When we decide to do something, even if it’s difficult, we’ll do it with enthusiasm

Mar 14, 2024


There is one area where we can see we have a lot of suffering and problems: when we have aversion to doing something but feel we have to do it. Can you imagine the terrible tension that builds up in our mind? This is much of our suffering in daily life, you know?


Let’s say you’ve got a job that you hate, which means you’ve got aversion, which means you wish it would go away, which means it’s attachment not getting what it wants – that’s a lot of tension! It’s really stressful, isn’t it? This is really common in relationships as well. You don’t feel you have a choice. This is awful.


There you are, with a husband you can’t stand, but you can’t even imagine that you have a choice because you’re full of guilt and shame: “I can’t leave him, no, the kids won’t like me, the world will criticize me, I shouldn’t do this.” You have all these reasons why you think you can’t leave the relationship.


But we also have all these reasons why we can’t change our mind. “Why should I? He should change!” Changing our mind is hard work, but it’s possible. We just don’t think it’s possible – we think it’s completely impossible to change our thoughts. 


So we’re stuck: can’t leave and don’t want to stay. Of course, we feel it’s insurmountable, and it can get to the point where we have a mental collapse because the tension is too much to bear. Or you either kill yourself or kill the husband. What’s the advantage to that? 


Of course, we will not even bother to make the effort to make a decision unless we think of the benefits. Basically, we’ve got two options: change the job, the relationship, or change our mind. It’s so brutal to put it this way, but it’s the necessary analysis we have to do to grow up, to take responsibility. And who is the beneficiary of this? Me!


We’ve got to see that we need to make choices. We talk about this all the time. When we feel we don’t have a choice, this is when we suffer so terribly. 


Let’s say you’ve made the decision, “I have to do this job for now because I can’t see any other options,” then you have to see that it’s to your advantage to change your attitude towards the job.


This is for your own benefit. It’s not some moralistic issue: “Oh, I should like my job.” No! For your own benefit. Do you want to be happy or not? You know? Do you want to have happy feelings or not? Or do you want to keep building up this awful tension?


In other words, this is about seeing the benefits of the job even if there don’t seem to be any, which is why you have aversion to it: you can’t stand the people; you can’t stand the tasks; it’s boring; the boss is mean. This might all be true, but to your own advantage, see even the one good thing and make the most of it. 


It’s a way of deciding to take responsibility and realize you can change your mind. Then, when you wake up in the morning, and you remember your job, and you think of the good things – you still know the bad things are there but you think of the good things – you get all perky; you get excited; you get enthusiastic. That’s fantastic. But we’ve got to realize we’ve got the choice to do this. Of course it’s hard!


When you see the benefits of staying in that relationship – even if the benefit is that it’s good for your practice of patience, and you’ve got to be advanced to think that – then you’re going to start to have a happy mind. And there won’t be the tension. The tension comes when you think one thing and do another, and the two smash up against each other. You’ll get to the point where you’ll go crazy. 


Or, if you really do decide that there are no benefits whatsoever, you will decide to leave the job, leave the relationship.


We don’t realize we can change our mind. This is what’s so outrageous. It always comes down to this in Buddhist practice: you can change your mind. 


Whichever choice we make, we’ll feel brave, confident, and we’ll have enthusiasm. Eventually our mind becomes joyful. It’s sort of obvious. It’s hard to get it, but we’ve got to start somewhere. 


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