Buddhist Monk: Why You Feel Lost In Life & How To Reinvent Yourself | Gelong Thubten

Fix Your Life
27 Sept 2023115:54
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TLDRIn this insightful conversation, a monk with 30 years of experience delves into the root causes of societal addictions and distractions, highlighting our avoidance of discomfort as a significant factor. He discusses the impact of technology on our lives and the importance of facing our feelings rather than escaping through various addictions. The discussion explores the concept of using meditation and mindfulness to cultivate inner strength, resilience, and compassion. The monk shares his personal journey from a life of ambition and partying to finding peace and purpose in monastic life. He emphasizes the power of meditation for personal transformation and provides practical advice on how to integrate meditation into daily life, even amidst busy schedules. The conversation offers valuable insights into finding happiness from within and the potential for personal growth through meditation.

  • πŸ§˜β€β™‚οΈ **Mindful Meditation**: The conversation emphasizes the importance of meditation as a tool for self-discovery and for cultivating inner peace, strength, and happiness.
  • 🌐 **Technology and Distraction**: The rapid advancement of technology, particularly during the speaker's retreat, has contributed to a society that is increasingly addicted to distraction as a means of avoiding discomfort and pain.
  • πŸ”„ **The Cycle of Discontent**: The pursuit of pleasure and avoidance of hardship are highlighted as habits that perpetuate dissatisfaction, as they often lead to more wanting and more discomfort.
  • πŸ’” **The Problem with Avoidance**: Avoiding discomfort through addictions and distractions is portrayed as counterproductive, as it reinforces the habit of dissatisfaction and prevents true contentment.
  • πŸ€” **Self-Reflection**: The dialogue encourages individuals to look inward rather than outward for happiness, suggesting that true transformation comes from changing one's internal habits and reactions.
  • πŸ“š **Book Insights**: The speaker's books, 'Handbook for Hard Times' and 'Monk's Guide to Fearless Living', are mentioned as resources that delve into the concepts of happiness, suffering, and mindfulness.
  • πŸ’ͺ **Strength Through Suffering**: The idea that challenges and suffering can be opportunities for growth and the development of inner strength and resilience is discussed.
  • 🀝 **Compassion and Acceptance**: The practice of compassion, both towards oneself and others, is presented as a means to transform suffering and to develop a healthier relationship with the world.
  • 🚫 **The Illusion of Control**: The speaker shares personal experiences that illustrate the illusion of control people have over their lives and the importance of accepting what one cannot change.
  • 🌱 **Growth Mindset**: The conversation concludes with the notion that meditation and mindfulness practices can lead to personal growth and a more fulfilling life, regardless of external circumstances.
Q & A
  • What is the main argument presented in the book 'Handbook for Hard Times'?

    -The book argues that distraction and avoidance of discomfort are the root causes of many problems in our lives, and instead of seeking happiness externally, we should learn to deal with our unhappiness as a pathway to true happiness and inner peace.

  • How has technology influenced our addiction to distraction?

    -Technology, particularly the advent of smartphones and social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, has amplified our addiction to distraction by constantly providing new content and notifications that draw our attention away from our internal feelings and experiences.

  • What is the underlying cause of the various addictions prevalent in society today?

    -The underlying cause of these addictions is our inability to face our own feelings and discomforts. We use various distractions, such as social media, alcohol, and shopping, as means to escape from ourselves and avoid confronting our emotions.

  • Why does the pursuit of avoiding discomfort and chasing pleasure often lead to more suffering?

    -This pursuit leads to more suffering because it reinforces our habit of dissatisfaction and wanting more. We become experts at running after things and pushing away discomfort, which creates an endless cycle of desire and aversion that prevents us from finding peace and contentment.

  • How does the practice of meditation help in dealing with our emotions and reactions?

    -Meditation helps by allowing us to change our relationship with our thoughts and emotions. It enables us to observe our mental states without getting caught up in them, thus giving us a chance to develop new habits and responses that are more aligned with inner peace and compassion.

  • What was the turning point for the author that led him to become a monk?

    -The turning point for the author was a severe burnout that left him extremely ill. This experience, coupled with his exposure to Buddhist teachings and meditation, led him to seek a more meaningful and balanced way of living, which he found in becoming a monk.

  • How does the author suggest we should approach difficult times to cultivate inner strength and resilience?

    -The author suggests that we should view difficult times as opportunities for growth and transformation. By learning to work with our suffering through meditation and developing a compassionate acceptance of our experiences, we can cultivate inner strength, resilience, and compassion.

  • What is the significance of the phrase 'If I was that other person, I'd be doing exactly the same as them' in fostering compassion?

    -This phrase is significant because it encourages us to empathize with others by putting ourselves in their shoes. By understanding the struggles and experiences that have shaped others' perspectives and actions, we can develop a more compassionate and accepting attitude towards them.

  • How does the author describe the process of meditation and its benefits in handling stress and discomfort?

    -The author describes meditation as a process of focusing on the present moment, often using the breath as an anchor. The practice helps in handling stress and discomfort by training our minds to be more present and less reactive. It allows us to develop a sense of inner peace and strength that can be applied in our daily lives, even in challenging situations.

  • What is the connection between our external consumption and our internal sense of well-being?

    -The connection lies in the fact that our constant consumption of external goods and experiences is often driven by a sense of internal incompleteness and the belief that we need more to be happy. This can lead to an over-reliance on external factors for our well-being, rather than cultivating happiness and contentment from within.

  • How does the author's personal journey from being a party animal in New York to a monk in Scotland reflect the theme of finding happiness from within?

    -The author's journey reflects the theme by demonstrating a shift from seeking happiness and fulfillment through external means, such as parties and social status, to finding a deeper sense of peace and contentment through meditation, self-reflection, and spiritual practice as a monk.

πŸ˜€ Society's Addiction to Distraction

The speaker discusses how modern society is addicted to distractions like alcohol, social media, and online shopping. They argue that these addictions stem from our inability to face discomfort and pain. The speaker reflects on their experience of emerging from a four-year retreat in 2009 and being shocked by the technological advancements that had made society more distracted and addicted. The speaker emphasizes that distraction prevents people from facing their feelings, which only increases dissatisfaction.

😌 Transforming Reactivity and Perception

The speaker explains how reactivity and being triggered by others can become a habit. They suggest that changing this habit involves not seeing external factors as the cause of suffering but instead working on the mind itself. By focusing on one's reactions and adopting compassion and acceptance, one can transform their relationship with external events and improve their perception of the world. The speaker recounts their experience of ambition and anxiety in their twenties and how they coped with it through excessive partying, leading to severe burnout.

πŸ§˜β€β™‚οΈ Recovery Through Monastic Life

The speaker shares their journey of recovering from severe burnout by becoming a monk. After experiencing symptoms of a heart attack, the speaker sought refuge in their mother's home and began reading about meditation and Buddhism. Inspired, they joined a monastery in Scotland for a year, which significantly improved their health and well-being. The speaker highlights the importance of learning to meditate and developing a healthier way of living to recover from burnout and find inner peace.

πŸ™ Embracing Hard Times with Compassion

The speaker emphasizes the importance of embracing hard times as opportunities for growth. They argue that suffering can be the most fertile ground for developing inner strength, resilience, and compassion. The speaker provides methods for working with discomfort through meditation and suggests that learning to transform suffering in the moment is more powerful than looking back with gratitude. By reframing suffering as an opportunity, individuals can find ways to grow and develop compassion and strength.

❀️ Compassion and Non-Reactivity

The speaker discusses the transformative power of compassion and the importance of not being emotionally reactive. They share a personal mantra, "If I was that other person, I'd be doing exactly the same as them," which helps them lead with compassion and avoid stress. The speaker emphasizes that compassion allows for a calmer, more rational approach to dealing with difficult situations, rather than tolerating or accepting bad behavior. This approach helps individuals change their energy and deal with situations more effectively.

πŸ” Exploring Extremes and Finding Balance

The speaker reflects on their tendency to go from one extreme to another, from being a party animal in New York to becoming a monk in Scotland. They explain how their initial decision to become a monk came from a place of desperation and burnout, but over time, their motivation evolved to a deeper, more meaningful commitment to the philosophy of compassion. The speaker highlights that true transformation comes from a place of inner strength and alignment with one's values, rather than from extreme actions.

β˜• Intoxicants and Personal Strength

The speaker talks about giving up intoxicants, such as alcohol, to discover more inner strength and autonomy. They mention still enjoying coffee and discuss the subtleties of giving up substances that help with relaxation to find that ability within oneself. The speaker highlights that this process of letting go of external aids for relaxation can enhance one's internal power and ability to find peace and happiness independently.

🎧 Dependency on External Inputs

The speaker shares a story about a patient who became stressed when her Bluetooth headphones didn't work, highlighting how modern conveniences create dependencies. They discuss the broader issue of society's reliance on external sources of comfort and entertainment, which can undermine personal strength and sovereignty. The speaker suggests that reducing reliance on such externalities can lead to greater internal resilience and a more sustainable way of living.

🌿 Mindful Consumption

The speaker emphasizes the importance of mindful consumption, comparing the use of technology to food. They argue that just as constant consumption of sugar can make one ill, excessive use of technology without balance can be detrimental. The speaker suggests using technology in a balanced way, as a tool for nutrition rather than constant indulgence, to maintain a healthier mental state and avoid over-reliance on external sources for happiness.

πŸ”„ Reframing Stressful Situations

The speaker shares how they reframed their experience of stress and discomfort during a hot, crowded tube ride in London by practicing mindfulness. By focusing on sensations like the weight of their bag and their breathing, they transformed the situation into a positive, relaxing experience. The speaker suggests using mindfulness to reframe stressful situations, turning them into opportunities for growth and relaxation rather than sources of frustration.

🌟 Transforming Meditation Misconceptions

The speaker addresses common misconceptions about meditation, particularly the idea that it requires clearing the mind. They explain that meditation is about changing the relationship with thoughts and emotions, not eliminating them. The speaker emphasizes that noticing distractions and gently bringing attention back to the present moment is the essence of meditation, which helps build mental strength and resilience over time.

πŸ‹οΈ Building Mental Strength Through Meditation

The speaker compares meditation to lifting weights, explaining that distractions during meditation are like weights that build mental strength when overcome. They emphasize that the act of returning focus to the breath after distraction is what strengthens the mind. The speaker encourages viewing distractions as opportunities to build this mental 'muscle,' reframing meditation as a practice of continually bringing the mind back to the present moment.

πŸ“‰ Misconceptions About Meditation

The speaker debunks the myth that meditation is about having a clear mind, explaining that it involves changing the dynamic with thoughts. They highlight that getting distracted and bringing focus back is a crucial part of meditation. The speaker introduces a practical exercise of counting breaths to develop focus, acknowledging the challenge but emphasizing its benefits in improving attention and awareness.

⏳ Embracing Solitude and Internal Struggles

The speaker recounts their experience of a nine-month solitary meditation retreat, where they confronted deep-seated feelings of self-disgust. They explain that intense meditation sessions helped them understand and work through these emotions, ultimately deciding to continue their monastic life. The speaker emphasizes that such deep meditation can reveal underlying emotional issues, but also provides tools to transform these feelings into growth and self-acceptance.

πŸ“š Reframing Difficult Situations

The speaker discusses how even challenging environments like prisons can be reframed into opportunities for meditation and mindfulness. They share an anecdote of teaching meditation in a prison, encouraging inmates to use the harsh sounds of prison life as mindful moments. The speaker highlights the power of reframing situations to transform experiences of confinement into opportunities for growth and inner peace.

πŸš‡ Mindfulness in Everyday Situations

The speaker recounts an experience of using mindfulness to transform a stressful tube ride into a relaxing and rejuvenating moment. By focusing on the physical sensations and practicing mindfulness from stop to stop, they managed to change their attitude towards the discomfort, illustrating how mindfulness can turn everyday challenges into opportunities for relaxation and mental training.

πŸ§˜β€β™€οΈ The Concept of Acceptance

The speaker redefines acceptance not as grim resignation but as a compassionate, active state of embracing discomfort. They explain that our culture's constant pursuit of comfort has made us less resilient to discomfort. Acceptance involves opening up to pain and suffering with kindness, which can transform our relationship with these experiences and reduce their negative impact.

πŸ’­ Understanding and Transforming Emotions

The speaker explores the nature of emotions, explaining that they are more intense forms of thoughts that can easily trap us. They discuss the Buddhist perspective of three root emotions: fear, anger, and desire, and argue that fear underpins most emotions. The speaker emphasizes that emotions are not inherently negative but become problematic when they dominate our reactions. Through meditation, we can learn to understand and transform our emotional responses.

😑 Transforming Anger

The speaker discusses anger and its tendency to proliferate if not addressed directly. They emphasize that anger should be examined within oneself rather than focusing on its external triggers. By meditating on the physical sensations of anger and observing it without attaching to the story behind it, one can transform anger into a source of personal growth and freedom.

πŸ‘ The Power of Forgiveness

The speaker explains that forgiveness is more about liberating oneself from the burden of anger than absolving the other person. They describe anger as holding a hot coal that burns the holder, and forgiveness as putting the coal down. Letting go of anger frees one from ongoing suffering and helps achieve inner peace.

Distraction refers to the act of diverting attention away from discomfort or difficult emotions. In the video, it is discussed as a major cause of modern societal addictions such as social media, alcohol, and shopping. The monk explains that distraction prevents individuals from facing their true feelings and leads to a cycle of dissatisfaction.
Addiction is described as a habitual reliance on certain behaviors or substances, often as a means to escape or avoid discomfort. The video highlights how society is addicted to various distractions, and the root cause is often the avoidance of facing personal pain and discomfort.
Acceptance involves embracing discomfort and difficult emotions with compassion and openness, rather than resisting them. The monk explains that acceptance is not about grim resignation but about transforming one's relationship with pain, which can lead to personal growth and inner peace.
Compassion is defined as a deep awareness of the suffering of others coupled with the wish to relieve it. The monk emphasizes the importance of self-compassion and compassion for others, which can transform how we experience and respond to suffering.
Meditation is a practice of focusing the mind and cultivating mindfulness. In the video, meditation is presented as a powerful tool for transforming one's relationship with thoughts and emotions, leading to greater inner peace and less reliance on external distractions.
πŸ’‘Inner Strength
Inner strength refers to the resilience and stability that come from within, rather than relying on external factors. The monk discusses how meditation and acceptance can help build inner strength, enabling individuals to face life's challenges more effectively.
Suffering is described as a natural part of human existence that includes physical, emotional, and mental pain. The monk explains that understanding and transforming one's relationship with suffering is key to finding peace and happiness. Suffering is also viewed as fertile ground for personal growth.
πŸ’‘Unconditional Love
Unconditional love is love without conditions or expectations, often exemplified by the love between parents and children. The monk contrasts this with conditional love, which can lead to resentment and anger. Unconditional love is presented as a model for developing compassion for all beings.
Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present and aware in the moment. In the video, the monk describes how mindfulness can help change one's relationship with stress and discomfort, turning everyday situations into opportunities for meditation and growth.
Ego refers to the sense of self that seeks validation and approval from external sources. The monk discusses how the ego can drive behaviors that lead to burnout and dissatisfaction. Transforming the ego through meditation and compassion is essential for achieving inner peace.
Reframing is the process of changing one's perspective on a situation to see it in a more positive or constructive light. The monk provides examples of how reframing stressful or painful experiences can transform them into opportunities for personal growth and meditation practice.

The root cause of many addictions is distraction, which stems from our inability to face our own feelings.

Technological advancements have accelerated the addictive nature of distractions in society.

The pursuit of avoiding discomfort and chasing pleasure only reinforces dissatisfaction.

Engaging in behaviors to escape feelings can exacerbate the problem and create more suffering.

The more we run after something, the more elusive it becomes, leading to an endless cycle of wanting.

Meditation and mindfulness can transform our reactive habits and promote acceptance and compassion.

Our perceptions and reactions to the world can be changed by working with our mind, not just external circumstances.

The journey from party animal to monk represents an extreme shift in lifestyle to address burnout.

Buddhism and meditation provided a path to recovery and a deeper sense of happiness and peace.

The concept of samsara in Buddhism refers to the suffering inherent in the nature of existence.

The book 'Handbook for Hard Times' offers methods to work with unhappiness and cultivate inner strength.

Meditation allows us to work with physical sensations and transform suffering into a path to peace.

Compassion is a powerful tool that can change our relationship with difficult people or situations.

The capitalist society thrives on our sense of incompleteness, driving consumption and dissatisfaction.

Finding sustainable happiness involves looking inward rather than relying on external sources.

Meditation is a practice that anyone can undertake to find inner peace and happiness.

The misconception that meditation requires clearing the mind can be a barrier to starting a practice.

The journey to becoming a monk involved deep self-reflection and a commitment to a spiritual path.

The decision to continue as a monk was influenced by the transformative power of meditation and Buddhist philosophy.

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