions. The more we dwell on anything, the greater the emotional response becomes. As our emotions develop, they then create physical reactions. Therefore our negative thoughts can very quickly result in a negative physical reaction within our bodies. It is extremely unhealthy for the body and the mind to think negatively and it also sends out a toxic wave of energy that vibrates around us.

The past. The past has passed—we have absolutely no control over it. It doesn’t matter how much we stress and overthink or obsess; we cannot change anything. All we can do is accept it. Forgive ourselves for everything, forgive others, and then our worries or cares will be carried along with the wind.

Bad memories. Without thinking about it we can repeat past memories over and over in our minds. They have no place in our lives today. We have already suffered and lived through the trauma; we do not need to keep replaying the guilt, errors or sadness that remind us of troubles and difficulties that no longer exist. When we relive past memories we also relive the emotions that were connected to them, so we will constantly be dragging up emotions that will cause us distress every time we reignite certain thoughts. We can choose at any time to change the channel in our minds so we have space for new memories.

People who are bad for us. It can be difficult to let go of certain people, especially if someone has been a long-term friend or if they are a relation. What we can do though is let go of any effect that these people have on us. We can place people at a safe distance and loosen our connection so that we can still have people around us, but at an arms length so that their negative energy does not have a direct impact on us. As we remove people who are insincere, pessimistic or who do not have our best interests at heart, we also remove any of the negativity that these connections cause. We also create room for new friendships that are good for us, and that are nourishing and healthy.

Putting ourselves down. Self-criticism and self-doubt can cripple us and become a very bad habit that is limiting and debilitating. When we have low self-worth we attract things that reflect how we feel inside. Other people become an affirmation for our innermost thoughts. If we feel bad about who we are, we will connect with those who tell us these things or who subliminally send us messages that confirm how we feel. It is imperative to our own sense of well-being and happiness that we accept ourselves exactly as we are, which includes our darkness and our light.

Taking things personally. We often wrongly believe we are the centre of our social universe, workplace or family and that how other people are behaving must be a direct reflection of who we are or what we are putting out. We can forget that everyone has their own life going on and however similar they may seem to us, each person is a unique make up of culture, education, nurture, nature, experience and teachings. Sometimes we think that the way someone else is behaving is a projection of who we are instead of being a projection of who they are or what they are going through. We take so many things personally, when we should always remove ourselves from the equation when someone lashes out at us with the intention to ruffle us.

How someone behaves will always say far more about who they are than it ever will about us. We should also remember not to be paranoid and not to overthink situations as we can convince ourselves that other people’s words or actions are connected to us in some way, when often they have nothing to do with us.

As we let go of many things that do us no good, we can have the space and energy to replace those things with things that revitalize, nourish and re-energize us.

Non-attachment and letting go does not necessarily mean detachment. It just means creating healthy boundaries and not placing value on anything that could be taken away or change at any moment. We can still love with full hearts and cherish all that is around us. It is learning the balance between not clinging and grasping onto things and allowing things to just exist without placing expectation on them.

Life is a precious gift and so is everyone that is around us; we should celebrate each and every thing that happens to us and allow it to exist in its own right without placing ownership or conditions on it. We simply need to allow everything and everyone to exist separately in their own entirety. Everything should be a bonus in our lives, not an additive that is required to create the formula for happiness.

Happiness is not “found” and then remains constantly with us. It is something that we need to consciously be aware of moment-to-moment. We just very simply need to live in the present moment, not dwell on the past or cast our minds to the future and appreciate the pure joy, pleasure and happiness that is found by just existing and inhaling and exhaling life, the good and the bad. Life does not need expectations; it will deliver us a series of experiences and we have the complete power to choose to alter our perception in each moment.

Every moment passes. We do not need to cling to any emotion or to harbor or wallow in any feelings that are presented to us. We can simply let the thoughts and feelings come, acknowledge them briefly, and then peacefully and calmly allow them to pass.

Nothing stays the same, everything changes; so when we continuously practice letting go, we can alter and adapt to accept the beauty, magic and excitement in each moment.

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