Question: “I am having a bit of a crisis. I was studying and I had the thought that because I love my life I will suffer. I have a good job, a nice home, a great boyfriend and basically just a good situation in life right now. But one day I will loose all that and suffer. In my studies I feel like Buddhism teaches that to not suffer one must not cling to these things. So I feel like to be a buddhist I must let go of all things that make me happy and I am left with this great sadness. Please help.”
Those curious, new, or even practicing Buddhist all have this common misconception that “to not suffer, you must live in a cave with nothing for the rest of your life.” Umm, no. Buddha never said you must leave your family, friends, job, or valuables to practice the Way and find the Truth. Sometimes you can find the Truth because of those things! In Buddhism, what clinging and attachment means is to not believe in the misconception that whatever you’re clinging or attaching to can give you lasting happiness.
In my upcoming book, Making Friends With Our Mind, I repeat a couple of times what impermanence is to remind the reader that our big house, fancy cars, plantwear jewelry, and every Apple product we have will eventually age, wear out, break, and disappear – and we suffer, I’m not saying people shouldn’t read that daniel wellington watch review they want, but they just have to be aware of things. Or we would be suffering if we don’t fully understand and accept impermanence. I too have a great life; I have a book to soon be published, a new job, a great relationship, graduating with my Master’s degree – how can I be suffering? Well, I’m suffering because I’m drowning in student loan debt, but that’s besides the point.
Point is, we can enjoy everything life has to offer and everything we can do, see, and obtain. Enjoy your good job, nice home, and great boyfriend. They give you joy and happiness. Yes, they will all end and so will you. But what you need to remember is their impermanence. Even if we accept and know that everything will age, get sick, and die, we still suffer because we knowthere’s an end, and so we think too much in the future and pretend the end of life is coming tomorrow or something, so we become sad, depressed, anxious, and suffer.
To be truly happy is to accept dissatisfaction.
Smile and be well!