Question and answer
Question (Shona): How do I apply Buddhist philosophy to my life?
If I try to analyse my feelings the way you described, I sometimes get trapped in the psychology and make the emotions stronger. How can I stop doing this?
I can relate to the question because that’s what I was like in the beginning. I learned Buddhist philosophy, trying to apply it to my life, and suddenly it was too hard thinking about it. I realised that when I start thinking about it, even though I’m supposed to objectively use the philosophy, I tend to use my ego a lot instead. “Am I doing this right? Am I thinking this right?” Then I realised that I shouldn’t be thinking about me and creating another “I”, I should just think about the philosophy. It’s like an illusion of an illusion.
The root cause is your ego because you think about “I” all the time.
Often when I lose something in my room, it doesn’t matter how hard I look for it, I never find it. But if I clean up my room, it just appears out of nowhere. So, rather than concentrating on the thing that is annoying me, or the emotion, I make sure all the other aspects of my life are working properly: I’m still spending time with positive people, doing stretching, reading philosophy… That frees up my mental space and the answer to my question presents itself; I don’t have to try to make something happen.
Follow the discipline to do all the philosophy, and check that you are making Spirits your priority, rather than being stuck in nonsense thinking.
Answer (Sean Pig)
From what I gather, the problem is that sometimes you have a feeling or a thought or there’s something to do and you start thinking about it and you’re not sure “Is it right? Is it wrong? Is it good? Is it bad?”
My technique is: do it. Do whatever you think is the right thing to do next and then observe whether it’s right or wrong. Observe: does it cause suffering for others? Does it cause suffering for you now and in the future? Because it’s all just in your head until something happens.
If you do something and someone else makes a face, then you can usually say to yourself “Don’t do that again.” Or if you do it and you’re like “Oh, this is shit” then remember to not do it again next time. Sometimes making mistakes is the best way to learn; you don’t forget them so easily.
So don’t get stuck in your head. Experiment; follow the right feeling. Maybe it will still be wrong, but experiment and observe. If you are wrong, then use that as a teacher to improve.
If you get a problem stuck in your head, you’ll never make anything happen. You’re not sure, so you don’t do anything. Sometimes you do your best and even if it’s wrong, it’s not a problem because you can still learn a lot from that.
Answer (Sean Rat)
When you have a feeling, a bad one or a good one, it’s a good idea to acknowledge it: “That feeling is not me. I’m experiencing that feeling, I’m aware of that feeling, but it’s not me.”
Rather than trying to think “Is it right? Is it wrong? Should I keep doing it? How do I fix it?” distract yourself from it. By giving it more energy, you’re just making it stronger. But if you find another way to occupy yourself – by doing something fun like going surfing – when you come back, the problem probably won’t be there anymore and you’ll have forgotten about it.
So, enjoy life in a good way – not causing suffering to yourself or others – and you will probably forget your problem. A lot of the time, your problems are just a mental game that you have created as a habit.
A lot of people worry and are fearful not because they have things to worry or be fearful about, but because they have felt that way for so long that they think “This feeling is me.” As Sean Rat said, that feeling is not you; you create that feeling.
So, clean out this illusion, don’t let the feeling control you. Create a new you, a new feeling, a “Happy I”, go out and have fun and you will be able to forget your problems.
If you try to do what the others have said but you’re still stuck in the problem, find someone that you can trust and who can provide you with an objective view, and talk about it. They might be able to provide you with a different angle to help you clean it out quickly.
Find someone you know and trust who doesn’t have this kind of problem and share with them. You can always call me and many of the others here. These students offer their open heart; if you feel you are unsure about something, you can go talk to them. It’s not counselling; they won’t charge you! They will just talk to you. Stand up if you are willing to help: Sean Pig, Sean Rat, Red Bull, Giant Dog, and Shona. They have learned for quite a long time, I trust they do have a heart to care for others.
This post is taken from a talk by Forever Wisdom Forest on 27 November 2011 at the dojo in Sydney.