The Dalai Lama on the problem of feeling unneeded

Dalai Lama: Behind our anxiety, the fear of being unnecessary

The Dalai Lama on the problem of feeling unneeded

In many ways, there's never been a better time to be alive.

Violence is raging in several corners of the planet and many people still live under tyrannical regimes. And while all the great religions teach love, compassion and tolerance, an unimaginable amount of violence is perpetrated in the name of religion.

However, fewer people are poor, less are hungry, fewer children are dying and more men and women can read than ever before in history. In many countries, recognition of the rights of women and minorities is now the norm. Of course there is still much to be done, but there is hope and there is progress.

Illustration by Catalina Segú

How strange, then, to see so much anger and so much discontent in some of the richest countries.

In the United States, Great Britain and the European continent, people are convulsed with great political frustration and anxiety about the future.

While refugees and immigrants are crying out for a chance to live in these safe and prosperous countries, those who already live in these promised lands feel a great concern for their own futures, bordering on despair.


One clue comes from research into how humans flourish and develop to their potential. In a surprising study, researchers found that older people who did not feel useful to others were three times more ly to die prematurely than those who did feel useful. This speaks to us of a larger human truth: We all need to be needed.

Being “necessary” is not the same as selfish pride or unhealthy attachment to the flattery of others. Instead, it consists of the natural human need to serve our fellow human beings. As a 13th century Buddhist sage said, “if one lights a lamp for others, he will also light his own way”.

Virtually all the great religions teach that diligent work in the service of others is part of our essential nature and, therefore, is at the heart of a happy life. Scientific research confirms these elements shared by the various traditions of wisdom.

Americans who prioritize doing good for others are twice as ly to report that they are happy with their lives. In Germany, people who try to serve society are five times more ly to report that they are happy compared to those who do not see service as important. Altruism and joy are related qualities.

The more we feel connected to the rest of humanity, the better we feel.

This helps to explain why pain and outrage are invading the most prosperous nations. The problem is not a lack of material wealth. It is the increase in the number of people who feel that nobody needs them, who feel disconnected from their societies.

Compared to fifty years ago, three times as many working-age men are the workforce in the United States today. This pattern is now being replicated in many developed countries, and the consequences are not just economic. Feeling useless is a hard blow to the human spirit. It leads to social isolation and emotional pain, creating the conditions for difficult emotions to take root.

What can we do? The first response is not systemic, but personal. Everyone has something valuable to share. We should begin each day by asking ourselves, “What can I do today to appreciate the gifts others offer me? We need to ensure that the sense of brotherhood and unity with others is not just abstract ideas we profess, but personal commitments we consciously put into practice.

Everyone has the possibility to turn this intention into a habit. But those in positions of responsibility have a special opportunity to expand inclusion and build societies that truly need their members.

Leaders need to recognize that a compassionate society must create a wealth of meaningful employment opportunities so that every person who can contribute has the opportunity to do so.

A compassionate society must offer children an education and preparation that enriches their lives with both an ethical understanding and practical skills that can lead to economic security and inner peace.

A compassionate society must protect the most vulnerable while not making these policies trap people in misery and dependency.

Building such a society is no easy task. No ideology or political party has all the answers. Wrong beliefs on all sides contribute to social exclusion, and transcending it will require innovative solutions from all sides.

In fact, what binds us together in friendship and collaboration is not a common policy or the same religion. It is something simpler: the shared belief in compassion, in human dignity, in the intrinsic value of each person to contribute positively to create a better and more meaningful world.

The problems we face transcend conventional categories, so our friendships and our dialogues must also transcend them.

Many people are confused and frightened to see anger and frustration spreading wildfire in societies that have been safe and prosperous. But the refusal to be content with physical and material security reveals something beautiful: a universal hunger to feel needed. Let's work together to build a society that feeds this hunger.

The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is Tibet's spiritual leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner. Arthur C. Brooks is president of the American Enterprise Institute.


Dalai Lama Has the Antidote to Destructive Emotions — Gustavo Razzetti

The Dalai Lama on the problem of feeling unneeded

In a groundbreaking move, the Dalai Lama joined forces with top Western psychologists with a lofty mission. He purposefully wanted to put religion aside.

The ultimate goal? He wants to help turn people into more self-aware, compassionate humans. If we can learn to navigate our (destructive) emotions, we will be able to achieve calmness and inner peace.

“Any person capable of angering you becomes your master.” — Epictetus

Our emotions shape our lives, not just our thoughts and behavior. However, in western culture, managing our emotions is associated with moral and social interaction, not for being a good person. Un Buddhists, we don’t think of emotions as a way to a harmonious inner-life.

But, what happens when we bring both science and Buddhism together? That’s what the Dalai Lama found out.

The Science of Emotions

Western science has been measuring what mental hygiene looks for ages — unfortunately, most studies have created division, rather than alignment, among experts.

The Dalai Lama imagined “a map of our emotions to develop a calm mind.” He asked renowned emotion scientist, Dr. Paul Ekman, to realize his idea but to keep religion it.

The first step Ekman took was finding some common ground among scientists — his survey provided a shared foundation to how emotions work. The majority of experts agree that:

  • Emotions are universal — facial signals to emotions are similar across cultures too
  • We all experience five fundamental emotions: anger, fear, disgust, sadness, and enjoyment
  • There are universal triggers to emotion

The Five Universal Emotions — Source:

We get angry when something blocks us or when we think we’re being treated unfairly. Sadness is a response to loss — feeling sad allows us to take a timeout and show others that we need support.

Feeling disgusted by what is toxic helps us avoid being poisoned — both physically or socially. Our fear of danger lets us anticipate threats to our safety. Enjoyment describes the many good feelings that arise from experiences both novel and familiar.

Thoughts are private; emotions are public.

According to Dr. Paul Ekman, Professor of Psychology at UCSF we can know someone’s emotion, but not the thought that provoked it. He cites the example of someone who’s fearful when arrested. Is he afraid because he was caught or because he is innocent?

Emotions are an instant brain response — they happen to us, we don’t choose them.

But, when do emotions become destructive?

Science says all emotions are natural and okay, and that emotions become destructive only when they are expressed inappropriately. For example, it’s normal to experience sadness when someone dies, but a depressed person is sad in an inappropriate way.

Buddhism, on the other hand, believes that destructive emotions are obstacles — we must overcome them to achieve happiness.

Constructive emotions help improve a situation; destructive emotions make it worse.

The Emotional Timeline

The Atlas of Emotions is a visual representation of what researchers have learned from studying emotion. It helps us be aware of our emotions — how they are triggered, what they feel , and how we can respond.

Dr. Ekman, who formerly worked as an advisor in Pixar’s “Inside Out” film, recalled the Dalai Lama telling him: “When we wanted to get to the New World, we needed a map. So make a map of emotions so we can get to a calm state.”

Source: Atlas of Emotion

Our emotions unfold on a timeline — they begin with a trigger that initiates the emotional experience and ultimately results in a response.

The trigger occurs in a context defined by our circumstances and feelings, the event itself, and our worldview. The same stimulus can lead to different responses.

For example, we might suppress feelings of frustration at work, but express our frustration by yelling at a family member at home. Emotion suppression can create a short-term win —  avoiding an argument — but can become destructive if you are hurt by not speaking up for yourself.

“Whatever is begun in anger, ends in shame.” — Benjamin Franklin

Not all emotions are equal — they have varying shapes and intensities. For example, annoyance is a mild expression of anger, while fury is the most extreme version of that same emotion.

The different manifestations of anger — Atlas of Emotion

Our emotional experience clouds our perception of a situation — we filter people and events through our emotions. Your reaction can turn an emotion into a destructive one.

Emotions are a signal — they can prevent danger, or get you in trouble.

Our response is the last element — and the most important one — of the emotional timeline. Although it’s not always easy to control our emotions, some responses are more destructive than others. Rather than reacting to them, we must learn to understand our emotions.

“In the past, compassion was something of a sign of weakness, or anger a sign of power, a sign of strength. Basic human nature is more compassionate. That’s the real basis of our hope.” — Dalai Lama

Destructive emotions, according to Daniel Goldman, refer to an emotion that can lead us to harm ourselves and others — either mentally or physically. Though anger, paralyzing fear, and depression are the most frequent ones, almost any emotion can cause harm. Craving and addiction — even an obsessive pursuit of happiness — can become destructive.

Emotions distort our ability to think clearly making it more difficult to choose the right response. After a destructive emotion arises, there is a “refractory period” — we don’t let new information enter our mind, and we keep rehashing one particular emotion.

Time and distance help us gain clarity and make better choices.

Take the example of a colleague that frequently arrives late to a meeting. You might think s/he is deliberately insulting you and interpret everything s/he does as a personal attack. Therapy, mindfulness, and meditation train our mind to shorten the refractory period — we learn to reflect rather than being blinded by our feelings.

By increasing self-awareness, we learn to pause before we respond and choose a constructive reaction.

The Antidote to Destructive Emotions

Scientists have learned that recurring negative emotions can create long-term harm.

That’s the case of people who suffer from cynical hostility, a pattern defined by high anger and frequent thoughts that others can’t be trusted. People who experience cynical hostility tend to get more cardiovascular diseases and often die at younger ages.

The antidote to a destructive emotion is a constructive emotion.

To fight anger, hatred, and fear, we must develop compassion, love, and patience. Destructive emotions are impulsive — they are misconceptions and illogical reasons. Constructive emotions are realistic — they are grounded in valid observation and reasoning.

The Dalai Lama recommends we use valid reasoning to develop a mental state to overcome destructive emotions. For example, love, as an antidote to anger, must be cultivated through reasoning.

“A calm mind directly leads to peace of mind” — Dalai Lama

Photo by Peter Hershey on Unsplash

The result of constructive emotions is a calm mind — we see and experience life more vividly and realistically. What destroys a calm mind? Fear, suspicion, hatred, anger, greed, and too much ambition.

The Dalai Lama believes that “Just as we teach about physical hygiene in the interest of good health, we now need to teach about emotional hygiene.”

Dr. Mark Greenberg, Professor at Pennsylvania State University, trains young children how to manage their destructive emotions, especially anger. His program helps children calm down — to decrease the refractory period — and become more aware of emotional states in themselves and others.

The program coaches kids to discuss their feelings as a way to solve problems, plan ahead to avoid difficulties, and be aware of the effects their behavior has on others.

Children learn to identify the various emotions and their opposites. They use a set of cards with different facial expressions of emotions, so others know how they’re feeling. Greenberg’s approach teaches that emotions are important signals, but we must be calm to behave appropriately.

The Dalai Lama coined the term Emotional Hygiene to encourage us to get anger, frustration, and anxiety, under control. Negative emotions cloud our mind — we must wash them away.

The spiritual leader believes that, in addition to managing destructive emotions, we need to cultivate positive ones as well. Although they may not be usable in the heat of the moment, positive emotions build a good foundation — they strengthen your ‘emotional immune system.’

Scientists agree that when we practice something positive often, our brain changes for the better.

How to Develop Emotional Hygiene

The same way we learn standards of physical hygiene, we must develop our emotional hygiene. Start by increasing your emotional awareness — you want to understand your emotions, not get rid of them.

1. Recognize emotions

Take time to step back and observe your emotions. How do you feel? What do you experience? Naming our emotions is the first step to increase awareness.

Learn to discriminate your feelings — some people confuse anger with fear. Get familiar with how each emotion manifests. The post below can help you dive deeper into each emotion.

2. Know the triggers

Understand what sets you off. Recognize the signals or stimuli that can cloud your judgment. Are there any particular event, context, or person that usually triggers destructive emotions?

Review recent incidents and use the Emotional Timeline to reflect on your reactions.

Trigger → Emotional Reaction → Behavioral Response

What have you learned? What would you do differently next time? Why?

3. Connect with your body

Our facial language is not the only way we communicate our emotions. Recognize how your feelings affect your body. Notice changes in your breathing pattern, body temperature, heart rate, muscle knots, skin sensitivity, etc.

Our body is a great emotional conductor — notice your physical well-being and reactions. Learn to prevent tensions or to avoid damaging your body, by making space before you act — don’t let emotions create damaging patterns.

4. Manage your reactions

Reflect on how you usually react to a specific situation? Learn to pause before you respond. Emotions usually create a quick impulse to react, by training our mind, we make room to think before our emotions hijack our behavior.

The following mindfulness exercises are a great start to help you pause, reflect, and be more present.

5. Adjust and learn

Emotional Hygiene requires learning to perceive, appraise and express our emotions accurately. Your emotion-management ability not only improves well-being and social interactions but also helps overcome limiting behaviors such as procrastination.

Training your mind is not a linear path — it requires ongoing practice and adjustments. If you feel angry, learn to deal with that anger. You need to let go of that emotion to act more skillfully.

Practice will improve your ability, but don’t get frustrated when you get back to overreacting mode. Be patient and kind to yourself.

A clean mind creates space for loving-kindness, compassion, and happiness. Emotional Hygiene is the antidote to destructive emotions.

The Atlas of Emotions is a powerful visual tool to help you familiarize with your feelings. Play with it. The interactive map lets you click through the emotional timeline from identifying emotions to exploring its multiple layers and expressions.


Dalai Lama: Behind Our Anxiety, the Fear of Being Unneeded

The Dalai Lama on the problem of feeling unneeded
Continue reading the main story

In many ways, there has never been a better time to be alive. Violence plagues some corners of the world, and too many still live under the grip of tyrannical regimes. And although all the world’s major faiths teach love, compassion and tolerance, unthinkable violence is being perpetrated in the name of religion.

And yet, fewer among us are poor, fewer are hungry, fewer children are dying, and more men and women can read than ever before. In many countries, recognition of women’s and minority rights is now the norm. There is still much work to do, of course, but there is hope and there is progress.

How strange, then, to see such anger and great discontent in some of the world’s richest nations.

In the United States, Britain and across the European Continent, people are convulsed with political frustration and anxiety about the future.

Refugees and migrants clamor for the chance to live in these safe, prosperous countries, but those who already live in those promised lands report great uneasiness about their own futures that seems to border on hopelessness.


A small hint comes from interesting research about how people thrive. In one shocking experiment, researchers found that senior citizens who didn’t feel useful to others were nearly three times as ly to die prematurely as those who did feel useful. This speaks to a broader human truth: We all need to be needed.

Being “needed” does not entail selfish pride or unhealthy attachment to the worldly esteem of others. Rather, it consists of a natural human hunger to serve our fellow men and women. As the 13th-century Buddhist sages taught, “If one lights a fire for others, it will also brighten one’s own way.”

Virtually all the world’s major religions teach that diligent work in the service of others is our highest nature and thus lies at the center of a happy life. Scientific surveys and studies confirm shared tenets of our faiths.

Americans who prioritize doing good for others are almost twice as ly to say they are very happy about their lives. In Germany, people who seek to serve society are five times lier to say they are very happy than those who do not view service as important. Selflessness and joy are intertwined.

The more we are one with the rest of humanity, the better we feel.

This helps explain why pain and indignation are sweeping through prosperous countries. The problem is not a lack of material riches. It is the growing number of people who feel they are no longer useful, no longer needed, no longer one with their societies.

In America today, compared with 50 years ago, three times as many working-age men are completely outside the work force. This pattern is occurring throughout the developed world — and the consequences are not merely economic. Feeling superfluous is a blow to the human spirit. It leads to social isolation and emotional pain, and creates the conditions for negative emotions to take root.

What can we do to help? The first answer is not systematic. It is personal. Everyone has something valuable to share.

We should start each day by consciously asking ourselves, “What can I do today to appreciate the gifts that others offer me?” We need to make sure that global brotherhood and oneness with others are not just abstract ideas that we profess, but personal commitments that we mindfully put into practice.

Each of us has the responsibility to make this a habit. But those in positions of responsibility have a special opportunity to expand inclusion and build societies that truly need everyone.

Leaders need to recognize that a compassionate society must create a wealth of opportunities for meaningful work, so that everyone who is capable of contributing can do so.

A compassionate society must provide children with education and training that enriches their lives, both with greater ethical understanding and with practical skills that can lead to economic security and inner peace.

A compassionate society must protect the vulnerable while ensuring that these policies do not trap people in misery and dependence.

Building such a society is no easy task. No ideology or political party holds all the answers. Misguided thinking from all sides contributes to social exclusion, so overcoming it will take innovative solutions from all sides.

Indeed, what unites the two of us in friendship and collaboration is not shared politics or the same religion. It is something simpler: a shared belief in compassion, in human dignity, in the intrinsic usefulness of every person to contribute positively for a better and more meaningful world.

The problems we face cut across conventional categories; so must our dialogue, and our friendships.

Many are confused and frightened to see anger and frustration sweeping wildfire across societies that enjoy historic safety and prosperity. But their refusal to be content with physical and material security actually reveals something beautiful: a universal human hunger to be needed. Let us work together to build a society that feeds this hunger.

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Humans “Need to be Needed,” Says Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama on the problem of feeling unneeded

What could be modern man’s most inner need? Some of us may say love, others may say money. However, the Dalai Lama believes man’s biggest need today, simply put, is the “need to be needed.” He says the biggest reason for so much misery in the world is a growing number of people feel they are no longer useful to anyone.

In Friday’s issue of the The New York Times, the Buddhist spiritual leader observed that despite all religions preaching peace and love, people still live in fear and uncertainty. Despite this, a lot of hatred and violence is being spread today under the cover of religion. Fear and suspicion of each other is the norm today.

While the Dalai Lama agrees a lot of progress has been made in making lives better by reducing hunger, poverty, suppression of women, and other such issues that once plagued humanity, he insists there is still a lot to be done.

He says this is evident from the fact a growing number of people even from rich nations are feeling miserable.

Ironically, immigrants and refugees from countries torn by strife and war are struggling to get a chance to live in these very countries.

Naturally enough, this raises the question as to why the modern human being is not satisfied. Despite having riches, security and all other basic needs, human beings are still unhappy today.

The Dalai Lama believes one area that is important to a person’s happiness, but often goes unnoticed, is his need to be useful to others.

The Buddhist leader says when a person lives for others, he is in harmony with all humanity, thereby finding the path of peace and happiness.

The Dalai Lama backed his observations with research findings showing Americans are twice as ly to be happy when they do something for others. In Germany, it was found men who thought serving is important were five times more ly to be happy.

How do we build such a society?

The Dalai Lama believes this is possible when we try to be grateful to one another for what we receive. He says it is important for society to create an environment where everyone’s abilities are recognized, and given an opportunity to bloom. Children must be educated and equipped with knowledge, they must be ethical and they must be compassionate.

YES. @DalaiLama: “A compassionate society must create a wealth of opportunities for meaningful work” #2MA

— Andrew McAfee (@amcafee) November 6, 2016

The Dalai Lama believes the world today is not in the condition that it is because man is evil, but rather because man needs to be needed, and today’s society does not satisfy this need. 


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The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and are not necessarily those of World Religion News.


Countering Stress and Depression

The Dalai Lama on the problem of feeling unneeded

At a fundamental level, as human beings, we are all the same; each one of us aspires to happiness and each one of us does not wish to suffer. This is why, whenever I have the opportunity, I try to draw people's attention to what as members of the human family we have in common and the deeply interconnected nature of our existence and welfare.

Today, there is increasing recognition, as well as a growing body of scientific evidence, that confirms the close connection between our own states of mind and our happiness. On the one hand, many of us live in societies that are very developed materially, yet among us are many people who are not very happy.

Just underneath the beautiful surface of affluence there is a kind of mental unrest, leading to frustration, unnecessary quarrels, reliance on drugs or alcohol, and in the worst case, suicide. There is no guarantee that wealth alone can give you the joy or fulfilment that you seek. The same can be said of your friends too.

When you are in an intense state of anger or hatred, even a very close friend appears to you as somehow frosty, or cold, distant, and annoying.

However, as human beings we are gifted with this wonderful human intelligence. Besides that, all human beings have the capacity to be very determined and to direct that strong sense of determination in whatever direction they .

So long as we remember that we have this marvellous gift of human intelligence and a capacity to develop determination and use it in positive ways, we will preserve our underlying mental health. Realizing we have this great human potential gives us a fundamental strength.

This recognition can act as a mechanism that enables us to deal with any difficulty, no matter what situation we are facing, without losing hope or sinking into feelings of low self-esteem.

I write this as someone who lost his freedom at the age of 16, then lost his country at the age of 24. Consequently, I have lived in exile for more than 50 years during which we Tibetans have dedicated ourselves to keeping the Tibetan identity alive and preserving our culture and values.

On most days the news from Tibet is heartbreaking, and yet none of these challenges gives grounds for giving up. One of the approaches that I personally find useful is to cultivate the thought: If the situation or problem is such that it can be remedied, then there is no need to worry about it.

In other words, if there is a solution or a way the difficulty, you do not need to be overwhelmed by it. The appropriate action is to seek its solution. Then it is clearly more sensible to spend your energy focussing on the solution rather than worrying about the problem.

Alternatively, if there is no solution, no possibility of resolution, then there is also no point in being worried about it, because you cannot do anything about it anyway. In that case, the sooner you accept this fact, the easier it will be for you.

This formula, of course, implies directly confronting the problem and taking a realistic view. Otherwise you will be unable to find out whether or not there is a resolution to the problem

Taking a realistic view and cultivating a proper motivation can also shield you against feelings of fear and anxiety.

If you develop a pure and sincere motivation, if you are motivated by a wish to help on the basis of kindness, compassion, and respect, then you can carry on any kind of work, in any field, and function more effectively with less fear or worry, not being afraid of what others think or whether you ultimately will be successful in reaching your goal. Even if you fail to achieve your goal, you can feel good about having made the effort. But with a bad motivation, people can praise you or you can achieve goals, but you still will not be happy.

Again, we may sometimes feel that our whole lives are unsatisfactory, we feel on the point of being overwhelmed by the difficulties that confront us. This happens to us all in varying degrees from time to time. When this occurs, it is vital that we make every effort to find a way of lifting our spirits.

We can do this by recollecting our good fortune. We may, for example, be loved by someone; we may have certain talents; we may have received a good education; we may have our basic needs provided for – food to eat, clothes to wear, somewhere to live – we may have performed certain altruistic deeds in the past.

We must take into consideration even the slightest positive aspect of our lives. For if we fail to find some way of uplifting ourselves, there is every danger of sinking further into our sense of powerlessness. This can lead us to believe that we have no capacity for doing good whatsoever.

Thus we create the conditions of despair itself.

As a Buddhist monk I have learned that what principally upsets our inner peace is what we call disturbing emotions.

  All those thoughts, emotions, and mental events which reflect a negative or uncompassionate state of mind inevitably undermine our experience of inner peace.

All our negative thoughts and emotions – such as hatred, anger, pride, lust, greed, envy, and so on – are considered to be sources of difficulty, to be disturbing.

Negative thoughts and emotions are what obstruct our most basic aspiration – to be happy and to avoid suffering. When we act under their influence, we become oblivious to the impact our actions have on others: they are thus the cause of our destructive behaviour both toward others and to ourselves. Murder, scandal, and deceit all have their origin in disturbing emotions.

This inevitably gives rise to the question – can we train the mind? There are many methods by which to do this.

Among these, in the Buddhist tradition, is a special instruction called mind training, which focuses on cultivating concern for others and turning adversity to advantage.

It is this pattern of thought, transforming problems into happiness that has enabled the Tibetan people to maintain their dignity and spirit in the face of great difficulties. Indeed I have found this advice of great practical benefit in my own life.

A great Tibetan teacher of mind training once remarked that one of the mind’s most marvellous qualities is that it can be transformed.

I have no doubt that those who attempt to transform their minds, overcome their disturbing emotions and achieve a sense of inner peace, will, over a period of time, notice a change in their mental attitudes and responses to people and events. Their minds will become more disciplined and positive.

And I am sure they will find their own sense of happiness grow as they contribute to the greater happiness of others. I offer my prayers that everyone who makes this their goal will be blessed with success.

The Dalai Lama

December 31, 2010

Originally published in the Hindustan Times, India, on January 3rd, 2011


Buddha on Worrying – The Ascent

The Dalai Lama on the problem of feeling unneeded
Photo by Mark Daynes on Unsplash

Last weekend I stayed with a friend in a wellness resort.

There was a lovely tunnel through which we could walk from the hotel towards the wellness area.

On the walls of the tunnel on both sides it had beautiful pictures of all the elements (water, fire, earth, wind) and quotes of wisdom.

One of the quotes was from Shantideva and addressed the topic of worrying:

If you can solve the problem,
Then what is the need of worrying?
If you cannot solve it,
Then what is the use of worrying?

I sat down on the bench in front of the text to meditate and ponder on it. Afterwards, I started reading Buddhists teachings about worrying. It gave me insights to start looking at worrying through a different lens.

In Buddhism, worrying is a form of suffering. An essential topic in Buddhist teachings which are aimed at ending suffering.

Suffering in Buddhist’s philosophy includes all sorts of forms of unhappiness. worries, depression, anger, regrets. Anything, no matter how subtle, that prevents you from living a happy and fulfilled life. And prevents you from ultimately reaching a state of enlightenment.

I’ve always understood from Buddha’s teachings I’ve read before, that the root of suffering and worrying is attachment.

But the Dalai Lama, mentioned something that struck me at a deep level, and has continued to resonate with me: ‘suffering is caused by ignorance’.

This insight is also mentioned in an article in the Elephant Journal from Elyane Youssef, Buddhism on Worrying & How to Eradicate it. I quote:

Buddhists perceive everything in life as an illusion — which means that nothing has a concrete existence. What we see as solid and permanent is only present for the time being. Eventually — within months, years, or decades — it will cease to exist.

Since we see everything as solid and permanent, we tend to take life seriously and make a big deal problems. Consequently, we become attached to our life’s situations and worry about them. It is because of our ignorance that we worry about things.

The traditional teaching that attachment (in whatever form) is the root cause of suffering is true. However, the statement that suffering, and therefore worrying, is caused by ignorance, took those teachings a step further and into a new context for me.

For it is not only attachment that worries us, but also the fact that people continue to be attracted to the things that cause suffering.

For example, you may know that worrying thoughts cause you to suffer, but you still keep replaying those thoughts in your head, even though this peaking doesn’t change anything that happened in the past and will most ly not happen in the future.

You may know that a certain friendship is toxic for you, but you still give that friendship another chance in the hope that it will change for the better.

You may know that certain foods, drinks or drugs, are not good for you and will cause you to suffer, but you still keep on consuming them.

The fact that we decide to ignore these things, lead to suffering. And it is because of our ignorance that we worry about things.

In Modern Buddhism, Geshe Kelsang says there are two types of problem, an inner and an outer problem:

We should understand that our problems do not exist outside of our self, but are part of our mind that experiences unpleasant feelings. When our car, for example, has a problem we usually say “I have a problem”, but in reality it is the car’s problem and not our problem.

The car’s problem is an outer problem, and our problem, which is our own unpleasant feeling, is an inner problem. These two problems are completely different. We need to solve the car’s problem by repairing it, and we need to solve our own problem by controlling our attachment to the car.

If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.-Marcus Aurelius

The Buddhist rule is: Worrying is simple: don’t.

Or, as Shantideva said more eloquently, If it can be fixed; why worry? If it can’t be fixed, what’s the point of worrying?

Or, more properly: “If a cure exists, why worry? If no cure exists, what use is there to worry?”

90% of the things you worry about are your control so it’s not helpful to worry. The other 10% you can control so do something about it instead of worrying.

Don’t Worry. Be Present.

One of the teachings of Buddha is that:

The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.

We probably all worry unnecessary sometimes, which makes us all worrywarts. According to Buddhists we worry because we need to be able to predict what is lying ahead. Have a sense of what is going to happen to us in the future.

We humans are afraid of uncertainty. We don’t want to be wrong or uncertain about anything, so we start peaking and overanalyzing things too much, which causes worrying and distress.

I’ve lived through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.-Mark Twain

We feel the need to change the past or to control the future, and we attempt to change something through worrying.

Trying to change the past or the future is, according to Buddhism, the deeply rooted cause of worrying. Which makes worrying an inner thing, not the result of an outside factor.

The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.-Buddha

Although many of us are lucky that we don’t need to worry about tomorrow, that doesn’t mean that there will always be a tomorrow. Buddha said: ‘The trouble is, you think you have time’. But there is no time to waste: the past is gone, the future is not here yet and all we have is the present.

And it suddenly occurred to me that the word ‘present’ also means ‘gift’. The gift of the present moment, the now. Essentially the only thing we really possess.

Because the past and the future are only concepts existing in our own minds. It is in the present moment where we live, where we are happy, where we create our future.

And if we decide to use our precious moment to worry, then that is by our own choice and making.

If you are depressed you are living in the past.
If you are anxious you are living in the future.
If you are at peace you are living in the present.-Lao Tzu

To stop worrying is tough, but it’s not impossible. If we worrywarts embrace a few teachings and practices from the Buddhists, you would be surprised by the wonderful changes that can take place.

Your worst enemy cannot harm you as much as your own unguarded thoughts.-Buddha — photo relaxation-sitting-reflection-statue-46177

Here is what we can learn from Buddhism to relieve us from the unpleasant state of worrying.

Understand that worrying won’t solve a thing

Everyone worries. A conflict at work, a doctor’s appointment that concerns you, or an exam that you need to take, can all be reasons to worry.

The difference between thinking and worrying is that thinking leads to a solution, while at peaking there is an endless series of thoughts that keep going through your mind. ‘What if …?’ ‘Imagine that…?’

The intent of most people who worry is probably to put their thoughts in order, get their head on straight. Or to prepare for a situation.

But nothing is less true: worrying does not lead to solutions or new insights. Much worrying can lead to stress, anxiety and gloom. Moreover, worrying takes a lot of time and energy.

Take on a helicopter view and get a pure view of your life

Try to limit yourself in life to the essence of what you find important. Find out what life is about for you, and focus on that.

When you focus your attention and energy on a few points, you will perform much better and get more your life. You get a pure view of life because you give little or no energy to all things that are not important.

Accept that you’re not in control of everything

Psychologist Ellen Hendricksen of Boston University’s Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders explains that there are two types of control.

When we think of ‘control freaks’, we usually think of types who always want to keep everything under control, but there is also another form of control which involves accepting things that can not be controlled.

‘Primary control’ is about trying to change the world around you. ‘Secondary control’ is about adjusting to what is happening around you.

Research showed that people who have a higher level of secondary control are more satisfied with their lives than people who score higher on primary control.

So if you want to experience control without stress, look inside instead of outside. Accept that you simply can not control everything. This will help you stay calm when things go differently than planned.

Try to be flexible and to move with what happens. If you move along with the flow of life, it will give you energy, for if you try to change the world around you, you’ll loose energy.

The paradox of this story is that you can therefore experience a sense of control, by choosing what you are concerned about and what not. If you assume that everything is a choice, including your thoughts and feelings, you decide how you experience things.

Focus on the present

Life screams to be seen and heard. It wants to happen to you and to be yours.

But you are so busy worrying about the future, playing scenarios in your head, making predictions about future disasters that the future is slipping through your fingers, just water.

If you focus on the present instead of the future, you will feel and experience things that you would otherwise not be able to or miss out on.

Worrying about the future is not necessary. Give yourself the opportunity to be grateful for what you have now.

Everything is temporary. We have our own life in our hands. Life is an endless amount of time presented to us in an immense, fertile space full of possibilities and opportunities.

Don’t let life go by while worrying about the future. Focus on and enjoy the present.

Don’t worry, smile and be happy!

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.

Photo by bruce mars from Pexels”,”author”:”Martine Weber”,”date_published”:”2019-02-28T16:06:52.955Z”,”lead_image_url”:”*ELytw4eyOuOQBHyO5kKoAQ.png”,”dek”:null,”next_page_url”:null,”url”:””,”domain”:””,”excerpt”:”Don’t Worry. Be Present.”,”word_count”:1775,”direction”:”ltr”,”total_pages”:1,”rendered_pages”:1}