Archive for Peace

Dealing with irritability

When we feel irritable, the mind is restless and dissatisfied: anger is never far from the surface. In this state, we react unreasonably to the slightest provocation, and our lives are generally miserable. Clearly it is important to deal with irritability and to stop it from arising. How do we do this?

Irritability arises when 1) we have some idea of the way that we think events ought to be happening, and 2) events are not happening that way. It is essentially a problem of not accepting situations, and to fix this problem we must learn to go with the flow and to take things as they come. As said by the Dalai Lama in The Art of Happiness, “If the situation or problem is such that it can be remedied, then there is no need to worry about it….Alternatively, if there is no way out, no solution, no possibility of resolution, then there is also no point in being worried about it, because you can’t do anything about it anyway.” This sound logic simply states that we must learn to accept whatever happens unless it can be changed. Furthermore, if it can be changed, we should focus on changing it rather than being irritable about it.

Why are we so bad at simply accepting unpleasant situations? For some reason, we have the mistaken belief that life can and should be perfect. This belief must be challenged. We need to realize that things will sometimes “go wrong” and that others will sometimes disagree with us. Life is not perfect. Just as sickness and death are an inevitable part of life, so are mistakes, disagreements, and all those other causes of irritation. If we want to accept imperfect situations, we need to realize that life was never meant to be perfect in the first place.

Thus, when we find ourselves becoming irritable, we must remember that life is imperfect and that we must accept whatever happens. Furthermore, we can question whether the situation really warrants such misery and agitation, and why we would want to spoil our mood for it. If we are still unable to dispel the irritability, a final option is to simply laugh. Laughing at life is a wonderful antidote to irritability that goes straight to the heart of the matter and recognizes that none of this is that big a deal. This realization is an important realization to make if we wish to lead a relaxed and peaceful life.

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Nothing is permanent

Nothing in this world is permanent. We can observe this on all levels. On a universal level, stars form and collapse. On a global level, continents shift and climates change. On a personal level, we observe the decay of our body, changes to our mind, relationships coming and going, our possessions wearing out. We live in a world of constant flux. Unfortunately, many of us refuse to recognize this, and suffering is the result.

When we fail to acknowledge impermanence, we cling to things. We cling to our youth, to our health, to our relationships, and to our possessions. We cling to them as though they could provide lasting happiness, as though they will last forever. Eventually, reality intervenes. That to which we cling is taken from us, and we forced to face the truth of impermanence. Thus we have the pain of a stolen car, of an ended relationship, or the death of a loved one.

In actual fact, the pain associated with clinging arises even before these moments. The pain arises earlier in the form of fear. Deep down, we are already aware of impermanence. Therefore, if we cling to something that is temporary, we live in fear of the day when it is taken from us. We can have a much happier life if we instead realize and accept the impermanence of existence. We can see the futility of clinging to things, and instead learn to appreciate them while we have them, but without staking our happiness on them. This also helps us to make better decisions. When we understand that we will change, and that other people will change, then we can recognize when a fresh approach is needed.

The suffering that results from clinging to impermanence is not fun. Learning to acknowledge the impermanence of existing may seem scary, however it is actually liberating. In reality, we are just acknowledging something that we are already aware of anyway. When we bring it into the open, we realize that it is not so scary. We actually find that recognition of impermanence brings more lightness, acceptance, and joy into our lives, and that the fear and suffering go away.

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