For people like myself, who are seeking a little more personal peace, Buddhist teachings can be a source of great comfort. I should state that my knowledge of Buddhism is limited to what I have read in a few books and heard on some podcasts; I enjoy Ram Dass’ Here and Now Podcast for in depth talks about the practice of Buddhism as well as The Duncan Trussell Family Hour for goofy, comedic chats related to Buddhist ideas. Buddhism points to the present moment’s potential for bringing feelings of bliss, it highlights the beautiful connection to the universe that we all can experience by quieting our minds and letting go of the past and future. It is a connection that can be felt during meditation, a powerful yoga class, or any truly joyous moment that roots us in the present. I’ve been wanting to write something about why it seems so difficult to stay in the moment and stop incessant thinking, even for people with a desire for more calm and stillness in their lives. So I was pleased to see an NPR article pop up in my newsfeed a couple of weeks ago about a book related to Buddhism and the human struggle to find peace and satisfaction.
I love this article’s simple yet meaningful explanation of dissatisfaction and what we can do about it. Robert Wright, author of Why Buddhism is True, reveals to NPR that unhappiness is a trait that exists in order to push people toward pleasure and reward seeking behaviours. Essentially, he says, dissatisfaction drives humans to perform actions that keep our species alive such as eating, finding mates, and reproducing. We experience suffering when certain biological needs are not being met and this feeling can motivate us as well as make us feel that we must constantly hunt for people and things to combat our general discomfort.
Though the article points to our “biological pull towards dissatisfaction”, it also highlights helpful ideas from Mr. Wright’s book that can be used to combat unpleasant feelings. Buddhism, the author explains, says that life is full of suffering; it also says that the pain we experience can and should be met with mindfulness rather than resistance. In other words, people looking to ease unhappiness would do well to practice watching their feelings without judging them or trying to escape them. A certain amount of suffering is bound to be present in even the most wonderful of lives; to accept this, to practice meditation as a means of stopping thoughts and stilling the mind is to prepare yourself for dealing with pain that may come your way. As Wright puts it, “not running away from the pain or the emotional distress, or whatever, can, through meditative practice, disempower the pain or the distress”.
As I stated above, I love listening to The Duncan Trussell Family Hour podcast for jokes, stories, and interviews about how Buddhism can play a role in the life of anyone seeking real happiness. Listen below to Duncan sharing his thoughts on Buddhist teachings: