A paradox is a kind of puzzle or riddle. A paradox is a thought, belief, or statement that appears to be contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a truth. From time to time we all get caught up in the paradoxical differences between “What we think and what we feel”, or “What we think is best and what we actually do.”
You’ve come face to face with this paradox if you have ever said to yourself, “I know I really should be doing X (fill in the beneficial behavior of your choice), but for some reason I just can’t get myself to do so.” Why is it that your thinking and your doing; your thinking and your feeling, sometimes seem to contradict each other? What is this contradiction about? These questions are important because the answers you give can help you suffer less and be happier overall.
In the course of living our lives, most of us lose touch with what will truly bring us happiness. We come to think that our happiness depends on other people, our accomplishments, and the wealth and power we obtain. We get a good job, marry a nice person, and perhaps even buy a new house, but often, something is still missing, and something or other feels “off”. This is so because we have yet to understand what the conditions are that lead to our truly feeling fulfilled. Indeed, it’s often our current concept of happiness that winds up preventing us from being happy!
Borrowing from the concepts of Buddhism I offer you the following thoughts to ponder:
1. Suffering is inevitable. There’s no way around it. From time to time we all suffer.
2. Suffering has causes. The more you can understand and take responsibility for how it is you create your suffering the more you’ll realize you are not a victim of life.
3. The more you try and avoid suffering, the more you will suffer. A plain and simple truth! When suffering knocks on your door, invite it in for a cup of tea. Like any other guest, after being courteous, you should kindly say that you need to attend to other matters.
4. Happiness is indeed possible, and perhaps even inevitable. It might not always be “easy” to be happy, but happiness is always a possibility nonetheless. And no matter what, you will not be happy all the time. Neither will anyone else!
5. Happiness is one of many paths you can choose. You discover and travel on your path towards happiness, every time you are mindful of your experience and thankful for what you do have.
6. The path of happiness is rarely a straight line. You will invariably find that you sometimes need to follow the path life offers you in a given moment. Regardless of whether or not this path leads you straight ahead.
7. No matter how intelligent you might be, your intellect is not enough to help you understand who you are and what you truly need. The wisdom of your body, your emotional self, and your heart, also need to be listened to and respected.
8. Nothing stays the same. Suffering and happiness are both ephemeral. Both will come and go many times over the course of your life.
9. The reason why you’re suffering has little to do with the circumstances of your life, and everything to do with your beliefs. The longer you believe your emotional state is due to the current circumstances of your life, the more elusive you’ll find happiness to be.
10. Cultivating happiness leads to the discovery of who you truly are. Self-discovery and peace of mind go hand in hand.
11. The better you understand who you truly are, the more you’ll feel at home in the universe.
12. Everything is just as it should be. Nothing more, and nothing less.
I wish you all the best, in your pursuit of happiness. Many wonderful experiences await you, and from time to time, a bit of suffering as well!
The well known Trappist monk Thomas Merton said,
“The truth that many people never understand until it is too late, is that the more you try to avoid suffering the more you suffer, because small insignificant things begin to torture you in proportion to your fear of being hurt”
He also said, “Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.”