Life can be hard—brutal, even. While that may be a truth none of us like to think about much, accepting it can make our life easier and more bearable.
And, as Buddhism teaches, we have to accept these difficult parts of life along with the good in order to live a truly fulfilling life.
That can be incredibly hard. After all, the difficult parts of life aren’t exactly fun.
These five tips from Buddhism can help, however:
There’s no point in worrying.
No, really, what does worrying change? Absolutely nothing. So why do insist on doing it?
As Buddhism teaches, there’s nothing meaningful in life outside the present moment; we can’t stay in the past or jump to the future, so why do we try? As Thich Nat Hanh says, there’s no reason to put labels on your “future conditions of happiness.”
As he notes, “Worrying does not accomplish anything. Even if you worry twenty times more, it will not change the situation of the world. In fact, your anxiety will only make things worse. Even though things are not as we would like, we can still be content, knowing we are trying our best and will continue to do so. If we don’t know how to breathe, smile,and live every moment of our life deeply, we will never be able to help anyone. I am happy in the present moment. I do not ask for anything else. I do not expect any additional happiness or conditions that will bring about more happiness. The most important practice is aimlessness, not running after things, not grasping.”
Happiness doesn’t happen without accepting reality
That means we have to be open to what happens in the world. We cannot stick to preconceived notions, our opinions, what we want the world to be—because the world is going to be what it is, in that moment, regardless of our thoughts on the matter.
We have to learn how to live in the moment, and make the most of it, which means letting go of our selves and accepting the reality in which we live.
That means accepting the positive and the negative, everything for what it is.
We must accept change
Everything changes, whether we want it to or not. Accepting that change, however, rather than fighting it, allows us to live fully in the moment, and allows us to make the energy we want in our lives.
As Buddhist Daisaku Ikeda notes, only after accepting change can we take initiative to create the fulfilled lives we want. Instead, he says, “Buddhism holds that everything is in constant flux. Thus the question is whether we are to accept change passively and be swept away by it or whether we are to take the lead and create positive changes on our own initiative. While conservatism and self-protection might be likened to winter, night, and death, the spirit of pioneering and attempting to realize ideals evokes images of spring, morning, and birth.”
Suffering is the result of not embracing contentment
When we think of happiness, we don’t normally think of contentment—but that’s because we choose the temporary over the long-term. And that, in turn, turns to suffering because it can’t last.
Instead, Buddhism teaches to choose inner peace, contentment with the life you have. As Yuval Noah Harari explains, “According to Buddhism, the root of suffering is neither the feeling of pain nor of sadness nor even of meaninglessness. Rather, the real root of suffering is this never-ending and pointless pursuit of ephemeral feelings, which causes us to be in a constant state of tension, restlessness and dissatisfaction. Due to this pursuit, the mind is never satisfied. Even when experiencing pleasure, it is not content, because it fears this feeling might soon disappear, and craves that this feeling should stay and intensify. People are liberated from suffering not when they experience this or that fleeting pleasure, but rather when they understand the impermanent nature of all their feelings, and stop craving them.”
Meditations leads to reduced suffering
Because meditation allows us to realize the impermanence of everything and fully connect to the moment, it can also help us find contentment in that moment, which alleviates our suffering.
Contentment is the aim. As Yuval Noah Harari noted, “This is the aim of Buddhist meditation practices. In meditation, you are supposed to closely observe your mind and body, witness the ceaseless arising and passing of all your feelings, and realise how pointless it is to pursue them. When the pursuit stops, the mind becomes very relaxed, clear and satisfied. All kinds of feelings go on arising and passing – joy, anger, boredom, lust – but once you stop craving particular feelings, you can just accept them for what they are. You live in the present moment instead of fantasising about what might have been. The resulting serenity is so profound that those who spend their lives in the frenzied pursuit of pleasant feelings can hardly imagine it.”
*This content was inspired by an amazing article that can be found here