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Thread: How not to feel sorry for yourself?

  1. #1

    How not to feel sorry for yourself?

    Hello fellow Treeleafers,

    Today I had a very disappointing setback--a job I applied for in the city I hope to move to ASAP chose another candidate for the job over me. I was almost perfectly tailored for this job, but it was my luck that the only person who was more suited to the job--someone who had done the same exact job before--applied at the same time. Now I have very few job options left. All of the "alternatives" I thought I had have dried up or proved to be dead ends. The last option I have is a job with the same agency that's below my professional training level, and a bit of a step back in my career. My current options, IF the job is offered to me after my interview, are to accept the job with the risk that something better suited to my education and training would come along shortly after I committed to this job, or to turn it down and/or apply for any new job that comes up right away and risk burning my bridge with this agency, which is the most likely place to have a better social work opening in the city.

    Even if I get offered the job, instead of feeling happy and excited to be starting a new phase of my life, I will already start out in my new city feeling down. See, I've not had a lot of luck in a lot of areas of life. I haven't had luck in love or romance. I haven't had much luck with friends. No matter how much I've tried in recent years, I've found myself watching others around me who seem to have people who are interested in their lives and who care about them, while I only have one real friend, who is currently on the other side of the country. I've had people stab me in the back and betray me, stop talking to me randomly without any clear reason (no fights or awkward issues), and flat out just never pick up interest in knowing me beyond an acquaintance level.

    The one area in my life in which I've had luck for the most part has been my education, and now, my career. Even when everything else was failing me, I could take heart in the wonderful places where I studied and worked. But now, at a time in my life that I've been wanting to manifest an overall change for the positive, I find even this one reliable part of my life is failing me. I face the prospect of moving to a new town with no friends (I originally had a friend there, who has proven not to be a friend, so I'm back to square one on that) and now a job that is definitely a few steps backward in my career path. I'm almost hoping I get turned down for it so that I'm not pressed with the dilemma of what to do if I'm offered the job.

    I've been coming to terms lately with the fact that I'm not the nice, good person I like to think of myself as being. I am constantly full of anger and resentment. I notice more and more how much of my mental activity is anger and judgment. I space out and when I notice my mind again, I catch it in the middle of some ugly thought about someone or something. It's like it's going on in the background all the time, even when I'm not actively keeping it going. I am learning that karma is all about the ruts we create for ourselves in our minds. And watching my mother, whose self-pity and resentment leaves little room for her to feel much else, shows me that hers is the fate that awaits me if I don't stop practicing resentment and self-pity.

    So I am trying to shift my perspective. I am trying to look to the good things I have and to feel grateful. I have a place to stay and food to eat. I do have people in my life who care about me. And I really don't know what the future holds for me. Maybe life will be good again. But it is tough, because I really don't feel grateful. I wish I was that gracious. But deep down, what I truly feel is resentment and self-pity. I am starting to wonder if my luck will ever change, or if my whole life will be sparse of affection and emotional support. I know I am not as good as I wish I was, but I feel deep down I've been a good enough person that I "deserve better." And yet I see people who are even better than me suffer even more setbacks than me. So how can I sit around feeling entitled to good fortune when other decent people don't get to have it either?

    I am not a very high-energy person. It is hard for me to constantly fight an uphill battle in every area of my life. Weight loss is extremely difficult for me and requires a certain amount of pain and hunger to succeed at all. And unfortunately, the reality of our society is that even beyond romance and in terms of platonic friendship, people discount you more as a woman if you're overweight. I find socializing draining and my luck these past few years has been that all the people and relationships I've put energy into haven't panned out. But I've got to keep trying, keep looking for people and hoping I will find even just one who truly sees something worthwhile in me and wants to pursue that. I'd like to have a family some day, but I wonder if I will ever meet someone I could trust enough not to leave me high and dry after I've had children with him. I feel like if even just one area of my life was easy, it would help so much.

    There's a Neko Case song where she sings about two different women, Margaret and Pauline. "Everything's so easy for Pauline." Everyone loves her and the setbacks she experiences are minor. But Margaret's life is very difficult and people just don't love her the way they do Pauline. I feel like Margaret a lot of the time.

    I realize sometimes that my perceptions are probably not that accurate. That the people around me probably don't have it as easy as they seem to, and that I probably don't have it as bad. But this self-pity is hard to shake. I can sit zazen, do The Work, whatever, and it's still there. I know it only hurts me to feed it, and yet somehow there is a strange comfort in it. It is a very stupid addiction, I keep feeding something that barely has any positive benefit or feeling associated with it. And the one thing I can take comfort in--that I am a good person--is not true, as long as I go around filled with such shitty thoughts about other people and my life. So why can't I give up this thinking? Why do I go around resenting the hell out of life and people, when it means I'm unhappy and sowing seeds of continued unhappiness?

    Has anyone else practiced with this difficult emotion and thinking pattern? How do we break free of self-pity? How do we experience the goodness in the world when it seems like life hardly ever gives us a break?

    I apologize for going on so long.


  2. #2

    Re: How not to feel sorry for yourself?[/video]]

    Everything's so easy for Pauline
    Everything's so easy for Pauline

    Ancient strings set feet a'light to speed to her
    Such mild grace
    No monument of tacky gold
    They smooth her hair with cinnamon waves

    And they placed an ingot in her breast
    To burn cool and collected
    Fate holds her firm in its cradle
    And then rolls her for a tender pause to savor

    Everything's so easy for Pauline

    Girl with the parking lot eyes
    Margaret is the fragments of a name
    Her bravery is mistaken for the thrashing in the lake
    Of a make-believe monster whose picture is fake

    Margaret is the fragments of a name
    Her love pours like a fountain
    Her love steams like rage
    Her jaw aches from wanting
    And she's sick from chlorine
    But she'll never be as clean
    As the cool side of satin, Pauline

    Two girls ride the blue line
    Two girls walk down the same street
    One left a sweater sitting on the train
    And the other lost three fingers at the cannery

  3. #3

    Re: How not to feel sorry for yourself?

    I don't know how not to feel sorry for myself.

    When I do, I do.

    Somewhere up there in your post, Stephanie you say 'other people seem to have luck, have it better...etc' the operant word is SEEM.
    Your chosen field of work is a very very very demanding one. I share a similar profession--I am a children's social worker.
    I know the topic of burnout has been brought up in the past and it is something--those of us who share such work or circumstances of similar nature--must develope a counterbalance to. It is of paramount importance or there is the risk to health and wellbeing on multiple levels.

    I would like to consider your post and reply more fully at another time, but I want you to know that this cry has touched me and I want to respond immediately. If you lived near me, I'd put on Patti Smith's Blakean Year. I'd urge you to watch The Good The Bad The Weird with me before I have to return it to the video store. I'd see if you were up for a skate on the little outdoor rink in town before they fold it up and take it away--I've been too sick all holidays to go out on it, but am feeling up to it now...
    Give yourself a little distance from the pressures, take that load off your shoulders for a spell.

    Take good care.

  4. #4

    Re: How not to feel sorry for yourself?

    Thanks, Keishin. Your post touches me, I appreciate the fellowship.

    I like that Patti tune. I'll give it a spin.

    My problem right now isn't burnout, but the opposite. I've been home since the last week of October and haven't worked since mid-October. My life is pretty much "on hold" until I can get to a new city and start again. Now I face the prospect of my career being set back, in addition to not having it very good in the friends, romance, inner contentment, etc., areas either. I won't have much of anything to show for what I've done with my life for the past decade. Working a job someone with half my education could get, without any friends nearby, barely making enough money to get by. Nothing to brag about and not many creature comforts, wondering if and when my career will ever move forward again.

    You are right that "seem" is a key word. I know most, if not all of these stories I tell myself are false. But they are very addicting, they promise a false comfort. I know what it's like to feel tuned in to life in its immediacy but it feels like a long time since I've been tuned in. I know that the best thing for me is to take this as an opportunity to practice. I was reading Chogyam Trungpa earlier:

    "The point of the Shambhala training is to get out of the cocoon, which is the shyness and aggression in which we have wrapped ourselves. When we have more aggression, we feel more fortified. We feel good, because we have more to talk about. We feel that we are the greatest author of the complaint. We write poetry about it. We express ourselves through it. Instead of constantly complaining, can't we do something positive to help the world? The more we complain, the more concrete slabs will be put on the earth. The less we complain, the more possibilities there will be of tilling the land and sowing seeds."
    He's right. I find I prefer to stay in my cocoon of resentment and be "the greatest author of the complaint" than to look at what's actually around me and how it is workable. There is so much in my life that is workable, and yet I turn away from it and back into my mental theatre of self-pity. I know it's stupid, I know I'm working against myself, and yet I can't give it up, that sick pleasure I find in thinking about how unfair life can be, how hard it is for me, and so on. I could pick up the hoe and the shovel and make a beautiful garden but instead I sit and whine to myself about how nothing is growing there. I feel like I've put in "enough" effort to "deserve something," but what does that even mean?

  5. #5

    Re: How not to feel sorry for yourself?

    Hi Stephanie,

    Sorry to hear about the setback but perhaps it will be a setup for future good. I don't know many people that are 'the nice, good person' they like to think of themselves as being.. myself included. I also don't know that many that are as bad and damaged as they think of themselves as being. The mind is a funny thing.. it makes you a saint and a demon depending on the moment and its inclination. On that note, if you get the chance to read Buddha's Brain, which is a Buddhist book with a neuroscience slant, I think you might find it interesting. In the book, it breaks down the brain's functioning (as best we know it) and it talks about synaptic channels that form in the brain. As a thought is passed, the channel 'width' increases the more times we think that thought or type of thought.. and subsequently makes it 'easier' and more likely for similar thoughts to then pass. Its a system that feeds on itself. So if you have a negative thought then the channel widens to make further negative thoughts more likely or easier to pass, so it becomes a self-feeding system. This is the background to unshakable anxiety, negative reoccurring thoughts and so on. It also details the 'negative bias' that our bodies have, such that we respond more strongly to a negative impulse or stimulus than a positive one.. Afterall the touch of a delicate flower pedal is lovely but the touch of snake tooth is perilous. Thus we have a built-in bias or imperative that says PAY ATTENTION to this negative feeling and for you nice feelings, that's lovely - let's chase it again later. You might find it interesting.. I did... ... 1572246952

    Your email wasn't the briefest but I appreciated it much because it was straight from what you feel and think, unadulterated and without consideration to whether it portrays you as a guru or a lost soul. I find those to be the best kind. I think you 'know' the answers you seem to want, in the sense of comparing yourself to others, whether others 'seem' to have it better than you or you're unjustly treated by the world at large, and how it is you pity yourself and how to 'stop'.. etc. Akin to knowing the sermon but having a hard time living the sermon.. And like you mention yourself, the karma creates ruts in our mind - whether from a physiological perspective such as the book above or from a Buddhist perspective without the scientific current.. and so it is that which makes it so tough to give up the pity.. or anger.. or blame.. depending on your vice of choice. And just as in the physiological sense (and the book gives you means by which to counter these ruts or channels), we need to create channels of a positive nature or karma of a positive nature. Both take cultivation... it seems there is never an easy or get rich quick answer (though I did get a lovely email today from a poor fellow in Nigeria needing a bank account so that he can transfer large sums of money out of his home country). I suppose you feel that you have paid your dues for positive karma, a break in this world and a little positive reciprocality.. but it is always those expectations and agendas, those views we cling to that are the bugaboos. I can only put my two cents in.. and its to go with whatever may happen and let your mind be as free as you can get it by being as mindful of right now as you can. There's no should be, there's just 'is' .. may this 'is' be what 'is' for you.

    _/_ Nate

  6. #6

    Re: How not to feel sorry for yourself?

    Nate, thanks for the perspective. It is very clear. I like the neurological explanation of mental karma, it accords with my experience.

    I am working on changing my patterns, ruts, and habits. I know I could feel very blessed if I took a different perspective on my same situation. It is not so easy!

    But at least the work is beginning. At least I have some inkling that I'm creating and perpetuating this mindstate and can direct my mind in different ways. For that I am grateful. But this practice will only manifest in my life if I take it up in earnest and use it as an alternative to the seductions of the ego.


  7. #7

    Re: How not to feel sorry for yourself?


    What part of 'Life is suffering' don't you understand?

  8. #8

    Re: How not to feel sorry for yourself?

    All of it, apparently!

  9. #9

    Re: How not to feel sorry for yourself?

    Hi Stephanie,

    Sorry to hear about the setback with the job hunt and I know that stinging feeling of not having everything settle together like we'd like it to. I count myself lucky for the most part as my romantic life really fell into place and although other parts of my life have taken crazy turns, I'm not sure where I'd be if I hadn't met my wife. I actually shudder to think how much of my heart I used to put out to potential mates and how someone could have come in and trampled on my feelings. It's likely I would have let them do so without much argument. I don't say all that to rub it in your face that I'm married and your not...just that like much of life my having met my wife was the result of a moment; one that could easily not have happened.

    Where I can relate is having "bad luck" with friends and I too have had folks just walk away with little discussion of why. I hope you know that I consider you a friend and that I believe you have many others here. I can tend to shy away from people I don't fully understand (which is most people I suppose), so if I ever seem that way to you it's probably because I feel intimidated. I'll try to work on that.

    I don't think I can offer any answers to your questions other than to say that we all fall into these patterns, but I think when people come out of them they can be hesitant to recount those times. I know if I had more true friends I might not be as open to having new ones as I am now, so I try to remember where I have been fortunate and where others may not have been so lucky. I'f my circumstances were different I'd happily have given up half a dozen very close friends for one real relationship like I have with my wife, so I have little regret. But before I met her I spent a lot of time alone still living with my folks and wondering why I couldn't get a break. Fortunately, I did...I really don't know why you haven't. But I still feel that way about friends and having someone to talk with other than loading my wife with all my stressors once and awhile would certainly be nice.

    So, that may not have made much sense since the hour is late and may have been spectacular only in its lack of helpfulness. I won't say "hang in there" since I used to hate it when people said that to me as it seemed to mean, "You'll get what I have someday." But I honestly do think things will work out for you if you keep putting yourself out there in all parts of your life. Please take care and feel free to drop me a line anytime as I'm not usually very far from my computer.


  10. #10

    Re: How not to feel sorry for yourself?

    Dosho, do not fret, your words are more helpful than you realize. I do consider you and other Treeleafers as my friends and sangha, but it's never the same when you can't have true "face time" with someone.

    I do not take offense to your discussion of your wife. I am happy you have her. You validate my feelings somewhat but also give me hope.

    I have found you to be a warm and open minded person. I can intimidate because I'm like a bull in a china shop sometimes, I know. I try to work on that also, but often unsuccessfully

  11. #11

    Re: How not to feel sorry for yourself?

    The perfect weight
    the perfect mate
    The perfect house
    the perfect spouse
    The perfect job
    the perfect hobby
    Perfect friends
    yet suffering still...
    "Every day a happy day"
    yes, suffering does and doesn't end

  12. #12

    Re: How not to feel sorry for yourself?


    Some very good posts here, and more to come no doubt.

    My 0.02, is that everything changes.
    The only thing we can do is hold on for the ride and make the most of it.

    Here's two posts about the subject...
    when life hits you in the face
    teachings of a daruma doll

    And remember, if you feel down, we're here right by you.
    Same goes when feeling up, we're here.
    But at the same time, when feeling down, feel down; when feeling good feel good.
    Thats it.


  13. #13

    Re: How not to feel sorry for yourself?

    Quote Originally Posted by Keishin
    The perfect weight
    the perfect mate
    The perfect house
    the perfect spouse
    The perfect job
    the perfect hobby
    Perfect friends
    yet suffering still...
    "Every day a happy day"
    yes, suffering does and doesn't end
    Thank you for this Keishin...



  14. #14

    Re: How not to feel sorry for yourself?

    Hello Stephanie,

    wow, quite a few great posts there offering really sound advice in my humble opinion. Thank you all for that.

    What you wrote reminded me of some situations I myself have been in....all that life taught me ultimately always is what it is and not what I want it to be. That might sound a bit depressing at first, but the deeper truth is really that your life doesn't start at a particular point when you finally get that job or that partner you have always wanted, but it is NOW. Being in the Now is not a quick fix for everything ( no matter how much we might like Eckhart Tolle), but facing it on its own terms was the only thing that helped me over years to surrender to what is...and to start working with what is. I didn't become a famous rock star or a Hollywood director, I didn't turn into a deadly Ninja warrior...instead I still have my thin wrists and am only really good at cuddling cats. Seeing that that's the most wonderful thing in the world took some time. I am absolutely confident that you will emerge even stronger from whatever ordeals you might be facing right now. Thank you for being here at Treeleaf.



  15. #15

    Re: How not to feel sorry for yourself?

    Hi Stephanie,

    Sorry to sound like the advice columnist from the newspaper here, but a lot of what I am about to say is just common sense, I think.

    So many people write me about unemployment and losing their jobs in this economy! If you have a roof over your head right now, be thankful. Keep looking for that better job, and something may come up you don't expect. Think about perhaps using your skills and degree in a position you have not considered.

    As Keishin said, this is just life. Everybody has times like these, problems in life. That does not make it fun ... but it is just life. A friend who has had a real string of bad luck wrote me this week, "It's "just life" ... though not the hand I would have wished life to deal me, its ok."

    It is good you recognize that the "mind theatre" is taking the situation and adding 1001 negative thoughts to it. Even though the mind says "it is the end of the world, life is terrible, i am terrible" ... it is probably not so. Thus, we sit Zazen, dropping the "mind theatre" away from awhile.

    Accept the situations that cannot be changed.

    Know that situations which seem like they will never change or never happen (finding friends, a life companion) most likely will change in time.

    Further, know what you can change and work on it! There are techniques, skills that one can master to make friends, find someone to love and love you. In fact, it is one of the few times that you will hear me recommend getting a "self help" book, but their really are some good ones on those subjects ... teaching effective skills and strategies to meet people, make friends and settle into a new town.

    I was just as confused in my twenties, pretty lonely, smoking two packs a day, stressed and (in my case) overworked.

    It did not last forever, and it did get better with a little effort, some smart life choices ... and the non-effort of Zazen.

    Gassho, J

  16. #16

    Re: How not to feel sorry for yourself?

    Ditto to what everyone else said. :mrgreen:

    In terms of trying to be nice, I consider myself an A-hole (sorry for the language).

    I don't know you other than your posts here, but who gives a crap about being nice? I've had enough nice growing up, and where does it get you? When I think of nice I think of that placating or sycophantic behavior that usually worsens a situation and never engenders a damned authentic interaction with another human being. It's sort of like Marcia Cross' character on Desperate Housewives.. that fake external image.

    In any case, i've never thought of you as being nice. I have thought of you as someone who is incredibly self-aware for their age and someone who is an intrinsic and inspiring part of this sangha. If you were nice, I doubt you would respond as passionately as you do to issues around here. So please, do not try to be nice.

    I recently re-read something that Pema Chodron said, and I wrote it down in my journal because it echoes my own feelings of self denegration, and I think it applies here.

    "The problem is that the desire to change is fundamentally a form of aggression toward yourself. The other problem is that our hangups, unfortunately or fortunately, contain our wealth."

    As Jundo said, my 20's were really tough as well. I used to smoke a lot and I didn't know my place in the world. It was just tough, but things do tend to work themselves out.



  17. #17

    Re: How not to feel sorry for yourself?

    Wow, I appreciate the awesome and diverse feedback, everyone. A lot to chew on.

    Risho, I like what you said about being "nice." I feel the same way. When I say "nice" in reference to an aspiration for myself, I don't mean "meek" or "impeccably polite," or whatever. I mean not going around harboring these ugly thoughts I find in my head a lot of the time. It's not so much that I want other people to think I'm "nice"--I learned long ago that people's opinions of each other usually only reflect their biases. People talk trash about good people and praise bad people. It's really just that I don't like what's going on in my own headspace. I'm aware of the hypocrisy in how I judge people, when I'm going around being just as petty, if only inwardly, a lot of the time. But mostly, it's just stupid, because I'm making myself miserable, and don't have to.

    Jundo, I appreciate the encouragement, and your helpful practice reminders. I always remember what you say about the "mind theatre." Realizing that it's a theatre helps set me straight a lot of the time.

    A lot of well-meaning people, when I try to explain my frustrations, offer me advice on how to meet people, etc. That's not what I have a problem with! I don't have social anxiety (thankfully), I know how to go into a room and connect and converse with people. The problem I keep running into isn't a lack of meeting people, but a lack of those meetings translating into continued, quality social contact. And I don't expect everyone I meet to be my BFF. But it sucks when the people you think are your "BFFs" don't come through as friends, and then the more casual friends you have disappear from your life almost as quickly as they came into it.

    Hans, I like your description of having weak wrists and being best at cuddling cats. Ha! I've definitely had to confront and let go of many delusions of grandeur I've had. I realized when I moved out of New York back to Southwest Virginia that I'm really not that special, I'm just another working person looking for the same things as most everyone else. I can accept that I'm not going to have this glamorous, "special" life, what's tough is wondering if those "simple things" are even going to come my way.

    Fugen, I appreciate your perspective and have enjoyed those posts of yours before, thanks for reminding me of them.

    Thanks, everyone, for the encouragement and perspective. I have to keep reminding myself of the truth of impermanence and change. The shape of my life now is different from what it will be later.

    But I really do have this as a practice question--which is why I posted this in this forum--how do we let go of these delicious, addictive stories we tell ourselves? On an intellectual level, I know that half or more of what I'm thinking isn't true, and these thoughts are discouraging, and yet there is a strange addictive quality to them. I really want to stop going around feeling sorry for myself, but I keep falling back into it!

  18. #18

    Re: How not to feel sorry for yourself?

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    But I really do have this as a practice question--which is why I posted this in this forum--how do we let go of these delicious, addictive stories we tell ourselves? On an intellectual level, I know that half or more of what I'm thinking isn't true, and these thoughts are discouraging, and yet there is a strange addictive quality to them. I really want to stop going around feeling sorry for myself, but I keep falling back into it!
    You can´t get rid of these thoughts entirely (not that that´s what you´re saying), but through the practice of sitting you should be able to give them some space, some distance, and not having you´re self getting tangled up in them. And I guess you already know this.


  19. #19

    Re: How not to feel sorry for yourself?

    hi stephanie

    words i try to remember and typically forget for my frequent wallowings in the lousy ponds of self-pity:

    There are thousands upon thousands of students
    who have practised meditation and obtained its fruits.
    Do not doubt its possibilities because of the simplicity of the method.
    If you can not find the truth right where you are,
    where else do you expect to find it?

    for me, knowing that and not doing it is always the same as not knowing it -- and just doing it always makes it better.

    thanks for your many helpful posts.


  20. #20

    Re: How not to feel sorry for yourself?

    "At this very moment, what more need we seek?"

    This tiny phrase comes from Hakuin's Song of Zazen--one of the chants regularly used by One Drop LA, (later named Tanden Zendo), a rinzai group affiliated with Shodo Harada Roshi (Sogen-ji in Japan is the head temple).

    It is this petit but potent snippet of that chant which saves me from myself many times over.

    There are other snatches of other sutras and chants which come to me at other times to help with other puposes; but this particular phrase takes whatever ails me at the moment and dispells it.

    It isn't just words for me. I am connected to it because for the years I sat with this group this was part of one of the chants, and each time I chanted these words they did something to my being. Still do.

    I don't chant regularly anymore, the group I sit with now only chants The Great Heart of Wisdom Sutra once a month when we do a one day sesshin. But the little phrase is with me, Thank You, Hakuin!

    Maybe you also have a salve for the places that hurt, Stephanie. For me it is 'at this very moment, what more need we seek?'

  21. #21

    Re: How not to feel sorry for yourself?

    Remember, you are not the only one this has happened to!

  22. #22

    Re: How not to feel sorry for yourself?

    Quote Originally Posted by Keishin
    "At this very moment, what more need we seek?"

    This tiny phrase comes from Hakuin's Song of Zazen'
    Like a child wandering poor on this earth ...

    Ah, also one of my favorite chants, which we entone each year during our Annual 2-Day online Rohatsu Retreat (I dedicate it to Doshin Cantor, a priest with the White Plum, who I consider one of my teachers). ... antor-bio/

    Powerful, and very much appropriate to the topic ...

    Song of Zazen
    by Zen Master Hakuin Ekaku

    From the very beginning all beings are buddha;
    like water and ice, without water no ice; outside us no buddhas.
    How near the truth yet how far we seek;
    like one in water crying "I thirst,"
    like a child of rich birth wand'ring poor on this earth,
    we endlessly circle the Six Worlds.
    The cause of our sorrow is ego delusion;
    from dark path to dark path we've wandered in darkness;
    how can we be free from birth and death?

    The Gateway to freedom is zazen samadhi;
    beyond exaltation, beyond all our praises; the pure Mahayana.
    Upholding the precepts, repentance and giving;
    the thousand good deeds, and the way of right living,
    all come from zazen.
    Thus one true samadhi extinguishes evils;
    it purifies karma, dissolving obstructions.
    Then where are the dark paths to lead us astray?
    The pure lotus land is not far away.

    Hearing this truth, heart humble and grateful;
    to praise and embrace it, to practice its wisdom,
    brings unending blessings; brings mountains of merit.
    And when we turn inward, and prove our true nature:
    that true self is noself, our own self is noself,
    we go beyond ego and past clever words.
    Then the gate to the oneness of cause and effect is thrown open;
    not two and not three, straight ahead runs the Way.
    Our form being noform, in going and coming we never leave home;
    our thought being nothought, our dancing and songs are the voice of the dharma!

    How vast is the heaven of boundless samadhi;
    how bright and transparent, the moonlight of wisdom!
    What is there outside us; what is there we lack?
    Nirvana is openly shown to our eyes!
    This earth where we stand is the pure lotus land;
    and this very body, the body of buddha!

  23. #23

    Re: How not to feel sorry for yourself?

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    But I really do have this as a practice question--which is why I posted this in this forum--how do we let go of these delicious, addictive stories we tell ourselves? On an intellectual level, I know that half or more of what I'm thinking isn't true, and these thoughts are discouraging, and yet there is a strange addictive quality to them. I really want to stop going around feeling sorry for myself, but I keep falling back into it!
    I don't think that creating models of reality filled with anxiety and fear are absolutely bad. They have a purpose even if it's just to fill emptiness. But there comes a point when asking What is this? is helpful as a first step in letting go. Of cause we don't really know and settling into this don't know, just breathing, just perceiving is about the best we can do.

    Stephanie, you are not alone. I've said lately that this is the 'winter of my discontent' and I'm taking it one little step at a time.

    Does the ego entity exist or not? No, the ego entity does not exist.

  24. #24

    Re: How not to feel sorry for yourself?

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    But I really do have this as a practice question--which is why I posted this in this forum--how do we let go of these delicious, addictive stories we tell ourselves? On an intellectual level, I know that half or more of what I'm thinking isn't true, and these thoughts are discouraging, and yet there is a strange addictive quality to them. I really want to stop going around feeling sorry for myself, but I keep falling back into it!
    First let me tell you how I stop feeling sorry for myself, when the feeling arises. I stop by feeling sorry for myself. I let it play itself out, like a wound up child, but I try not to give it any more attention than is required to ensure it doesn't do something it shouldn't , or break something, or become the motive for further thought.

    Yeah, there definitely is an addictive quality to these thoughts. Let me ask you this, does that addictive feeling feel more persuasive now that you have been practicing for a while? I ask because I think, for me anyway, that it feels like that because my ego self is finally getting some attention. It doesn't know what to do with itself, so it acts like a dog that's so happy to see it's master that it pees on the carpet :mrgreen:. I think that the way to avoid that is to realize that they feel so addictive because the "self" that you know is just a construct is getting a pat on the head, and it wants more, so it makes the sensation addictive in order to try and put you in a position to feed that addiction. The old "deep breath, take a moment to see what is really happening, and reaffirm what you know to be true" helps me out in these situations. I look and say, "well, I'm wallowing in self-pity and that isn't going to solve anything, it's not going to change the world, today's events, my situation, in fact, it won't even stir my coffee. I'm doing it because there is 30 some odd years of psychological "muscle memory" that wants to stroke the ego and make me feel better, or vindicated, or to reaffirm my self worth in a situation that would otherwise bring me down. That's all it is, smoke and mirrors, clouds and fog. No substance. Now, time to formulate a plan on how to deal with / overcome the situation I now find myself in."

    Sometimes, all that even works. A bit. ops:

  25. #25

    Re: How not to feel sorry for yourself?

    Christopher, I think you have it exactly right. The brain really does resist new/different ways of thinking about the world. Old thought patterns do have an addictive quality.

    And Stephanie, I've been trying to think of something helpful to say--much of what you're going through, I've been through in my 20s (except I couldn't even get the jobs below my level :roll: ). Go through what you have to go through. Much metta to you in these difficult times.



  26. #26

    Re: How not to feel sorry for yourself?


    I chose not to quote the entire chant above. The version familiar to me is slightly different in translation than the one you provided, here it is for comparison sake:

    Hakuin Zenji's Song of Zazen

    All sentient beings are essentially Buddhas.
    As with water and ice, there is no ice without water;
    apart from sentient beings, there are no Buddhas.
    Not knowing how close the truth is, we seek it far away--
    what a pity!
    We are like one who in the midst of water cries out desperately in thirst.
    We are like the son of a rich man who wandered away among the poor.
    The reason we transmigrate through the Six Realms is because we are lost
    in the darkness of ignorance.
    Going further and further astray in the darkness,
    how can we ever be free from birth-and-death?
    As for the Mahayana practice of zazen, there are no words to praise it fully.
    The Six Paramitas, such as giving, maintaining the precepts,
    and various other good deeds like invoking the Buddha's name,
    repentance, and spiritual training, all finally return to the practice of zazen.
    Even those who have sat zazen only once will see all karma erased.
    Nowhere will they find evil paths and the Pure Land will not be far away.
    If we listen even once with open heart to this truth,
    then praise it and gladly embrace it,
    how much more so then, if on reflecting within ourselves we directly realize Self-nature,
    giving proof to the truth that Self-nature is no nature.
    We will have gone far beyond idle speculation.
    The gate of the oneness of cause and effect is thereby opened,
    and not-two, not-three, straight ahead runs the Way.
    Realizing the form of no-form as form, whether going or returning we cannot be any place else.
    Realizing the thought of no-thought as thought,
    whether singing or dancing, we are the voice of the Dharma.
    How vast and wide the unobstructed sky of samadhi!
    How bright and clear the perfect moonlight of the Fourfold Wisdom!
    At this moment what more need we seek?
    As the eternal tranquility of Truth reveals itself to us,
    this very place is the Land of Lotuses and this very body is the body of the Buddhas.

    As y'all can see, my memory inaccurately recalled the phrase as being "At this very moment what more need we seek?" When actually in the chant it is, in this version "At this moment, what more need we seek?"

    Hellos to everyone posting here, seeking and not!

    Somewhere back in the archives I started a thread in which different translations of the Four Great Vows and such were offered for comparison. You too, gentle readers, may find it of interest.

  27. #27

    Re: How not to feel sorry for yourself?


    I hope you can see what a rich field of practice you have--one we all can and do share! There is so much to respond to, I try to keep my reply succinct, but I keep finding one more thing, one more thing that wants to be said, for example in your response to Risho this just popped right out to me:

    "it's just stupid, I'm making myself miserable and don't have to"

    I would beg to differ. There is it's own wisdom in the behavior. To me, this is key.
    I would examine this one backwards forwards up and down and inside out.
    Such a koan!

    Valentine's Day is coming soon....I'll tell you of a koan which naturally arose for me years ago when sitting with Jifu Gower: "When I say the words 'I love you,' who is the "I" and who is the "you"?

    Maybe we should start a new thread "Koans naturally arising in daily life"?

  28. #28

    Re: How not to feel sorry for yourself?

    Stephanie, some of this sounds very familiar to me. I am 52 years old with no romantic relationship. I haven’t had one in a long time and I have no prospects for one now, nor do I expect one anymore. All of my 20’s and 30’s, along with a good chunk of my 40’s, were spent watching (what seemed like) all the people around me get matched up, married, and moved on. I kept figuring my turn would come, but it never did. All I ever got was the heartache. Along that same timeframe I went from a lot of friends to a few to now maybe one. All of this drove me to despair. At some sneaky and undefined point my life became empty and barren, nothing at all what I ever expected, certainly not what I felt I deserved. Why should I have such an empty life when I was even more deserving of happiness than people not as good as me? Why should people who had not struggled the way I had for personal and relationship success get it but not me? But these questions are ultimately useless and unanswerable, to say nothing of selfish.

    The real issue is this: how do you cope with such despair? A simple and dualistic answer is you can either escape life or engage it. Escape comes in external forms such as drugs and alcohol or internal forms such as negativity and judgmentalism – and I have done some of these things as well as others, all to no avail. Engaging the problem comes in the form of taking responsibility, examining your life, and taking active steps to change, all of which can be found in this practice. Ever since taking up this practice in my mid-40’s I have been moving away from escape towards engagement. It is my journey from samsara toward nirvana.

    You are on a long road to a destination that is probably far away, but it sounds like you want to be there right NOW. It ain’t gonna happen. Focusing on the destination outcome keeps you stuck in suffering, but by focusing on the journey process you can begin to free yourself from that suffering. The more you ask “Am I there yet?” the more you and everyone else around you suffer and the bumpier the ride feels. But when you start saying “Hey, check out the scenery” the road begins to get smoother and the suffering begins to lessen. Note I did not say the suffering goes away, because that’s just crazy talk.

    Progress on the journey will happen, but keep in mind it will likely be incremental progress. The going for me has been slow, and many times I have taken some steps backward before waking up to it and taking forward steps again. I cannot tell you how many times I have had to relearn that engagement works better than escape. There have been times I felt I would never learn that, but when I take the big perspective of where I was then to where I am now I can see that I am learning. Here are some things I have found to be helpful on my journey:
    • Metta for myself, especially, but also making a point to include lots of others
    • Sympathetic joy – learning to take pleasure in others good fortune
    • Acceptance (of my life as it is) without acceptance (so that I can make a choice to change things or not)
    • Taking responsibility instead of blaming anything external; even in the case of some random external event, I need to examine what role I played in it because me and the event are not two
    • I am perfectly Alan right now, because what else could I be right now?
    • Despite my “perfection” I can, and will, do better because the process of life allows me this opportunity
    • Practice, practice, practice all of the above via zazen, living the precepts, Treeleaf activities, etc.

    Finally, let’s deconstruct this idea that you deserve something, anything. Basically, feeling you deserve something is an ego game that is rigged against your life. Thinking about it in terms of gambling, your ego is playing a game that your life can never really win. At best, it’s what gamblers call a push. If your ego thinks you deserve something and you get it, then you’re even; it’s a push. If you are smart, you will walk away from the table right then. But if you start to congratulate yourself (ego) on getting what you (ego) felt you (ego) deserved then you (ego) start to think you (ego) deserve even more, so you (ego) play even more, until, ultimately, your life begins to suffer, because the game is rigged so that the house always wins in the end. Thus the more you play the “deserving” game, the more suffering you set yourself up for.

    To think you deserve something is just an idea, a thought, and what does our practice tell us about our thoughts? To think you deserve something is just another form of delusion. Every time I start talking like that to myself I try to catch it and let it go. What happens happens, and that’s both the beginning and end of it.

    Bon voyage, Stephanie, may your journey get smoother. I bet it wll.

  29. #29

    Re: How not to feel sorry for yourself?

    On a lighter note, Stephanie, you can always use the technique demonstrated here by Bob Newhart as a way to stop feeling sorry for yourself.
    http://<iframe class="restrain" titl...="0"></iframe>

  30. #30

    Re: How not to feel sorry for yourself?

    Al you are an inspiration.
    Deep Gassho with great respect.

  31. #31

    Re: How not to feel sorry for yourself?

    I admit i have not read all of the advice people have given here. but those i have read seem sound.
    Stephanie i know how you feel since i have felt it myself many times and sometimes still do. i would like to give you an answer that will make it all clear and tolerable again. but alas we both know that there is nothing i could do or say to change it. what you feel is what you feel. you are right changing your perspective would probably make a difference but for some reason i have a feeling that is a long way coming. but what i can tell you is this, life is just life. i know it sounds like a pile of bullshit but it is true. you cant change the way you look at things by just wishing it so. it requires time and work. although you will be tempted to work really hard and do it fast i am reminded of a certain zen story i once read.

    A martial arts student went to his teacher and said earnestly, "I am devoted to studying your martial system. How long will it take me to master it."
    The teacher's reply was casual, "Ten years."
    Impatiently, the student answered, "But I want to master it faster than that. I will work very hard. I will practice everyday, ten or more hours a day if I have to. How long will it take then?"
    The teacher thought for a moment, "20 years."
    i do not know what to tell you since i am just a human being with my own limited understanding and my own imperfections. but i tell you one thing i understand life is just that... it is life nothing more nothing less.
    right now it is raining outside my window it is 2am in the morning and i will go sit zazen. i might even drift off and fall asleep. or i might fidget and wish for it to end. but i will sit it just as i do each day. i do it for no reason whatsoever but i just do it. sometimes i feel i have lost my love for zazen and i do nothing but sit and drift off in thought and my zazen is horrible. but i actually learned to let it be. no matter what is going on i might be angry or i might be happy i just sit and no matter what happens or what i think i just let it be and accept it as what it is nothing more, nothing less.

    so i guess what im trying to say Stephanie, is hang in there and just let it be. i wish we were closer geographically so i could invite you to our place for some green tea, or even better a beer! because it seems to me that what you really need right now is someone to talk to and to listen to you over a drink without thinking of what people might think or the consequences of what you say.

    Gassho, Dojin.

  32. #32

    Re: How not to feel sorry for yourself?

    I feel so fortunate to know you all...thank you for all your openess and wonderful insight!

    Deep bows,


  33. #33

    Re: How not to feel sorry for yourself?

    Thank you Stephanie for sharing and thank you all for these great teachings.
    Not much to say. I have lost two marriages, jobs, friends, countless opportunities as I look back, no regret whatsoever. My life as imperfect as it is is exactly what I am satisfied with. Every mihap or accident along the way was just what was needed too.



  34. #34

    Re: How not to feel sorry for yourself?


    What would happen if you stopped trying to change your life?

    You would be free to enjoy it, ALL of it.

    What if you stopped trying to change yourself, even your "bad" self?

    Maybe you would fall in love the person you are left with.

    Hope this helps.


  35. #35

    Re: How not to feel sorry for yourself?

    Quote Originally Posted by Keishin

    What part of 'Life is suffering' don't you understand?


    Gassho, Jennifer

  36. #36

    Re: How not to feel sorry for yourself?

    Thank you Taigu...all our errors and misfortunes could be construed as a means that brings us to our true path.
    I know I would go through all the pain and suffering again to be in the 'here and now' with the people I am in the 'here and now' with, doing what I am doing and not doing.
    It's hard to explain, when you cannot see the end to misery... but ....the universe may not always give you what you want but it nearly always gives you what you need... even if that feels unfair at times.

  37. #37

    Re: How not to feel sorry for yourself?

    Yes, what makes us "perfect" is all the "imperfections" along the way.

  38. #38

    Re: How not to feel sorry for yourself?


    I'd like to offer a different perspective. You seem to be reaching for some place "beyond" the negativity and despair you are feeling now. But the problem is, "wherever you go...there you are." I don't think that even if you found the perfect job, perfect mate, perfect city, that you would necessarily shake this problem. As Nate noted, these mental "ruts" have been created in the brain, and external changes will likely make no difference.

    Let me share this. I have a wonderful job, high paying, amazing benefits, flexible hours, and about the best boss you could ask for. I have a fantastic wife who I love and who loves me dearly. We have been together for over a decade now. I have two healthy, beautiful daughters; couldn't ask for better kids. I have a handful of very close friends that I depend on without question. My entire immediate family and most of my extended family live nearby, and we see everyone regularly. My biological parents are still married after 40 years and have given me nothing but love and support my entire life.

    Sounds perfect? It is, and I couldn't ask for anything more.

    And yet... my mind is much like yours. I think of myself as a good man, full of patience and equinimity and boundless compassion.

    But that's a lie. I suffer from anxiety. I'm irritable and bitter. I judge others constantly and superficially. I get mad at those around me for no reason. I have trouble getting myself out of bed in the morning. I feel sorry for myself constantly. I "want something better."

    So... I don't have any good answers for you, other than to say it really is all in the mind, and not dependent so much on external factors.

    I guess I just want you to know that I completely empathize with those feelings, even though our situations are completely different.

    I hope my biographical sketch didn't come off as ridiculously arrogant--my point was just to demonstrate that even having "the good life" doesn't necessarily make life good.

    I hope you can find some peace. And if you find it, please share it!

    Take care,

  39. #39

    Re: How not to feel sorry for yourself?

    I am touched and honored by what everyone has shared here. You all have given wonderful feedback, but what has helped more than anything is the perspective, and reminder, that this is something everyone experiences from time to time, regardless of the circumstances of their lives.

    My second job interview went well, but I won't know if I am being offered the position for another week or two. I feel almost exactly like I felt the last time--that from what I was told, I'm practically a shoo-in. But that's how I felt last time! So we'll see. If I do get offered the position, it seems it will be a more stressful job, but it also offers some perks the last potential job did not. I am hopeful, because I am ready to start a new life!

    The main thing is that my attitude and perspective have changed, thanks in no small part to the feedback and support I have found here. I have been sitting zazen some more, and really reckoning with myself. What kind of life do I want to have? One in which I am constantly competing, comparing, trying to climb up the ladder, or one where I can slow down and appreciate the textures, moods, and tastes, of each passing day?

    I remembered so vividly it was almost a flashback the way I used to enter each day when I was in college. I was much more capable of immersing myself in experiences and fully enjoying them, simple things such as going for a walk in a botanical garden or sitting in my room with candles lit. I have over time become much more rushed and restless. I think many factors have influenced this, and living in the New York metro area for three years was no small part. I was even consciously aware then of how much more aggressive I was becoming, and didn't like it.

    Regardless, I realized that it's not so difficult to shift my attitude. I moved back to this part of the country for many reasons, but one was the ability to return to a slower pace of life, which has always suited my temperament better. And I realize... I don't have to live the way I lived in New York any more. Each day can be more simple and relaxed, with more palpable light and space.

    A lot of times we can try to "psych" ourselves up like this and end up in some fake, forced posture, when we really don't feel any differently. But I'm not doing this, trying to suppress what I feel. I just truly experienced a shift... I think a lot of it was realizing that life isn't as... compressed as it was in New York. And I'm free to drop a lot of the defensive posturing I developed up there. There is no rush.

    The really relevant practice part of all this is seeing how much the felt experience of daily life bends to my thinking. As has happened many times over in my life, I have experienced a reaffirmation of the Buddha's most basic teaching of the Four Noble Truths. I was really moved when I finally watched the PBS special on 'The Buddha.' Even though none of it was something I was hearing for the first time, it struck me at the right time, and I realized... I have a choice. We all have a choice. We can take up the path at any point, or we can forget it. I so often forget it.

    So often, I get right up off the cushion and right back into compulsive activity and complaining. What is the point of reading and hearing so much Dharma teaching, and sitting, if I abandon the wisdom gained and do not apply or practice it? This has inspired me to take up my practice anew. Not with some idealistic, determined military sense about it. But out of remembering, and experiencing, the freedom it can bring, and the aliveness of life when lived outside of the limiting sphere of complaint!

    Thank you to all, and gassho.

  40. #40

    Re: How not to feel sorry for yourself?


    I'm impressed with your honesty and willingness to share. You are stronger than you think you are. No advice but I am thinking good things for you as i'm sure many many others are.


  41. #41

    Re: How not to feel sorry for yourself?

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    This has inspired me to take up my practice anew. Not with some idealistic, determined military sense about it. But out of remembering, and experiencing, the freedom it can bring, and the aliveness of life when lived outside of the limiting sphere of complaint!
    Are you aware of how many beautiful things come out of your mouth?

    As in the mouth, so in the heart.

    Being inspired by our suffering to "take up our practice anew" is the point, isn't it? Then suffering turns into something useful, something to open our hearts rather than shut us down.

    I have enjoyed having a window into your journey here on Treeleaf. Thank you for being brave enough, no, thank you for being hungry enough for the truth, that you would expose yourself, all of yourself, here for us
    to see. As a result, I have learned alot about myself. Truly you are a bodhisattva.

    Enjoy your journey.


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