No one can be happy all the time.
It’s psychologically impossible. I generally consider myself a happy person, yet I can’t help it when a deep feeling of sadness or anger or anxiety washes over me.
Sometimes I feel that a simple wrong turn could disrupt my happiness and ruin my day. It’s funny how emotionally flimsy we are, even when we think we are the strongest.
According to Buddhism, this is extremely common. The nature of reality and life itself can and will disrupt our happiness from time to time. (Phew, I feel better already.)
I’ve always loved and respected how clear and straightforward the teachings of the Buddha are. The teachings take an honest look at the human condition and explain why we’re constantly seeking happiness and avoiding sorrow. Ironically, we might experience sorrow more often than joy and the reason is clear.
Noah Levine, an American Buddhist teacher and author, perfectly explains why life may be so unpleasant. He says:
“We are born into a realm of constant change. Everything is decaying. We are continually losing all that we come in contact with. Our tendency to get attached to impermanent experiences causes sorrow, lamentation and grief, because eventually we are separated from everything and everyone we love. Our lack of acceptance and understanding of this fact makes life unsatisfactory.” ~ Noah Levine
If you think about it, what mostly drains our happiness is our lack of acceptance. It’s difficult and sometimes impossible to accept the nature of change in our lives. We want everything to last, including our possessions, the people we love, the pets we own, the jobs we pursue, the moments we enjoy, and the emotions that make us feel alive.
But, as Levine says, “We are born into a realm of change,” and the ugly truth is that we can’t do anything about it. So we can’t keep the people we love or the pets we own. We can’t hold on to an enticing emotion or moment. Maybe it’s not an “ugly” truth after all. It’s just how things are—temporary, decaying.
So, yes. Things will always be impermanent and maybe sometimes unattainable. But by practicing unconditional acceptance and changing our state of mind, we might be able to decrease the suffering that is so inevitable. We might, for a change, be genuinely happy by understanding that loss exists. We can’t deny it. We can’t escape from it. And we definitely can’t sugarcoat it.
It’s ugly and it’s going to hurt, I know, but this is what real acceptance is. In Buddhism, acceptance doesn’t mean failure or weakness. It doesn’t mean being passive or indifferent about a situation. It simply means acknowledgment.
I acknowledge that I will lose the people I love. I will grieve; I will be hurt; I will miss them; I may not be the same person ever again. But I acknowledge their loss. I’m aware of it. I’m not shielding myself from the truth because as the Buddha taught, this is the only way I can reduce my suffering—not by changing what’s outside of me, but by working on what’s within me.
Ask yourself today, are you shielding yourself from the truth?