to Still Water Dharma Topics)
Dear Still Water Friends,
Where do we look for happiness? Do we find it there?
In the excerpt below Pema Chodron concisely sums up the Buddha's
message by noting that most of us mistake suffering for happiness: "we look for happiness in all the wrong places."
The core issue is that we are not comfortable with life as it is -
changing, with indistinct boundaries, not meeting our unrealistic
expectation. As children most of us learn, from parents, relatives,
peers, and caregivers, to want something else, such as only
pleasurable experiences, external approval, the security of things that
don't change, or the self-satisfaction of being morally right.
We are like the drug addict looking for the unending high, the one that
isn't followed by illness and distress. We don't find it with one drug,
so we try another drug, then another and another. The variations are
wonderfully creative and endless. Looking for the perfect partner, job,
community, or profession, can be the drug. Looking for the perfect
spiritual teacher can also be the drug. We might hop from one to
another, exuberant for a while, and then disappointed. We move on.
When we walk the path of mindfulness, we are encouraged to try a
radically different approach. We calm our minds, we focus on the
present moment, and we embrace what we find.
Sometimes there is pain, and sometimes pleasure. Sometimes it is too
hot, sometimes too cold, and sometimes it is just right. As we learn to
happily work with what we have, a quiet contentment grows.
It has a different texture than the momentary highs we used to know -
it is longer lasting, more stable, and more open-hearted.
You are invited to join us this Thursday, April 6, for our meditation and our program. We will share where we have looked for happiness and what we found. The best times to join us are:
Also, this Thursday we will have a Still Water MPC Orientation,
beginning at 6:30 p.m. We will talk about sitting meditation and other
mindfulness practices as well as provide information about the Still
Water community. The orientation is open to everyone, including
old-timers, those with some experience, and those new to mindfulness
practice. (It is helpful but not essential to email us, at
info@StillWaterMPC.org, letting us know that you will be attending the
- Just before the first sitting at 7 pm;
- At 7:25, at the beginning of walking meditation; or,
- At 7:35, at the beginning of the second sitting.
From The Places That Scare You: A Guide To Fearlessness In Difficult Times
The third mark of existence is suffering, dissatisfaction. As Suzuki
Roshi put it, it is only by practicing through a continual succession
of agreeable and disagreeable situations that we acquire true strength.
To accept that pain is inherent and to live our lives from this
understanding is to create the causes and conditions for happiness.
by Pema Chodron
To put it concisely, we suffer when we resist the noble and irrefutable
truth of impermanence and death. We suffer not because we are basically
bad or deserve to be punished, but because of three tragic
First, we expect that what is always changing should be graspable and
predictable. We are born with a craving for resolution and security
that governs our thoughts, words, and actions. We are like people in a
boat that is falling apart, trying to hold on to the water. The
dynamic, energetic, and natural flow of the universe is not acceptable
to conventional mind. Our prejudices and addictions are patterns that
arise from the fear of a fluid world. Because we mistakenly take what
is always changing to be permanent, we suffer.
Second, we proceed as if we were separate from everything else, as if
we were a fixed identity, when our true situation is egoless. We insist
on being Someone, with a capital S. We get security from defining
ourselves as worthless or worthy, superior or inferior. We waste
precious time exaggerating or romanticizing or belittling ourselves
with a complacent surety that yes, that's who we are. We mistake the
openness of our being—the inherent wonder and surprise of each
moment—for a solid, irrefutable self. Because of this
misunderstanding, we suffer.
Third, we look for happiness in all the wrong places. The Buddha called
this habit "mistaking suffering for happiness," like a moth flying into
the flame. As we know, moths are not the only ones who will destroy
themselves in order to find temporary relief. In terms of how we seek
happiness, we are all like the alcoholic who drinks to stop the
depression that escalates with every drink, or the junkie who shoots up
in order to get relief from the suffering that increases with every fix.
A friend who is always on a diet pointed out that this teaching would
be easier to follow if our addictions didn't offer temporary relief.
Because we experience short-lived satisfaction from them, we keep
getting hooked. In repeating our quest for instant gratification,
pursuing addictions of all kinds—some seemingly benign, some
obviously lethal—we continue to reinforce old patterns of
suffering. We strengthen dysfunctional patterns.
Thus we become less and less able to reside with even the most fleeting
uneasiness or discomfort. We become habituated to reaching for
something to ease the edginess of the moment. What begins as a slight
shift of energy—a minor tightening of our stomach, a vague,
indefinable feeling that something bad is about to
happen—escalates into addiction. This is our way of trying to
make life predictable. Because we mistake what always results in
suffering for what will bring us happiness, we remain stuck in the
repetitious habit of escalating our dissatisfaction. In Buddhist
terminology this vicious cycle is called samsara.