Satisfaction, Dissatisfaction, and True Happiness

There is always this leaning towards, this tendency in all of us, to be dualistic, which means to come from a place of either/or. So either we feel good about ourselves or we feel bad. Rarely do we feel bad about feeling good about ourselves, and feel good about feeling bad. It just doesn’t come up. So of course we delude ourselves, because we lean — if we look at the triangle, the two points at the ends of the base, it’s like a seesaw — we kind of fall to one side, then to the other. But rarely do we find that equilibrium and own the two simultaneously. Our natural tendency is to get stuck either in complete contentment and satisfaction, or in complete discontent and dissatisfaction.

So when you’re stuck in the absolute — living and dwelling in it as I did for years, there is a tendency to lean to the side of feeling good over feeling bad. It’s not that you don’t have some bad moments, but basically you feel good, even for years. And of course it’s troubling to think of it being the other way. But it has to happen, it has to. It’s like the rises and falls that we talk about in the book. We have to have successes and rises, but where we learn the important stuff is in the falls and the failures. That’s where we really learn.

So dwelling in the absolute can be a really good reprieve, a kind of refuge, in the Buddha, where everything is OK as it is. But then you’ve got to go to the other side, and take refuge in the Dharma, the teachings, the relative, whatever you want to call the other side. And that is facing the fact that you can’t really escape, that there’s got to be satisfaction in dissatisfaction, and dissatisfaction with our satisfaction.

Now we all lean one way or the other. Like Maezumi Roshi, I was looking at this just yesterday, he leaned more to dissatisfaction. And he was very proud of it. “I’m never satisfied!  You’re too easily satisfied!”  OK, he was right, he was more advanced, he was at the point where he was never satisfied and I was too easily satisfied. But I also saw he got stuck there too, because he never was satisfied —and he was never happy.

So the apex is happiness. It’s not contentment without the discontentment. It’s not satisfaction without the dissatisfaction. It’s when we own both, our dissatisfaction and our satisfaction, our contentment and our discontent, and come from the apex. That’s where we find true liberation. That’s where the final authority dwells. That’s where the Master lives, and that’s the fully functioning human being.

— From an introductory talk at the Advanced Facilitator Training,
Sept. 19, 2016, Salt Lake City

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