Everyday we are faced with situations that appear difficult to us because they arouse negative feelings. What kind of feeling we experience in response to a situation depends on how we reacted to it before. The previous reaction creates momentum or energy which leads to similar behavior in the future. It’s like we carry our reactions around with us in a bag just waiting to pop out when something happens that we don’t like.

When the Buddha started out, he did not want to accept that life is painful. He spend a lot of time trying to ignore the suffering conditions of life. Later, he realized that he could never succeed in making the pain go away until he accepted that it was there. There is a subtle difference between accepting that the pain is there with a  view to overcoming it and refusing to look at it all together.

The reason that it is so important to accept the pain that we’re all carrying is because the answer for how to overcome the pain is in the pain itself. Happiness is not about how to enjoy pleasure. We already know how to do that well enough. Learning to be happy is about how to deal with being upset. Therefore, if we refuse to learn from negative experiences how can we ever learn how to be happy?

Negative feelings are opportunities for us to look inside the bag we’re carrying and determine whether we really need to keep what we’ve got in there. Do we really need to be so attached to this particular outcome or another? Wouldn’t life be easier if we could just accept that sometimes we don’t get what we want? But, if we refuse to actually observe our negative reactions and instead try to pretend that they are not there, we will have missed an opportunity to clean out some useless junk that we have been carrying around for no good reason.

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(1) Leave the Past Behind, B. Happiness