I walked to the store this morning in temperatures approaching -1. The sun was shining gloriously through a maze of multi-colored clouds. The snow crunching beneath my feet and the tip of my moustache beginning to freeze as I exhaled. I stood in line with my paper and when it became my turn to pay for my purchases I greeted the clerk with a warm hello and as I left, I suggested she “Have a nice day.” This comment, when it leaves my lips is meant as a soulful gesture; a gesture meant to remind the individual who has received this response that they have the power to “have a nice day.” Neither of my comments was met with a verbal response. There was a response at one point which although audible, was also unintelligible. In fact, it sounded more like a grunt.
I left the store looking forward to the walk home, losing myself in the sound of the snow as it crunched beneath my feet, looking skyward to see the sun breaking through the clouds and thinking, “I’m happiest person on the face of the Earth.”
I have learned many things through my practice of Buddhism; things which were not encouraged through the practice of other spiritual beliefs in which I was forced as a child to participate. One of the most important thing I have learned is that I am responsible for my own happiness. I do not need to be surrounded by others to be happy. I am in fact more happy when I am alone, enjoying the solitude which I have created. Often when around others the chore becomes listening to the litany of complaints. Our society complains about everything, things over which we have no control. Yet we complain as though we have the power to change them. I know an occasional vent releases some of the built up pressure, but there are so many other more proactive ways to release this stress. For me, my meditation cushion beckons. It is a practice with which I look forward to completing at various times during the day. I do not rely on others to meet these needs. In the past I have and have found myself disappointed.
In my work with my patients, I use the metaphor of our daily life being similar to that of a rechargeable battery. If I do not take care of myself and fail to recharge my “battery” I will not have enough energy for those activities which demand my attention. I take care throughout the day to set limits with others and to ensure I am not needlessly spending energy which I do not have; ensuring I have energy remaining for the rest of the day.
Save your energy for the things which you can change and can control. In that space, the space which the Buddha referred to as the “Middle Way”, you will find intrinsic happiness.
“We suffer, then that suffering passes and we feel relieved of it, until suffering returns again, and we suffer, not having learned from the suffering. We’re always thinking, “if this changes, if that changes…”, then something will be different inside, in other words, we’re always thinking the outside shapes the inside. But we’d have much greater joy, satisfaction and deeper meaning if we understand that on the inside, with the mind, we can shape our happiness.”
-Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche