Over the last hundred years, we have made astonishing progress. In the fields of technology, communication, medicine, engineering, and a host of others, our achievements are remarkable. Our ancestors would be amazed if they could see the world today.
And yet, despite all this, we have failed to make progress in some other very basic ways. Although we have incredibly powerful communications technology at our disposal, we fail to communicate well with other; we probably have the capability to produce enough food for the world’s population, and yet huge numbers of people are starving. We have learned a great deal, and yet we are still ignorant in some basic respects. It seems to me that the world would be a better place if we all kept in mind a few truths about which there is widespread ignorance.
Suffering is caused by attachment
This ancient insight plays out continually in our lives. When we ascribe meaning to something, we become attached to it and this leads to pain. The more we care, the more pain we feel. Becoming emotionally detached from things – releasing our attachment from them – brings an end to suffering.
Impermanence is the nature of things
It is blindingly obvious that all things change continually, and so to expect otherwise can only cause suffering. Clinging to that which changes causes pain. The more we cling, the more pain we get as things change around us. Clinging to fragile, changeable things is like trying to tie up water in a brown paper packet – it’s impossible and endlessly frustrating. Let go. Don’t cling. Enjoy things for what they are and know that they will change.
Complaining about things is a sign there is something wrong inside
‘Things are neither good nor bad, but thinking makes them so,’ wrote Shakespeare. When we feel good, the world seems like a most agreeable place; if we feel bad about ourselves, then we usually try to find reasons outside to blame. The answer to this is to work on accepting yourself. If you feel bad, let it be – observe, see the transience of your feelings and let them go. Don’t judge, don’t try to analyse or ascribe meaning to it all. Just watch. It will change.
The expectations you put on yourself lead to pain
Just as suffering is caused by clinging, any attachment to an idea of what we should be doing or how we should behave can also lead to pain. We are conditioned to expect things of ourselves – our parents, teachers, relatives, and society in general places so many demands on us that we soon internalize them and become our own worst enemy. Difficult though it might be to escape from this bind, the answer is to accept yourself totally – every aspect. Stop judging yourself. Love every bit of yourself.
You’re not in control
Life follows its own course, whatever you do. We like the idea of being in control, and we can be desperately unhappy if we feel otherwise, but when we have the strength to let go and let life carry us, things can start to work in unexpected and wonderful ways. Take your hands off the wheel.
Enjoy the ride.