Although I can’t claim that I’m Buddhist, I’m really drawn to Buddhist psychology, and I’ve read a number of books by the Dalai Lama. I count him among a short list of very influential people in my life. In one of his books, perhaps it was The Art of Happiness, he presents a simple (but not necessarily easy) way to avoid a lot of unnecessary suffering in life. We’ve all done things in life that we know are wrong and we fear getting “caught” or the information being discovered. This could be with small things such as gossip to much more extreme behaviors like cheating on one’s spouse or even criminal activity.
From such choices, suffering can be experienced in many forms:
- Guilt feelings for knowing that we’ve done wrong.
- Worry that we’ll get discovered or caught.
- Emotional pain caused by the knowledge that we’ve harmed others.
- Negative feelings caused by the repercussions of our actions if (or when?) we get caught or discovered.
The simple yet powerful solution to this type of suffering? Refrain from doing what we know to be wrong in the first place! For example, we don’t need to worry whether we’ll be busted by the IRS for cheating on our taxes IF…we don’t cheat on our taxes. Whatever benefits or pleasures that we get from making these “wrong” actions are likely to be far outweighed by the negative feelings and repercussions elicited from making such choices.
Although this sounds like a simple maxim to live by, why don’t we let this principle guide our lives more often? When we see a “truth” like the one the Dalai Lama espouses (and he didn’t create this truth, it exists on its own), we need to reflect upon it frequently, perhaps even make it a form of meditation. As we become more mindful of this truth, we are then able to internalize it and let it guide our choices and actions more readily. The effect is that we suffer less and achieve a greater sense of peace and well-being in our lives.
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