Author Topic: ‘Happiness’, delusion, Zen & books  (Read 9711 times)

Portia

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‘Happiness’, delusion, Zen & books
« on: June 01, 2007, 09:43:01 AM »
I’ve been pondering my Amazon Wish List (“I must Improve Myself with more reading!” *joke*)

I was wondering if this makes sense to anyone.

Thinking about getting: ‘The Path of the Human Being: Zen Teachings on the Bodhisattva Way’ by Dennis Genpo Merzel and been reading the first few pages at Amazon.com of his other book, ‘The Eye Never Sleeps’. I read these pages, about suffering and attachment (what we think of love is in fact attachment and that love is something different etc) and thinking…
…okay, yes…..do I want to spend any cash here?

Then I went back to reading a review of ‘Stumbling On Happiness’ by Daniel Gilbert and thought about this (from the review here: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/07/books/review/07stossell.html?ex=1304654400&en=9f736b0ee7b820df&ei=5088 )

Interestingly, the clinically depressed seem less susceptible to these basic cognitive errors. For instance, healthy people can be deluded into greater happiness when granted the mere illusion of control over their environment; the clinically depressed recognize the illusion for what it is. All in all, it's yet more evidence that unhappy people have the more accurate view of reality — and that learning how to kid ourselves may be a key to mental health.

And I thought about the two together……that in wanting to read the Zen books, I do feel as though I’m deliberately entering a realm of ‘kidding myself’.

If healthy is deluded, do I want to be happy/healthy? (as defined by other people?)

I’m not so sure! I grew up in a house of lies, so I’ve pursued ‘truth’ or ‘reality’, one way or another.

If looking for the truth means I’m not ‘happy’, because I want to take down the delusions (mine only),…..but then what is happiness anyway?

It’s almost like a ‘cause’ I suppose, and I’m suspicious of people with ‘causes’, including me.
So: maybe I do need in a sense to drop the truth-seeking and try and delude myself into acceptance.

Lalala……of course, what makes me ‘happy’ in my terms is Thinking…trying to get to ‘accuracy’.

unhappy people have the more accurate view of reality – ? I’m not so sure. I’m not so sure the notions of ‘unhappy’ or ‘happy’ are relevant somehow. ?

I want to read about Zen but I resist. Isn’t that what Zen might teach me, to overcome my ego resistance … hmmm……it seems like one big huge contradiction. A question of Zen: if I lose all my preferences, if I lose all sense of desire, black/white and so on:  how do I make any decisions in life?

So……if you see any sense in this, or if you’ve read any of the books I’m looking at….


Certain Hope

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Re: ‘Happiness’, delusion, Zen & books
« Reply #1 on: June 01, 2007, 10:56:57 AM »
Hi, Portia,

Much of what you've posted here makes sense to me. I hope you don't mind a few rainy-day random thoughts.. a bit choppy, I'm afraid, as I have plenty of distractions here at home.

Yes, I've come to the conclusion that nearly all of what folks consider to be "love" is, in fact, attachment... whether it feeds a lust to control or a perceived need to be defined by another... it's not "love" if it's based on a feeling.

I'm guessing that you're questioning whether to pay the cost for this book because that last statement is "old news" to you?  Are you wondering whether it's true or not? Or are you doubting whether the book can offer you any new insight?

The notion that a perception of "happiness" is based on delusionary thinking (cognitive error?) makes me smile. That entire paragraph from the review you quoted sounds so much like a friend of mine who has, in many ways, embraced her depression as her own version of mental "health".
In her view, everyone else is in denial and/or faking it... she's the only one who sees the world/life/people for what they really are. To me, that's not being a realist... it's simply having made the decision to give up on hope.

From a Christian perspective, that happiness is a shallow, fleeting emotion that's too dependent on circumstances to be lasting, whereas joy is the state of being which one possesses once united to Jesus Christ. A person can be unhappy and yet have joy in her heart... a sense of well-being, despite negative circumstances.

You said, "If healthy is deluded, do I want to be happy/healthy? (as defined by other people?)
I’m not so sure! I grew up in a house of lies, so I’ve pursued ‘truth’ or ‘reality’, one way or another."

I struggle with this one... and I am definitely not so sure... because, ringing in my ears are the words of N -
"We each create our own reality" - and I think, well, yeah - we could take that approach - if we wanted to be just like N.

So no, I don't think anyone should accept another person's definition of health or happiness. Nor do I think that the stuff we expect will make us "happy" can ever truly succeed, because I believe that we were created for relationship - specifically relationship with God - and there is no one on this earth, including we ourselves - who can live up to His image.

Suspicious of causes, including your own? Me, too! I think that's wisdom!

I used to think that "thinking - trying to get accuracy" - was making me "happy" (i.e., giving me some measure of control).
The problem is... I know that I'm too prone to delusion/denial/rationalization/etc. to ever be certain, in and of myself.
A great deal of knowledge and assurance come only by revelation.

And finally... Is that what Zen requires - a loss of all sense of desire, black/white and so on?
If so, I do not believe that's possible, except maybe via some forms of brainwashing techniques or a lobotomy.
Perhaps that's what Zen is? A form of self-brainwashing? Destruction of ego leaving behind only pure... what? Energy?
And how would you ever make a decision? I have no clue! Makes me wonder if that's not what's really at the heart of the whole zen philosophy... a deep desire to avoid being human, with all the frustrations, choices, failings, and potential to fall which accompany being NOT God.

Rain stopped. Time to plant!  :)

Hopalong

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Re: ‘Happiness’, delusion, Zen & books
« Reply #2 on: June 01, 2007, 02:53:53 PM »
Hi folks,

I think that optimism (learned or innate) = happiness
and that expectations (programmed or acquired) = misery

In that sense, CB, I tilt Zen. Well, Zen crossed w/Norman Vincent Peale. I can't help but think that whatever we repeatedly think to ourselves, barring delusion, is more apt to be something we can accomplish. But I don't believe that affirmations trump actions.

I think it's been my own actions that have drawn me into N orbits and damaged me the most. And my inactions. Meanwhile, I feel as though I've been thinking my brain out for most of my life. Tangible accomplishments? Not so much...

I literally thought too much and experienced too little, because I was isolated. It became a habitual response to depression as an adult. It's interesting to be living back in the room where much of me was formed. Back to childhood, yet not. Same wallpaper.

Could be that on my deathbed someone might ask me, what's something you've learned--the big truth. I might say: I liked that wallpaper.

hugs
Hops

"That'll do, pig, that'll do."

moonlight52

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Re: ‘Happiness’, delusion, Zen & books
« Reply #3 on: June 02, 2007, 12:51:30 PM »
Hey All ,

I like the wallpaper too.......

Zen is Zen

It does not believe in knowledge
It does not believe in the mind
It is not a philosophy or Religion
It is the total acceptance of ordinary existence

love to you

moonlight
« Last Edit: June 03, 2007, 11:03:15 AM by moonlight »

Stormchild

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Re: ‘Happiness’, delusion, Zen & books
« Reply #4 on: June 02, 2007, 12:58:21 PM »
((((((((((moonlight))))))))))

Good to see you.
The only way out is through, and the only way to win is not to play.

"... truth is all I can stand to live with." -- Moonlight52

http://galewarnings.blogspot.com

http://strangemercy.blogspot.com

http://potemkinsoffice.blogspot.com

Bella_French

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Re: ‘Happiness’, delusion, Zen & books
« Reply #5 on: June 03, 2007, 03:13:19 AM »
Hi Portia!

I am new here, but I wanted to comment on your thought-provoking post.

I believe what you mentioned about depression is supported by a lot of factual evidence. My partner studied psych at university, and he was taught that depressed people tend to have a very accurate assessment of themselves and of their environment (relatively speaking).

I think depression and pessimism are different entities too. Depression can hit even the most positive of people. But I agree that although self-delusion is a not a formula for happiness, it can fascilitate it. What could be better than believing in your fairy god mother, Santa Claus, and the sweet after-life? Or that you are superior and more capable than everyone else?

I think what the studies show is that depressed people do not possess self-delusion as defense mechanism.

Having said all that, I would say that any book about Zen philosophy would be a good read. Some of it will come across as unsubstantiated conjecture, but a lot of it describes useful tools for experiencing life in the moment...breathing, hearing sounds, experiencing your emotional reality HERE and not the past. I have read that Zen practices have been a great tool for healing depresssion in some people. Hopefully not just because they decided to forfeit reality!


Portia

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Re: ‘Happiness’, delusion, Zen & books
« Reply #6 on: June 08, 2007, 08:24:53 AM »
Thanks for all your replies.

Certain Hope, yes it was old news to me and I was doubting whether to lay out any cash on books that sort of make Zen easy to the Western eye (that’s my superficial feeling), I guess I was looking for any leads on that author, being too lazy to make up my own mind at that point! (or perhaps doubting my gut reaction…)

Quote
In her view, everyone else is in denial and/or faking it... she's the only one who sees the world/life/people for what they really are. To me, that's not being a realist... it's simply having made the decision to give up on hope.

Yes it seems so and it seems to be absolutist too: that she’s deciding to retreat inside her own prison because it’s safer there, where nobody can question her belief perhaps? Depression is a safe prison.

Yes a person can be unhappy and still understand the value of life, and that unhappiness proves existence itself! Celebrate all feelings eh, not just the ‘good’ ones.

Quote
"We each create our own reality" - and I think, well, yeah - we could take that approach - if we wanted to be just like N.


I think we do though, as your friend is creating her own reality? I guess it depends on the reality we choose? Sam V’s reality I guess is exceptional; many Ns realities seem in constant danger of collapse.

Quote
A great deal of knowledge and assurance come only by revelation.

It seems that way to me, although what revelation is….? ‘When the student is ready, the teacher will appear’ --- ? I wonder if revelation is a change in the way we are able to perceive something. I don’t know.

I don’t think Zen is about avoiding being human, more about understanding and being aware of what it is to be human and becoming…. mmm…. fully immersed in life without attachment to it. Trying to find my own words there.


Hops, Zen crossed with Peale? I can see that! How about Zen crossed with Albert Ellis? The big truth eh: um, anger is a great slave but a crap master I think, so far. That’s a teeny truth for me.

Thanks Moon. Thank you.


Bella French, hello and thank you.

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I think depression and pessimism are different entities too.


This makes a lot of sense to me and explains something too. I’ve been depressed but probably never pessimistic, interesting. I wonder what makes people pessimistic or optimistic and is that changeable? I don’t know.


CB, no I’m not afraid of reading anything, I just don’t like parting with cash! It was that trite probably. I doubt that reading anything would influence me to believe a lie, unless under duress, more likely that I walk about in a perpetual state of ‘suspended belief’ as I think of it. Thinking on that, it’s not so much I want to read people whose beliefs are different to mine…..it’s more that my beliefs are so scant (in some areas) that to challenge them would be to immerse myself in ‘pretending to believe’ in a belief system (does that make any sense?).

When I said “deliberately entering a realm of ‘kidding myself’” I meant... deliberately submitting my suspended belief (or disbelief) – scepticism perhaps - to a belief-system: i.e. pretending to believe to get the idea. I have a very hard time pretending to believe! (I mean, I will not delude myself if I can help it and that's a potential trap in itself, is it a common one....probably I guess.)

There’s a top question I love to be asked and that’s “how do you know?” because most often, I don’t know anything. And strangely, re: the hardness of life, I don’t really see/feel the way I am, to be hard/difficult; the opposite more so: to grab a belief and immerse myself would be very hard…….so………that would be the challenge. If I could be motivated enough, but I’m not. I guess part of me is looking for a tribe to join and the other parts are saying, why limit anything to anything? Which may be a bit Zen at the end of it all. It seems half the time we reject being labelled, the other half we desire the label, the group, which is okay too. Kind of ties in with deception and the need to belong and conform, to an extent.

Can I belong to a group of non-conformists? (that’s an old joke)

Thanks again all, it helps. :D

Hopalong

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Re: ‘Happiness’, delusion, Zen & books
« Reply #7 on: June 08, 2007, 12:19:25 PM »
Hiya, P:

Library should have: Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman (he knows this subject)

I think it has something to do with musical theater.

Hops
"That'll do, pig, that'll do."

Sela

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Re: ‘Happiness’, delusion, Zen & books
« Reply #8 on: June 08, 2007, 01:00:31 PM »
Hiya all:

I believe happiness is a choice.

We can choose to focus on whatever we want to focus on (or need to focus on).
We can stop, in between some of the tougher stuff and remind ourselves to smile.....to relax ......to enjoy...take a break from suffering.....remember the good stuff that still exists in our lives and in our world....at this moment.

I think happiness can be achieved by anyone depending on desire and effort (like most goals).  Consistent small steps will lead one to that goal.

Not saying that when we are in the depths of despair we will be happy.  Not at all.  Only that we can choose to be happy the rest of the time or most of the time or more of the time.   Maybe it helps us recover from grief?

The old glass half empty/half full thingy.  What if you believe the glass can be totally full? But you have to do the pouring.  It's ok to believe that, if you want to and to start adding drops to your own cup! 

Maybe happiness comes when we notice the good, the nice, the fun, the positive, the beautiful?  If we don't notice, how can we ever be happy?  And don't we choose to notice or not to?

I say........ do what makes you happy, if it doesn't hurt anyone else.  Think of it as delusion or think of it as a choice.  Whatever.  :roll:  How much does it matter?  If you want to be happy you can be!

Embrace Zen or Mother Earth or The power of the Sun, the Moon, the Stars, water, fire and/or wind or God Himself!  But embrace something and hold onto it and rely on it and look up to it and appreciate it and enjoy it and draw strength from it because it will do you good, I bet!  It will help you on your way.

I think we delude ourselves when we believe there is no happiness and that the truth is negative and pessimistic.  We miss a lot, if that's what we base our attitude on.   A lot of good stuff.

Hey!  This sounds like preaching!  Ok. Stepping down from pulpit.



 :D Sela

PS:  Hey P!

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I do feel as though I’m deliberately entering a realm of ‘kidding myself’.


Or might you be exiting one of hopelessness training?

Quote
If healthy is deluded, do I want to be happy/healthy? (as defined by other people?)
I’m not so sure! I grew up in a house of lies, so I’ve pursued ‘truth’ or ‘reality’, one way or another.

Oh you do make a good argument!!  If unhealthy is aware (as defined by yourself) are you sure you want to be there alone and unhappy?  You don't live in the house of lies anymore and your pursuit of the truth and reality are a big step away from there.  Was it a happy place?  That house?  Maybe that was part of the lie too?  Maybe there is such a thing as a happy place but they couldn't/wouldn't/didn't lead you there or teach you how to go there?  Maybe that's part of what needs pursuing?  (ain't I a beggar!!)

Quote
A question of Zen: if I lose all my preferences, if I lose all sense of desire, black/white and so on:  how do I make any decisions in life?

Have faith in yourself!  You've probably read thousands of books in your life and not one of them (I bet) has caused you to go against your own instincts.  If it doesn't sound/feel/think right.....you'll probably not accept it!
If you wanna read it, read it.   I imagine you'll question/examine/think about it and keep what helps you.  I bet you will!

Bella_French

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Re: ‘Happiness’, delusion, Zen & books
« Reply #9 on: June 08, 2007, 08:56:46 PM »

I think depression and pessimism are different entities too.


This makes a lot of sense to me and explains something too. I’ve been depressed but probably never pessimistic, interesting. I wonder what makes people pessimistic or optimistic and is that changeable? I don’t know.


Yes I think this is changable, Portia. Norman vincent Peale convinced me that it is not only changable, but it really comes down to making the decision to be optomistic rather than pessimistic, and then discipling onself to make a  habit out of it.

And I agree that you can be depressed, in pain, and suffering, and yet still feel optomistic that life is still worth living and that positive changes will come about(whether by your own efforts, or something external).

I've often felt that way, and it amazes me just how often life will throw you a lifeline when you are open to catching it. I think this is part of what the `postive thinking' types of literature mean when they endorse its benefits.

X Belinda






moonlight52

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Re: ‘Happiness’, delusion, Zen & books
« Reply #10 on: June 14, 2007, 05:01:03 PM »
Hey Portia ,
Maybe stumbling on Happiness can be easier if we let it...................

Zen perspective
Feel the pain of others
understand their struggles
and disappointments
... their hardships and inadequacies...

And open your heart to them
Realize that everyone is doing the best
they possibly can
Judge no one
But rather cradle all of humanity in your heart.............

moonlight52

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Re: ‘Happiness’, delusion, Zen & books
« Reply #11 on: June 14, 2007, 05:40:31 PM »
p.s because of said inadequacies I am reaching for this goal ......
but it is getting easier for me to embrace understanding of self and others.


with much love to you
moon

Hopalong

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Re: ‘Happiness’, delusion, Zen & books
« Reply #12 on: June 14, 2007, 08:20:58 PM »
love back to you, Moon!

How is Mr. Moon, and how are the Moonlets, and last hardly least, how is Moon?

Hops
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Portia

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Re: ‘Happiness’, delusion, Zen & books
« Reply #13 on: June 18, 2007, 07:47:02 AM »
Thanks for your replies here.

Sela, Hopelessness training? I don’t feel hopeless.

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Oh you do make a good argument!!


What do your words above mean, or, why did you say them?

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If unhealthy is aware (as defined by yourself) are you sure you want to be there alone and unhappy?


I didn’t say that Sela? I think there’s a misunderstanding.

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Was it a happy place?  That house?  Maybe that was part of the lie too?  Maybe there is such a thing as a happy place but they couldn't/wouldn't/didn't lead you there or teach you how to go there?  Maybe that's part of what needs pursuing?  (ain't I a beggar!!)

No it wasn’t. There is such a thing as a happy house? I live in one, depending on how you define happy! Ain’t you a beggar? Well yes and no. Thanks for being a beggar and I hope you know I appreciate it more than I say. The only thing here where I think you might be being a beggar is up there about me making a good argument? Probably a huge misunderstanding!


Moon

There is nobody more critical of me than me. I am hugely self-critical. And I am critical of others. Being critical of me makes me ‘happy’ I suppose. Being critical of others does not make me happy. I judge people’s judgement of me all the time.

When I lose all my anger, when I lose all the judgements, I have no motivation to do anything at all (and I feel quite ‘happy’ with that).

I was going to let this thread go.

Sela

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Re: ‘Happiness’, delusion, Zen & books
« Reply #14 on: June 18, 2007, 10:20:14 PM »
Hiya P,

That was me trying to imagine what it was like for you growing up and trying to put it into words...hopelessness training, seeing it as an unhappy place.  Guess I didn't do a good job there putting that into words.

I'm saying you're making a good argument for staying truthful (and aware, I assume) and unhealthy, if healthy means being deluded.

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If healthy is deluded, do I want to be happy/healthy? (as defined by other people?)


I'm asking, would you rather be aware (the opposite of deluded) and lonely (not happy...not the opposite but thinking in terms of other people....if they were to remain "healthy and deluded").....if that were the only choice, would you choose it?   A rather silly question at that.  And I might be misunderstanding a lot.

I think we might agree?

Sela