Freedom of Mind

I’ve had an interest in Buddhism from the time I first saw the Dalai Lama speak at the University of Washington in April of 2008.  Since then I’ve read texts on the Dalai Lama and Buddhism, started yoga, and started a meditation/mindfulness practice.  As my “studies” have matured, I’ve begun to understand Buddhist principals more and more.  I’ve written before about compassion — how it makes us happier because we give to the community that in turn gives to us.  Today I’ll explain how a free mind is a happier mind, free of the influence of our surroundings on our feelings and emotions.

A free mind is one where emotions and moods aren’t changed by our environment.  This concept is likely very foreign to most of us.  When we see our sports team lose, we can’t help but be upset.  When we get fired from a job, rejected from a school, bad results on a test, what have you, we can’t help but become upset and saddened.  A negative response to these negative events is completely normal, and in many ways good.  Silicon Valley has always celebrated failure as a way to motivate us to learn from our mistakes.  The trick is to be practical with negative events in our lives — learn from them, remember them, build on them — but don’t let your emotions and general well being be affected by them.  With more stable emotions comes more stable and long-lasting happiness.

As for how to reach a free mind, I’m still figuring that out.  Yoga and meditation help a lot.  The hardest part, though, is not falling into apathy.  As my mind becomes more free, I’m finding that bad events around me aren’t inspiring me to change them.  For example, if a coworker does a bad job at a task, my default reaction is to say to him or her, “It’s all good,” when instead I should be coaching them to be better, for the sake of themselves and the team.

We should all strive to have a free mind, where our emotions and happiness aren’t changed by negative events in our lives, where fears don’t limit our capacity to do good, and where jealousy and greed don’t prevent us from enjoying what we already have.  Practice gets us to this state, slowly but surely learning how to balance emotions with practical outcomes.