Obstacles to happiness: self-cherishing

March 20, 2014

The obstacle:  putting ourselves first (what’s wrong with that – if I don’t who will?)

Spring is here – and many of us are out in the garden putting in plants and seeds, something most of us know how to do. But how do we grow our own happiness, that’s a little more obscure. Can I suggest you flip things around, and put others first? It’s so simple to do, and it is the antidote to all our problems. Find that hard to believe? 

Consider what the renowned Tibetan master Langri Tampa said, writing in the Twelfth century: there is no greater happiness that exists in this world than that which comes from wishing others to be happy. (Eight Verses of Training the Mind).

How can we overcome this?

The one thing we all have in common is our desire to be happy. The other thing we all have in common is that we have problems, everyone, all of us – even the rich and famous (sometimes more, you only have to read the press). It makes absolutely no sense for us to wish ourselves to be happy and not to wish it for others, because we are all the same, and all of us are living life on this planet together. We are all interconnected. When we consider how others suffer just as we do, and when we understand that they are looking for happiness in exactly the same way, we can extend our wishing for personal happiness to include them and then we can even go one step further and start to put them first in everything we think and do. Magically, this makes us feel better immediately, and that’s got to be a great result.

Step One:
Think of someone you know, or a group of people, who you know are going through a bad time through sickness, or any other cause of pain, physical or mental. Think for a moment about what it is like for them, and reflect on this for a while. You’re trying to get an impression of what their lives must be like, the uncertainties, the challenges, the striving to find happiness, their frustrations. Really move into the feeling. Then take a moment to realise that each time you wish for yourself to be happy, which may be at every moment of your day, then you can extend that wish to include the person or group of people you have chosen. Focus on this for a while. As you do so see the other people you have chosen to focus on becoming happy, glowing with health, and enjoying real peace. You are moving into your heart, and that’s always a great place to be. Then try extending that loving wish out to all beings, not just to those you know.How does this make you feel? Happier? More peaceful? Empowered? It should do. It will do, just give it a try!

Step Two:
You can then make a determination to put others first, placing yourself the lowest of all, every time you come into contact with others, or even think of others. (You may want to read Langri Tangpa’s work on this). At first, putting others before yourself in your thinking may seem strange, because most of us are in the habit of thinking about ourselves night and day. It’s not easy to remember to do this but when you try putting others first, something amazing happens – it starts to loosen the grip on our self-cherishing behaviour and thoughts. This self-cherishing is at the root of all our problems. It is a complex Troublemaker, and we all have one of those, but we can silence it by flipping things around. Remember there is only one of us here – we are all connected, and wishing for our own happiness and not others makes no sense. When you put yourself last, and others first, it starts to lessen the gap between ‘us’ and ‘them’. If we all gave our self-cherishing the boot, there would be an end to all conflict between people, and that includes war. So, try it – and see how your world starts to be a brighter, more spacious, more colourful place. Let me know how you get on…..and best of luck!

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