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Why Sadness is the Key to True Happiness

 

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The other night I felt overcome by sadness as I reflected upon all the suffering of this world.

In many ways, I have a perfect life.  Nevertheless, a part of me will always be sad as long as there is suffering in this world.

Life is bittersweet.  And that’s OK with me.  Happiness without sadness would not be complete…as long as suffering persists.

I sat with the feelings of sadness, gazing at the dark night sky.  I didn’t try to push them away.  Quite the contrary, I felt empowered by them.

Usually, we want to move away from sadness as quickly as possible.

We’re encouraged to divert ourselves from the emotion by engaging in physical activity, imagining pleasant and relaxing experiences, or looking for humor in a situation that makes us sad.  Some people, who are naturally empathetic, have decided to protect themselves from sadness and other untoward emotions by not watching the news.  I can understand why.  There’s even a danger of becoming hardened and developing “compassion fatigue” in the face of overwhelming tragedy like the recent disasters in Japan.

But I say, let your heart be broken into a million pieces.  You will be all the better for it.  Here’s why.

 

3 WAYS SADNESS CAN EMPOWER YOU

Sadness is not always as bad as it’s made out to be.  In fact, sadness can be the start of your journey directly to the heart of true happiness.  Here are 3 ways that sadness can help and empower you.

1.  Sadness Has the Power to Introduce a Crack in Our Idea of Reality

There is not a single person in this world that can escape from suffering.  Suffering is the fundamental characteristic of the way we lead our lives.  Failing to see our true nature, our life ends up a constant dance of attachment and aversion.  This is precisely what brings unhappiness our way.

“I like this.  I don’t like that.  I want this.  I don’t want that.”

There may be transitory moments of happiness when things go our way, we have an enjoyable sensory experience, or acquire an entrancing new possession.  But this happiness is not a long lasting one.  All the tension of striving for what we want and rejecting everything else just brings more complications and more suffering.  We’re rarely satisfied for more than a moment.  Then we’re on to achieving a new goal, having the next experience, getting a better possession, or finding the right relationship.

How about trying this – when sadness pops up, instead of running away, let her wake you up.  Sadness has the power to introduce a crack in our limited and limiting version of reality.  Maybe life isn’t all about wanting, getting, accomplishing, and possessing. Maybe there is another way.

And even if you know this already, sadness can sing you an even deeper song.

A moment of sadness can be marvelous indeed. You might see clearly for the very first time. Or you might get fantastically woken up once again.  Either way, let sadness spark your life with new meaning and purpose.

2. Let Your Heart Break Into a Million Pieces

When sadness breaks open our heart, we become fully human.

By having the courage to touch  our own pain and suffering, we can touch and feel the pain and suffering of the entire world.  We see:  your suffering and my suffering are the same.  Suffering is a common thread that unites all of humanity.  From recognizing this simple truth, a profound feeling of interconnectedness can arise.  This sense of interconnection can bring about an unspeakable joy.  It can ignite the wish to bring happiness to all others.

3.  Nothing Ever Stays the Same for Even a Moment

Sadness comes when things change – a relationship ends, someone dies, we’re fired from a job, illness descends, a friend is physically hurt, a disaster happens.  Sadness introduces us to impermanence and can help us learn to let go.

Change is the only constant in life.  Until we learn to accept change gracefully, we’ll always suffer.  There’s a blessing in embracing the beauty of impermanence.  Through doing so, we will come to value every precious moment of this life and live in a far saner and more fulfilling way.

REFLECTION:  LET SADNESS REDOUBLE OUR EFFORTS TO HELP

The quote I’ve chosen for the reflection this week is a favorite of the Dalai Lama’s.  It shows us how sadness can redouble our determination to be of service to others.

“For as long as space exists

And sentient beings endure,

May I too remain,

To dispel the misery of the world.”

-Shantideva

A HEALTHY APPROACH TO SADNESS

Now, I’m not suggesting that anyone get stuck on sadness – that would be depression.  Acknowledging, expressing, and resolving grief leads to greater health and happiness.  Repressed grief leads to contraction.

At the same time, we don’t need to push sadness away as soon as it pays a visit.  Sadness can be the doorway to profound understanding.  I feel empowered by sadness because it helps me see what really matters in life:  kindness, love, and compassion.

How do you look at sadness in your life?  Has sadness every brought more meaning or happiness into your life?

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