Adjust settings for increased happiness
The whole point of Buddhist teachings, which can get lost sometimes, is to bring an end to suffering. Or, as Guy Newland puts it, to bring an end to unnecessary suffering.
That begs the question 'what suffering is unnecessary?'
The Buddha himself must have continued to have some physical pain, I mean he still had a body, he grew old, he got sick, But then how much of what we think of as physical pain is actually physical?
Remember when you last stubbed your toe? When you stub your toe, is some of that pain mental? (I mean literally mental, not "oh man, the pain was mental.") And if some of it is mental, is it also unnecessary, optional even? Certainly the pain of telling ourselves off for being so stupid, we could probably let that one go as 'unnecessary'. How about the pain of hating the bed for 'being out to get us'? Or the pain in the other foot, after we've kicked the bed in revenge for it stubbing our toe?
I'm sure the Buddha was a little further along than me in the 'able to not create a drama' apartment. He had a toe, 10 for all we know, and maybe he stubbed them from time to time. But how much unnecessary suffering did he create? Well, if you believe what it says on the tin, then none. Zero. Nada. Sunya.
Dukkha is the Sanskrit word for suffering and means 'unsatisfactoriness', and is a pretty broad term.
It could be the unsatisfactoriness of a slice of fruit and nut sourdough bread that tasted great, but not as great as two days before when it was fresh out of the oven. Or it could be the unsatisfactoriness of being diagnosed with some terminal illness. There's the spectrum.
where is the dukkha coming from?
Let's zoom in a little closer.
We can go back to me stubbing my toe on the bed. Painful sensations in my toe, I say in 'my toe' but in that moment my whole world is my toe, and that world is filled with a raging red swearing pain. There is nothing else. So sometimes physical sensations bring pain.
But what about all the mental stuff that comes along too? Blame, regret, shame, anger, the list is long. That's the list of the optional stuff, the suffering that's not really necessary (I know, I know, it seemed necessary to blame the bed!). These mental thoughts and images can also be painful.
Let's make some lists and see where the suffering is and see where the pleasure is, 4 lists to be exact -
- My knees going down stairs.
- Being too cold.
- Jeans are a bit too tight.
- Clean sheets on the bed.
- The smell of someone you love.
- Coffee in bed.
- Fresh air.
- Being in nature.
- The birds singing.
- Watching '3 Bill Boards'
- Listening to Laurie Anderson.
- Corriander, chillies, lime.
- Anxiety about money.
- Anxiety about health.
- Regrets about the past.
- Fear of flying.
- Worrying about the kids being out alone.
- Fear of dying.
- Fear of others dying.
- Day dreaming.
- Planning something nice.
- Anticipating my morning coffee.
If you try this, let me know in the comments below what you find? Maybe it is different for you. If you have a lot of physical pain then maybe you find more pleasure in the mind? Or is it still the pleasure of the senses that keeps you going?
For me I could think of some things for each list, but by far the easiest to fill were the mental suffering and the physical pleasure, these lists could have been endless.
What is the lesson in that?
Dial up the senses, dial down the thinking
If we want to tip the balance in terms of pleasure, maybe we just have to dial up the sense experience and dial down all the thinking. How do we do that? Here's one way -
Take a walk through the senses
Listening - you are walking through a soundscape, let sound dominate. Touching -it's a tactile world, yet we try to get through a trip outside without touching anything! You have permission to touch. Seeing - as Rumi says, 'Walk out, like someone born into colour', see the seeing, colours, shapes, shadows, light. Taste and smell - ditch the gum, take some greedy gulps of fresh air.
Don't believe everything you think
It seems that sometimes we trust our thoughts more than our sensations, the power of an idea can completely cancel out the truth of your own eyes and ears, as in the case of this poor man who's been unable to prove that he he is alive, despite appearing in court himself. Here's the report from The Guardian Newspaper -
In a case reminiscent of a Kafka novel, a Romanian court has ruled that a 63-year-old man is dead despite what would appear to be convincing evidence to the contrary: the man himself appearing alive and well in court.
Constantin Reliu asked the court in the town of Barlad to overturn a death certificate obtained by his wife after he had spent more than a decade in Turkey, during which time he was out of contact with his family. The court told him he was too late, and would have to remain officially deceased.