Mirror of Zen Blog

Reply to a Reader: Not Allowed to Be Happy?


Dear Sunim,
I have a question. Sometimes I feel such strong happiness and gratitude. But then when I become aware of that feeling, immediately I feel a “I’m-not-allowed-to-be happy”-feeling. Why?
And what should I do?



That “I’m-not-allowed-to-be-happy”-feeling is just checking-mind. Checking-checking-checking-checking mind. It’s a mind-habit — whether from your childhood or your culture or your religion or some trauma or whatever. It’s a learned response coming from a remembered/experienced hurt. Since we are naturally hardwired for happiness, when we experience something which “blocks” that, please be assured that you are merely experiencing a mind-habit — the Sanskrit word for this is “karma”. It’s like looking at a beautiful flower, and then someone puts the shadow of their hand on the flower. The shadow seems to “be” there, covering the clear colors of the flower. But the shadow is not really there — it’s not even a thing, an “it”. Karma is just like that: empty.

What to do to break free from this? With regular practice, this mind-habit melts away, like a morning fog-vapor burned through by the rising sun. This is not some magic claim: the unfiltered seeing (meditation) of that “I’m-not-allowed-to-be-happy”-feeling emerging in the conscious mind, enduring for some time (either long or short), and its eventual dissolution back into emptiness — the recognition that this “I’m-not-allowed-to-be-happy”-feeling is itself empty, at its origin, and that it never ever ever appears or disappears, in fact — perceiving this is already the “melting away” of that one empty thought’s ability to control you. Eventually, it arises no more (or at least less so). Constancy and consistency in practice will then fully digest the karma underlying this habit-mind “shadow”. A greater spaciousness emerges in the mind, as a result, and with that, greater connection with your own innate True Self. This is experienced as a “happiness” beyond mere feelings of “happy” or “sad”, a kind of long-running ecstasy that is beyond birth and death.

Try it!


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