In my previous post I spoke about reading The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama (actually written by Howard C. Cutler about his discussions with the Dalai Lama), and what I’ve learnt in the short 250 page read. As far as journeys into the world of Buddhism, The Art of Happiness is definitely inspiring enough to make the reader hungry for more. In this post I’d like to add a little more of what I’ve taken from this book, and decided to adopt into my own life.
1. Dealing with Anxiety
The Dalai Lama explores methods to reduce anxiety in general, and social anxiety in particular, lin a few different manners. As someone who’s not a stranger to social anxiety myself, I paid particular attention to these sections of the book. The most basic way to get over this feeling of being unable to talk to people, for whatever reason, is to realise the value of humans in your life. Our fellow humans are the source of our entire happiness. Wealth, material goods, success may add to our happiness in some cases, but it’s the people we love that we really base all our happiness on. Think of the importance of family in your life, how much you care about your significant other, what you would do without your best friend. People are so valuable in our lives, so meeting new ones is vital, and to be enjoyed and encouraged. Another way to immediately reduce anxiety is to think of the commonality of all humans. You and I, the Dalai Lama, your worst enemy, your lover – we’re all just humans, we have so much in common. We all strive to be happy, even if we may get lost along the way. We all have hopes, dreams, struggles and successes. We are the same. Thinking like this takes away the barrier that anxiety puts up between you and the rest of the world. It helps draw us closer together.
One last way of dealing with anxiety is to take a moment to explore your motivation behind what it is you are anxious about doing. Let’s say for example you really want to strike up a conversation with that girl/guy over there but you’re waaaayyyy too scared, and all you can think of are all the things that could possibly go wrong: Stop for a minute and examine your motives. Why do you want to do this? If your reasons are sincere, and to increase happiness (or at least not to decrease happiness) – then you have every reason to do it. Chances are, you want to talk to that guy/girl because you want them to be a part of your life. You think they could increase your happiness, and that maybe you could increase theirs, right? In that case your motivation is sincere and honest, so remove the barriers you keep putting between yourself and your goals.
2. How to Deal with Negative Emotion
The most difficult thing we can imagine is controlling our seemingly beyond-control emotions. In my last post I mentioned how education can really help in situations like these. Once you educate yourself about the negative effects of anger and hate, you start to feel passionate about cleansing your life of them. A very effective way to take action against these feelings is to use different perspectives when looking at a situation. Stand back (metaphorically) and realise that it’s probably not personal, that the person causing you strife is probably having a bad day – maybe they have money problems, or had a fight with their partner the night before. The more you analyse the situation, the more reasons you find to refrain from getting angry or annoyed, and to keep your cool.
3. Romance Should not be Your Goal
To quote the Dalai Lama: “The idealization of romantic love can be seen as an extreme. Unlike those relationships based on caring and genuine affection, this is another matter. It’s something based on fantasy, unattainable, and therefore may be a source of frustration. So, on that basis it cannot be seen as a positive thing.”
This is a tricky one to embrace, because romance is everywhere we look, so much so that we expect it. We watch our movies and imagine ourselves in the place of that lucky girl, with the handsome boyfriend, who has an amazing physique, is a millionaire who never lets us buy dinner, or our own drink, and who spurts the cheesiest, most over-the-top lines one could imagine. Romance has become so divorced from reality, that it’s now entirely fantasy. And we project these fantasies on everyone we find attractive. Not only is this unrealistic, and naive, but it’s also missing the whole point of how relationships and love should work. Sincere, healthy love is one based on mutual respect, genuine feelings of compassion towards one another, and an honest appreciation of one another’s quirks, personalities and true selves. If you truly care about someone, for who they are, perhaps you will organise a special ‘romantic’ dinner, or a candlelit bath – but there is so much pressure on people to do these specific things that instead of these being sincere loving actions, they are now purely superficial.
4. Anger in Rare Circumstances can be Positive
Anger is to be avoided at all cost… Unless it’s a very specific type of anger that comes often as a result from education. An anger that is fuelled by compassion and motivation, which creates a sense of responsibility. For example, I am a vegan, because I have educated myself on the cruelty that is inflicted on animals, routinely, and unnecessarily, that is fully accepted in society. After witnessing the suffering we inflict on animals, I became increasingly angry – and this anger caused a call to action. I eliminated all animal products from my diet, as a result of the ever so rare positive anger, and I’ve become much more aware of animal rights. This kind of anger is okay, good even, it makes you motivated to bring about positive change.
5. Spirituality and Prayer in the Life of a Non-Believer
As someone who doesn’t believe in a deity, and takes karma and reincarnation as metaphors (with a serious pinch of salt), I have never found any reason to pray, and I feel funny with the whole idea of spirituality without religion. The Dalai Lama said something that really resonated with me on this topic: “True spirituality is a mental attitude that you can practice at any time.” In that case, spirituality it is then! On the subject of prayer, the Dalai Lama described his daily prayers as reminders of the principles and values he wishes to carry with him throughout the day. In this way, prayer is therapeutic, and can help any individual, regardless of faith. It serves as a personal reminder of what sort of person you want to be, how you intend on reaching happiness, and why you strive for your goals.
So there you go folks, that about wraps it up. I hope this has helped you on your journey ❤