It’s easy to be happy when everything is going well, but how can we stay positive in difficult times?
Often we are asked if there are specific meditations to deal with life’s challenges, such as anxiety, depression, illness, or difficulties with family, colleagues and neighbors. There are skillful ways of dealing with each situation but the basis for dealing with all of them is the same.
When we cultivate mindfulness, getting in contact with our own mind, things already become clearer. Through developing even a little stability in meditation everything comes gradually into focus. We can take a break from the speed of endless rumination. Although we are not trying to stop the thoughts they naturally calm down and allow us more space.
We can learn to make friends with our mind and look after it carefully. We can appreciate and encourage the habits that bring happiness for ourselves and others and learn to let go of the elements that bring suffering and confusion. When a flash of anger appears we can recognize it straight away and let go of it. We can notice how we obsessively amplify the desirability of something we long for.
The starting point is to sit down quietly in meditation. But to really train the mind we need to do it all the time, being aware of the way we deal with all our experiences, little and big events, and the ups and downs of daily life. At first this is difficult but gradually it becomes simpler and a great source of joy.
Sometimes the difficult moments are our best teacher. With patience we can acquire the capacity to deal with them without panicking, walking the fine line of accepting the reality of each situation without falling into resignation or despair. We can calmly direct our energy to what we can actually do to make the best of the situation or resolve the difficulties, without setting ourselves unrealistic goals. This gives us the positive attitude to bounce back after, and even during, challenging events.
To be able to do this in all circumstances needs training and takes time. Above all we have to accept that we are not perfect. That is normal. The very fact that we are trying to work with our mind is wonderful.
An extraordinary ingredient for our happiness and resilience is developing our sense of unconditional love. This gives us an inner force which transforms our relationships with others and enables us to take our place in this crazy, beautiful world meaningfully and with compassion.
To understand the connection between meditation, compassion, happiness, and dealing with challenging situations, listen to Matthieu Ricard’s Connection Between Meditation and Genuine Happiness
. For a fresh angle on acceptance and using sadness to enrich your practice, listen to Sadness as a friend
How can we develop a stable mind? You can learn the basics of meditation in my Foundation series
. You can go further in discovering for yourself the extraordinary capacities of the focused mind with Alan Wallace’s Great Insights Through Mindfulness
Clear methods for developing altruistic love are a distinctive feature of Imagine Clarity. Matthieu makes a passionate case for altruism in his Introduction to Altruism
. There is a unique two-part course on how to find this hidden resource in yourself by developing your natural capacities of kindness and compassion in my course Awakening the Heart