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“Happiness is an imaginary condition, formerly attributed by the living to the dead, now usually attributed by adults to children, and by children to adults.” — Thomas Szasz

I found this wonderful quote a while back. It is an elegant way of saying that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. I myself am guilty of this thinking, and I imagine that you are too. We always seem to think that happiness is something that exists just outside our grasp… if only we could reach it. I don’t think I need to tell you that this type of thinking is plain wrong and that searching for happiness is like searching for your own head.

I often joke about this with my wife. When we look back on our life together, we find ourselves saying, “That was a good time.” A “good time,” as defined by us, is generally one with relatively few problems: financial, marital, job-related, etc. One day, my wife said to me: “Why is it that all of the times in the past are good times but right now seems so tough?”

“That’s because we don’t remember the bad things,” I said.

And it’s true. Even those “good times” we were referring to had bad parts to them. Yet, as time passed, the bad memories faded and lost their potency, while the good ones remained in tact. By and large, humans connect emotions to our experiences. When we recall a memory, we often experience the emotions we’ve attached to it. As time passes, the negative emotions fade, and the good ones often stick around. I’m not sure why this is, but I’ve found it to be true in myself and in others I’ve spoken to about it (not a scientific study, of course, but good enough for me). This isn’t to say that some negative emotions remain firmly planted in our psyche. PTSD is a good example of how such emotions can become tied to specific memories, sounds, sights, or smells. Regardless, as time passes, like water rushing over river rocks, it smooths the rough edges of our memories.

So is the grass really greener elsewhere? Or are we just too busy looking for greener grass that we’ve failed to look beneath our own feet?

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“This we can all bear witness to, living as we do plagued by unremitting anxiety. It becomes more and more imperative that the life of the spirit be avowed as the only firm basis upon which to establish happiness and peace.” — Dalai Lama

I watched “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith” the other day. I’ve seen it before, but this was the first time I watched it with a critical eye. I’ve always enjoyed Star Wars, although I admit that I’m more of a Lord of the Rings nerd. I’ve always preferred fantasy to sci-fi, although the two have a great deal in common. I say this only to point out that I’m only marginally familiar with Star Wars and its characters.

During my latest viewing, I noticed a lot of neat things that I’ve never seen before. One of the most interesting (to me) was that Yoda’s words often bore a striking resemblance to Buddhist philosophy. I looked it up briefly and I found this article on the Buddhist Channel that explains Yoda’s Buddhist inspiration.

As an example, I’d like to share this one snippet with you. When Anakin Skywalker (who eventually becomes Darth Vader) visits Yoda for advice, Anakin is troubled by visions of his wife’s death. Here’s how the conversation progresses:

YODA: Careful you must be when sensing the future, Anakin. The fear of loss is a path to the dark side.

ANAKIN: I won’t let my visions come true, Master Yoda.

YODA: Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force. Mourn them, do not. Miss them, do not. Attachment leads to jealousy. The shadow of greed, that is.

ANAKIN: What must I do, Master?

YODA: Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.

Take another look at the first line quoted above. If we think of the “dark side” as something a little less sinister, we could easily translate this as Buddhists have done for thousands of years. The fear of loss — or any fear — is a sure path to suffering. The only way to free yourself from the fear of loss is to detatch yourself from whatever it is you fear to lose. It may be friends, family, your job, your health, or even your life.

Yoda was exactly correct when he said that Anakin must train himself to let go. Letting go is not something we decide to do, it’s something that requires a great deal of practice, discipline, and courage. Many people think that detatching oneself leads to apathy, but this is not the case. When I first started studying Buddhism, I was worried that I would undermine myself and others by trying to “let go” of everything. On the contrary, letting go taught me to love more deeply, to anger more slowly, to appreciate more, and to want less.

Another Buddhist teaching that Yoda echoes is on the nature of death itself. Yoda says “Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force. Mourn them, do not. Miss them, do not.” There’s no “Force” in Buddhism, but I suppose one could call it that. From the Buddhist perspective, we do not die because all of life exists on a continuum. Without getting into details of the philosophy, it’s important to note that one’s perspective on death is critical to how one chooses to live. If you believe that death is unnatural and to be avoided, you will live in fear of it. Yet, if you know that this is untrue, and that death is necessary for life, then it becomes easier to cope with.

Yet, with all things Buddhist, nothing comes by belief or knowledge. There is nothing to believe, no gods to embrace, and no dogma to adhere to. Instead, we must all look deeply within ourselves and find that the truths we seek are much closer than we realize. After all, you can’t change reality to fit your preferred vision of it. The only thing you can do is change your perspective to fit reality. It’s the only path to achieve freedom from suffering.

“Our plans miscarry because they have no aim. When a man does not know what harbor he is making for, no wind is the right wind.”—Marcus Annaeus Seneca, 4 BC – 65 AD, Roman philosopher and moralist.

I saw this quote and thought it really applies to my desire to live a life without debilitating anxiety and panic. If I’m focused on the panic attack or the symptom then that is probably the “harbor” I’m headed for.

And then I wonder why I can’t get better, when I want, so badly, to get better!

But, if my aim is healthy, active living – the life that is out there for me to live – then that’s the “harbor” I’m headed for.

So, maybe I have a better chance of getting there!

Just thought I’d share 🙂

“If I had my life to live over, I would perhaps have more actual troubles but I’d have fewer imaginary ones.” — Don Herold

“Worry is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.” — Arthur Somers Roche

“I keep the telephone of my mind open to peace, harmony, health, love and abundance. Then, whenever doubt, anxiety or fear try to call me, they keep getting a busy signal – and soon they’ll forget my number.” — Edith Armstrong

"Drag your thoughts away from your troubles... by the ears, by the heels, or any other way you can manage it." -- Mark Twain

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