letting go

external sources of happiness are unsatisfactory:

we try to find lasting security, purpose, self-esteem, from unsatisfactory sources

pleasures (sex, drugs, drink, etc)

gain (accumulating money and things)

approval (people pleasing, attaching to positive reviews, etc)

fame (having lots of friends, prestige in one's field of work, etc)


1) they're unreliable; people don't say what we want them to, money can vanish, etc

2) they're conditional; they're not always available

3) their rewards are short term and require exponential fulfillment

—the hedonic treadmill, "as a person makes more money, expectations and desires rise in tandem, which results in no permanent gain in happiness."

—Brickman & Campbell people report about the same level of happiness before and after economic gains and losses, so long as they can meet basic needs.


the more we try to grab at happiness from unsatisfactory sources, the more controlling and self-sabotaging we become

—eventually we experience huge disappointments in our external endeavors.


The five stages of grief, loss, death are

1) denial/ avoidance, acting as if nothing has happened in the arena.

2) anger/resistance, trying to force by sheer willpower a different result

3) bargaining we are still craving a different result, willing to do anything undo what we've experience

4) depression, why me? not seeing the universality of dukkha.

5) acceptance.


the first 3 stages of grief are all forms of resistance. the fourth, depression, wallows in the unfairness of the universal experiences.


spiritual acceptance has two stages

1) acknowledging what has happened

2) letting go of our attachment and moving on


seeing what happened

1) totally acknowledging in our hearts what has occurred, without putting the "i" into it, or taking it personally

2) feeling the physical feelings of disappointment

3) seeing the mental agitation—obsessive, repetitive thinking—we've encountered due to our struggles

4) acknowledging with someone how much we've suffered


letting go

acceptance is not resignation, giving up on happiness. its refocusing our efforts in areas that can sustain happiness)

letting go is a decision not to keep thinking about things that cannot bring us lasting peace


every time the mind wants to reattach to the lost cause:

1) we reflect on drawbacks of those thoughts; where do they lead? would i want these to be the last thoughts i ever had? are there better thoughts out there? we're allowed to drop the thought mid-sentence.

1b) are they true, beneficial, is this the right time and place to indulge them?


2) we become aware of what happens to the mind and body again as we think addictively


3) we attend the mind on something worthwhile and relaxing (brickman and campbell demonstrated that the effective ways to change baseline happiness levels are via

—flow (focusing the mind on what one is doing)

—mindfulness (moment-by-moment awareness of internal thoughts, emotions, body states)

—acts of kindness towards self and others

—forgiveness

—sense of humor

—appreciation of our endeavors

—self-control over one's addictive behaviors.


4) we treat the thoughts as like poisons for the mind, for if we're really incapable of changing them once we've taken the bait, then we know they're dangerous to us.

—the passage in the canon about the dying letting go of things we no longer can do

—the woman trying to leave the retreat after one day of a two week retreat lead by ajahn fuang