Obstacles to Happiness
I was in the middle of writing about Neuroplasticity for this week’s posting where I was referencing a discussion between His Holiness – the 14th Dalai Lama, and a group of world class neuroscientists in the 1980s. As part of that researching, I ended up listening to a few more of his other discourses that the Dalai Lama engages on a regular basis with psychologists, psychiatrists, and other scientists. The result is this article where I am attempting to summarize some of his teachings based on my understanding of how to overcome certain obstacles in our journey to happiness.
The main obstacle to happiness is that we fail to study the nature of the mind. The Dalai Lama simply describes wisdom, as an understanding of how the mind works. By becoming more familiar with our mind, we can remove the obstacles to happiness and live a joyful life.
However, it is impossible to know how the mind works without observing it. This practice is known as mindfulness meditation. Through practicing mindfulness – by being able to stay in the moment without judgment – the mind develops strength of attention and the power of focus. By reducing one’s mental hold on a constructed ideal and becoming curious rather than controlling, an individual actually has a chance to “awaken,” or become enlightened, in this lifetime. Just as an athlete’s physical regime allows for peak performance, our mind also can become more agile and stable by developing mental sharpness and intelligence through the focused practice of mindfulness mediation.
The Dalai Lama says that with such a healthy mental attitude, we can find balance within the elements of body and mind. When the basic mental attitude is healthy, the mind is less easily disturbed by outside circumstances. But, when it is weak, the mind will be easily disturbed and, the real question then is, how to build a healthy state of mind.
Sense the Possibility of Joyfulness
As we develop a great mental attitude, it becomes easy to see how swiftly thoughts come and go. One can also get motivated to stay in the here-and-now, rather than the before-and-after. However, it becomes clear over time that the only place to experience peace or happiness is in the present moment, and so, we wish to stay there to make that permanent. But, we soon, discover that it is not possible. The Dalai Lama suggests that we become wise, instead, in the knowledge that joy is experienced exclusively in the moment. In contrast, attachment and anger – the desire to overly control outcomes – are obstacles to happiness. Joyfulness, then, is nothing more than becoming aware of “the wonderful potential being wasted” and “sensing possibility.”
Live a Compassionate Life
Compassion leads to happiness. The way to nurture innate compassion is to develop an awareness of gradual, moment-by-moment change. This changing nature of reality is the truth of impermanence on which the Dalai Lama recommends we meditate. Compassion expressed in the presence of a calm mind opens the door to happiness.
“Compassion leads to a calm mind, while anger destroys a calm mind.” ~ His Holiness – the 14th Dalai Lama
I remember, the story that the Dalai Lama described about his own life experience to give us all hope for ours. Even though he was recognized at the age of 2 as a reincarnated Dalai Lama, he said, he was not really interested in study or practice until he was a teenager. Furthermore, it wasn’t until he was in his late 20s that he had “some experience of feeling the absence of independent existence.” Also, it took several more years of intense meditation and study, before these ideas became “close, intimate, and familiar” to the Dalai Lama.
Even though, each transformation is subjective, the Dalai Lama’s life and his slow path to enlightenment should encourage the rest of us that anything can be overcome with practice.
“Something that seems impossible to achieve in 100 years can become very close to you with practice.” ~ His Holiness – the 14th Dalai Lama
Infinite altruism once seemed difficult and very far away, but based on the laws of cause-and-effect and the fact that life is “changing, changing, and changing… all the time,” the Dalai Lama emphasizes that compassion for oneself and others actually creates happiness.
“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.
If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” ~ His Holiness – the 14th Dalai Lama
Confession: Any omissions or inaccuracies are entirely my own, as per my understanding as of now.
Dr Surya M Ganduri, PhD. PMP. is the Founder & President of eMBC, Inc., an international firm specializing in strategic and executive leadership development processes that Help People Succeed in an Evolving World. Dr Surya has over 28 years of business experience in management consulting, leadership development, executive coaching, process improvements, organizational development and youth leadership. For more information visit www.eMBCinc.com or contact eMBC, Inc., directly at (630) 445-1321.