Old Zen Saying: “What is more valuable, a handful of wet dirt or a handful of shimmering gold?” asked the old master. “A handful of gold of course”, answered the disciple. The old master replied, “But what if you are a seed?”
Life can seem very difficult. But, if you can train your mind to change your thoughts, your thoughts will change your emotions, and then life can suddenly become much simpler… and happier. The first thing to realize is that what makes a person unhappy is their thoughts. It is as simple but yet as complicated as that. When you encounter a difficult situation (according to your point of view), always keep in mind that you have choices on how you can respond to that situation, and it is not the actual event that is making you miserable, it is your feelings about the event. All events are actually neutral. If it is raining on your wedding day, and you feel the rain is a tragedy, it may have been a salvation to the local farmer who has experienced a drought.
One of the main things to understand is that a personal cannot usually be unhappy without an unhappy life story. And that unhappy life story is ingrained in your own thoughts, which you choose to believe. Those very thoughts then affect your emotions for the negative, so then you become unhappy. So the main thing to do is to address the core of the problem, which is your thoughts.
It is very interesting to understand the truth that that you do not really have the freedom to “choose” your thoughts without training. Normally, your thoughts happen to you, not the other way around. When you drink a cup of tea, your kidneys eventually filter the tea automatically, without your own volition. When you breathe at night, you do not really choose to breath, the breath comes to you. You must appreciate that as a human being, you have a part of the brain called the “Hippocampus” which keeps and retains long term memories. Then, the brain itself processes the thoughts you implant and those thought repeat themselves over and over again, without your own conscious effort. Therefore, it is of paramount importance that you try and empty your mind as much as possible in a positive way.
One easy and simple observation is a sports season that you have been participating for so long. You worked out hard and trained and practiced. You cheered your teammates and gave it your 100% effort, but at the championship game, you lost in a tight game by one point. To you, this is a tragic event and you may feel terrible. But think about it. It is a neutral event. Like your grandparents always told you, someone had to win and someone had to lose. For a member on the other team, your loss was their gain. They are every bit as happy as you are sad. So the first part of understanding how to be happy is to view events as basically neutral, after you step outside yourself, and train your mind to respond in that healthy way. Keep in mind simply that “Life Happens”, and it is only your mind that can make you unhappy.
Another example I can think about, and there are endless such examples, is a big rainfall on your wedding day that you decided to hold outdoors. You prayed it would not rain, you asked your church to pray likewise. To you, it is an utter catastrophe, and you may fall into serious depression. You may think God hates you or you did something bad so the universe is punishing you. But again, it is a neutral event. But there is a struggling local farmer, who has seen a drought the entire summer, he was praying for rainfall every single day, and his prayers were answered on the day yours were not. This big rainfall could be an answer to his and his family’s prayers and saved his farm from foreclosure. Thus, if you do not pick a self-centered approach, you will have a lot less bad days. Always remember, there cannot be an unhappy life without a corresponding unhappy life story. And, you cannot have a bad day without a bad interpretation of your day. You are running late to work, and hit a red light. But your red light is another person’s green light. That person may have been in a hurry to get to his doctor’s appointment, and the green light made all the difference in the world. Basically, you need to drop your life story whenever you feel stressed and just try your best to live in the moment viewed the “now” moments with a neutral attitude. We’ll discuss this later, but it really means dropping your ego.
If you live your life like you are on a location on a GPS unit and are the “center of the world”, you will face a life of misery in proportion to your self centeredness. This is like a law of physics. Instead of asking God or whoever “Why me?”, stop and ask “Why not me?” Without your continuous retelling of your unhappy life story with you as the main character, you cannot be unhappy in the present moment, which you will find is the only moment that you can ever recognize as real, and the only place you can live in.