What You Can Learn from Buddhism

When some people think about meditation, the first word that comes to mind is Buddhism. But most people know as much about Buddhism as they know about supernova nucleosynthesis. The goal of Buddhist meditation isn’t to suppress emotions that are harmful, but rather to identify how they arise, how they are experienced, and how they influence us over the long run. For Buddhists, the good life isn’t achieved by transcending an emotion — not even hatred — but by effectively managing it. Here are the three mental processes that are most toxic to the mind (and that lead to all kinds of mental suffering):

  • Craving: Me, mine, mmmm. Craving happens when a person exaggerates the good qualities of something (icing!) while ignoring the bad ones (calories!). Therefore, cravings can disrupt the balance of the mind, easily leading to anxiety, misery, fear, and anger.
  • Hatred: The reverse of craving, hatred exaggerates the bad qualities and deemphasizes the good ones. It’s driven by the wish to harm or destroy anything that gets in your way. The impression is that the dissatisfaction belongs to whatever it is that causes the hatred, when the actual source of it is in the mind alone.
  • Delusion: According to Buddhism, the self is constantly in a state of dynamic flux and is profoundly interdependent with other people and the environment. However, people habitually delude themselves about the actual nature of the self by superimposing the interpretations of their own reality.

Try this to help channel negative emotions: Wear some kind of wristband or rubber band on your wrist, and every time you find yourself doing something positive (like resisting bad cravings or feeling empathy rather than hatred), switch the band to the other wrist. That ritual of positive reinforcement helps reinforce good behavior — and acts as a warning against bad behavior.

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