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Endless To-Do List?

Articles Inspirational articles from Hay House authors

Endless To-Do List?

Train your beautiful mind to rest.
Matthieu  Ricard
Matthieu Ricard More by this author
Sep 20, 2010 at 10:00 AM

Take an honest look at yourself. Where are you in your life? What have your priorities been up till now and what do you intend doing with the time you have left?

We are a mixture of light and shadow, of good qualities and defects. Are we really the best we can be? Must we remain as we are now? If not, what can we do to improve ourselves? These are questions worth asking, particularly if we have come to the conclusion that change is both desirable and possible.

In our modern world, we are consumed from morning till night with endless activity. We do not have much time or energy left over to consider the basic causes of our happiness or suffering. We imagine, more or less consciously, that if we undertake more activities we will have more intense experiences and therefore our sense of dissatisfaction will fade away. But the truth is that many of us continue to feel let down and frustrated by our contemporary lifestyle.

The aim of meditation is to transform the mind. It does not have to be associated with any particular religion. Every one of us has a mind and every one of us can work on it.

Very few people would say that there is nothing worth improving about the way they live and experience the world. However, some people regard their own particular weaknesses and conflicting emotions as something rich that contributes to the fullness of their lives. They believe this particular alchemy in their character is what makes them unique and think they should learn to accept themselves the way they are. They do not realize that this attitude can lead to a life of chronic discontent. Nor do they realize that they could help themselves with just a little reflection and effort.

Imagine that someone suggested you spend an entire day tormented by jealousy. Would you want to do that? I doubt it. If, on the other hand, someone suggested you spend that same day with your heart filled with love for all beings, you would probably be quite willing to do so. I’m sure you would find that infinitely preferable to a whole day of jealousy.

As things stand now, no matter what our preferences might be, our mind is often filled with troubles. We spend a great deal of time consumed by painful thoughts, plagued by anxiety or anger, licking the wounds we receive from other people’s harsh words. When we experience these kinds of difficult moments, we wish we could manage our emotions; we wish we could master our mind to the point where we could be free of these disturbing emotions certain emotions both disturb the mind and obscure it. It would be such a relief. However, since we don’t know how to achieve this kind of control, we take the point of view that, after all, this way of living is “normal” or “natural,” and that it is “human nature.” Everything that is found in nature is “natural,” but that does not necessarily make everything desirable. Illness, for example, comes to everybody, but does this prevent us from consulting a doctor?

We don’t want to suffer. Nobody wakes up in the morning and thinks, “Oh, if I could only suffer all day today and, if possible, every day for the rest of my life!” Whatever we are occupied with—an important task, routine work, walking in the woods, pursuing a relationship, drinking a cup of tea—we always hope we will get some benefit or satisfaction out of it, either for ourselves or others. If we thought nothing would come of our activities but suffering, we wouldn’t do anything at all and we would fall into despair.

Sometimes we do have moments of inner peace, of altruistic love, of deep-felt confidence; but for the most part, these are only fleeting experiences that quickly give way to other, less pleasant ones. What if we could train the mind to cultivate these wholesome moments? No doubt it would radically change our lives for the better. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to become better human beings and lead lives in which we experience inner fulfillment, while also relieving the suffering of others and contributing to their well-being?

Some people think life would be dull without inner conflict, but we are all familiar with the suffering that accompanies anger, greed, or jealousy, and we all appreciate the good feelings that go along with kindness, contentment, and the pleasure of seeing other people happy. The sense of harmony that is connected with loving others has an inherent goodness in it that speaks for itself. The same is true of generosity, patience, emotional balance, and many other positive traits. If we could learn to cultivate altruistic love and inner calm, and if at the same time the self-centered approach of the ego and the frustration that arises from it could be reduced, then our lives certainly would not lose any of their richness—quite the opposite.

About Author
Matthieu  Ricard
Matthieu Ricard is a Buddhist monk who had a promising career in cellular genetics before leaving France to study Buddhism in the Himalayas 37 years ago. He is a best-selling author, translator, and photographer; and an active participant in current Continue reading