October 7, 2007

Excitement Vs. Happiness

Speaking of Zen Buddhism... I'm reading a book called The Joy of Living by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche. In it, Yongey Mingyur describes the basic tenet of Zen Buddhism through the parallels it has to quantum physics.

I love this approach. It's part of what I love about Zen. I've made the connection between science (in particular quantum science) and Zen before in my own mind. But thought that my inexperience in both realms didn't give me any credibility to talk about it.

It was a joy to see someone "official" talk about many things that I'd been thinking. It kind of reminds me of some of Deepak Chopra's writing.

Anyway, on a completely different tangent, Mingyur takes some time to talk about happiness and Western culture. This ties into a post I wrote a while ago about excitement. Here's a snippet of what he said:

The more widely I traveled, the clearer it became to me that people living in societies characterized by technological and material achievements were just as likely to feel pain, anxiety, loneliness, isolation, and despair as people who lived in comparatively less-developed areas. ...I began to see that when the pace of external of material progress exceeded the development of inner knowledge, people seemed to suffer deep emotional conflicts without any internal method of dealing with them. An abundance of material items provides such a variety of external distractions that peolpe lose the connection ito their inner lives.

Just think, for example, about the number of people who desperately look for a sense of excitement by going to a new restaurant, starting a new relationship, or moving to a different job. For a while the newness does seem to provide some sense of stimulation. But eventually th excitement dies down; the new sensations, new friends, or new responsibilities become commonplace. whatever happiness they originally felt dissolves.

... The trouble with all these solutions is that they are, by nature, temporary. All phenomena are the results of the coming together of causes and conditions, and therefore inevitably undergo some type of change. When the underlying causes that produced and perpetuated an experience of happiness change, most people end up blaming either external conditions (other people, a place, the weather, etc.) or themselves ("I should have said something nicer or smarter," "I should have gone somewhere else"). However, because it reflects a loss of confidence in oneself, or in the things we're taught to believe should bring us happiness, blame only makes the search of happiness more difficult."

The more problematic is that most people don't have a very clear idea of what happiness is, and consequently find themselves creating conditions that lead them back to the dissatisfaction they so desperately seek to eliminate.

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