What is the buddhist guide to happiness, when you take all the niceties and aphorisms and cerebralness out of it, and make it practical?
So here it is, as I see it. Like all things in buddhism, it's merely my interpretation and your mileage may differ. Et Cetera.
- All life is suffering. This is the first noble truth. It doesn't mean we're in agony every minute we're alive, it means that everything that lives, suffers at some point, on some level. If you think about it, you're probably suffering in some way, right now. Your right toe might itch; that's suffering. When you accept the first noble truth, you realize you're not a special flower and you're not more miserable than anyone else. Believe it or not, that's a big step toward happiness.
- Suffering comes from attachment. You get your head stuck on things being a certain way, because that way is familiar. It's not even always awesome. Then when things change you get your head all wonky because you were attached to it being the old way. You have to let go and be flexible - you might be able to influence the way things are, but you can't control them.
- Acceptance is good, mmmmkay. Reference above. So, you got in a car accident and lost your left foot. Yeah, man, that sucks. Big time. Now it's done happening and there's nothing you can do to undo it. But you can do a lot moving forward, as soon as you accept it. Once you accept it you can go get a prosthetic, you can invent a new style of dancing that involves hopping, you can write a book about your tragic adventure, you can buy a swanky cane and shake it at meddling kids.
- NOTHING is permanent. Everything changes. Whether on a geologic, astronomical or human time scale, nothing stays the same. So reference #2 and get over it. That thing you think is superawesome cool? Not ever going to be exactly the same as it is this moment, thankyouverymuch entropy. So appreciate it fully, enjoy it to its fullest right now and let it go.
- Don't worry. Look, if you worry about something that can be changed right now, then you're wasting time you could be using to change it. If you're worrying about something that can't be changed, you're wasting time you could be using to accept it and get over it. So cowboy up and have some chocolate milk. (this is the hardest one for me to follow :D )
- No religion or philosophy ever solved anyone's problems. This includes buddhism. They just give you a framework and you solve them yourself. If you try a framework and it doesn't quite fit or make sense to you, take what does work and move on to the next one.
- Take refuge. Buddhists have three categories of refuge, where we can seek comfort. We take comfort in the philosophy - sometimes you can logic away your unhappies. We also take comfort in the concept that this too, shall pass. And when all else fails (at least for me it's the last resort refuge) we take comfort in our community, family and friends.
- Everything is connected. Not just in a hippie way of being made out of stars and rented atoms. We're connected by cause and effect. So you are hurting because someone else was hurting, because some other hurting person hurt them. When you recognize that the idiot in front of you cut you off because he's just gotten a phone call that his wife was in a car accident and died, you kinda don't mind being cut off so much.
- Be compassionate, dude. Sometimes, thinking about how other people are feeling helps get us out of our heads and then we feel better when we come back. Sometimes it puts our own crap in perspective. Sometimes it just distracts us so we forget what we were hurting for. And sometimes, we get lucky and it actually solves some of our problems too.
- It's ok to suffer. When something hurts, running away from it is only going to make it worse. Accept the pain (see a theme here?) and explore it to its fullest because it's not going to be the same later. Don't be attached to how you felt before the pain because you can't have that back - it's gone. Don't be attached to how you're going to feel when the pain goes away, because that's not here yet and you have to feel the pain in order to get there. Put your head down, feel the hurt, and be ready to let it go when it has run its course. If you're hurting it's 'cause it was your turn, and everybody gets their turns.
- Let go This sums up everything above. Don't cling to things being a certain way. Be willing to accept new things and find the benefit or at least the lessons in them. Make the most of the present moment, even if the only thing good about the present moment is that it'll someday be over. Let go, relax, breathe. Welcome to being human.
This is not a comprehensive list of the ingredients of happiness, for sure. But it covers the basics from how I apply buddhist philosophy to my life. What can you add to this list?