In this world these days, there are many things coming up to make people discouraged, disheartened, lose hope, and become bored of everything. We call this state burnout, whether in learning, studying, or doing various work. As the state of the world these days isn’t normal, people feel more discouraged, lose hope, and become disheartened, a lot more each day. And if this arises a lot, it will lead to serious illness, like depression. Like in situations when people are isolating at home, isolating in the hospital, or even isolating in a monastery, there may arise a state of depression, feeling disheartened and bored. And it doesn’t matter if one is a layperson, or a monk, it is able to arise all the same.
So we should see if we are feeling disheartened, or losing motivation working? We can check or examine our moods or mind state. Is our mood bored and weary with the work we are doing? Do we feel tired, lacking energy, and discouraged? There’s no happiness in doing our work. Or we have a lot of pressure in doing our work and it may have effects on the body. Like feeling nauseous, throwing up, having stomach aches and pains, feeling exhausted, or having headaches and migraines. Or we have the mood of irritation, feeling scattered, easily annoyed, which are grouped as one of the moods that obstructs the mind from being peaceful. Moods that are unstable, bad moods, seeing all things in negative ways. Sometimes there are conflicts with colleagues, or with the people around us in our family. This is one condition that arises in every person.
So we need to know ourselves well. How are we now? So we have mindfulness to be aware of ‘how am I?’ ‘How is my mind?’ Do we have these states of mind arising or not? Or what is causing this feeling of burnout? Are we working too hard? Is it that we can’t take on that much work? We aren’t able to make it succeed? We may have a feeling of discouragement, or lose hope. Or if that work is not appropriate for us and we aren’t skilled at it, then we get discouraged or bored of it. And going against this each day is not good. Or we may have a position and responsibilities at work that are not clear to us. Or the environment at work may not be harmonious. We can’t get along with our boss, or our colleagues.
And when it gets too much of this, we may try to meditate, practise Dhamma, do chanting practice, but it may not be successful. It is not able to overcome these moods and mind-states. This is because the mood is too strong. It’s too much for us to use our meditation. Because once a mood or emotion enters the mind, it’s hard for it to go. And we don’t have the strength of mindfulness and samadhi, meditative concentration, so then our mind goes round and round. And this makes us lose even more strength of mind and we can’t fight against the feelings of ours that have arisen. So when it’s like this , we need to find a way to get out of this black hole in our life. Because if lots of little sufferings build up a heap, then it will become a state of burnout, being disheartened, discouraged, and loss of interest. And the longer it happens, the more depression arises. And if this depression goes on a long time, there will be boredom and loss of interest in leading one’s life. Each day one doesn’t see any benefit, and if this feeling of boredom of life goes on for a long time, one’s thoughts may stray off the path to thinking of harming oneself. Not wanting to live in this world anymore. We don’t want to know anyone and only want to keep to ourselves. This is not correct.
The real cause, deep down, is that everyone wants to have just as much things as anyone else, or have even more than others. We want to have fame, money and wealth, position, and recognition in society, but when we can’t get these things, we may suffer. When we have a lot of desires, and we don’t get them, then we may lose hope. But many people may have some small hopes. Like the hope that this time I bought the lottery and I might win the lottery. Buying it didn’t use much money, but we have a little hope. And when we humans have hope that shows they have motivation to continue to contend with their life. They don’t lose hope completely.
So we should see that if we are like this, then we should find the way out of our mood, so that we can have motivation and inner strength arise. We have the mental power to motivate ourselves to do good things in our life. We can start just from simple things. We look around at the people in this world, and see if it is only we alone who feel like this? Is it only us that lose hope? And we look at what we have still with us. We have a good brain, we have a strong body that can do many things in this world. So we shouldn’t be discouraged or be disheartened with doing work. We shouldn’t feel exhausted. If we do have some pressure or stress, we can find ways to overcome that pressure, the loss of strength, and feeling disheartened, by resting enough.
We find activities to do that makes us feel at ease. Some people feel that when they raise a pet–a dog, cat, or fish–they may feel more at ease. Or by doing exercise, or finding an activity that we are skilled at, like drawing, or sculpting Buddha statues, or other activities. This is to relax our mood, as well as to overcome the burnout. Like exercising, it helps many things. It makes our health good, helps the heart be healthy, makes the body create happiness, helps to release pressure and stress in the body well, and helps us to sleep comfortably. We also must change our perspective to think more positively. So we need strategies that revive/restore our motivation and spirit when we feel we are about to be sapped of our inner strength. Our battery is getting low. So we need to charge up the battery, right? Then the car will be able to keep going well.
So a good method to overcome our loss of motivation and spirit, is by trying to charge the battery of our spiritual heart. We need to inject the vaccine into our spiritual hearts in order to protect against all serious illnesses. We do this through exercising and through accepting the success that others gain. We are happy with them for their success in their activities, studies, learning, and in their various occupations. When we feel this way, then we are not putting too much pressure on ourselves. We do our thing, according to our abilities, and according to our vassana parami, spiritual accumulations. We don’t compare ourselves with others. Because ever since being born, and first opening our eyes to know of this or that, there is constant comparison with others. This comparing just makes us suffer more. We need to give ourselves strength and stop comparing ourselves with others.
So if we compare, that person has completeness, but we are just troubled with everything and then we feel worse, then we need to stop. Because even when the comparisons we make have passed already, we still think and dwell on that same mood and feeling. Think of that same person still, or we think of that time when we were a young child and we had a lot of suffering and troubles, so comparisons arise again. But if we have metta–loving-kindness, and compassion, then we will see that having got past suffering like this, and now in the present we have completeness in many things, then we will help society that is currently troubled and suffering from lacking in basic requisites, and in all sorts of ways.
So we cooperate and help each other. When we do this, it improves our mind. The inner fire or interest that is going out, gets brighter. The boredom and weariness gets better, because we see ourselves as giving a lot of benefit to this world, and we can praise ourselves. We give ourselves some praise in the things we are good at. We can write down what good acts we have done, and when we praise ourselves, the mind feels at ease. We don’t just pressure our minds a lot. Ven. Ajahn Chah said that “This mind of ours, if we praise it too much then it’s not good, but we also can’t pressure it too much. So although sometimes it is the time to exert pressure on yourself, when it’s the right time we have to give ourselves some praise too. Give yourself some more motivation and strength, so we don’t need to wait for others to give us praise. This is because we are doing goodness, not to get praise from anyone. But to praise ourselves is not wrong at all. This is giving inspiration and spirit to the heart. It is one type of motivation in order to continue in building goodness.
And each day we can do a special activity. We can eat some delicious food that we like that gives us pleasure, we can listen to music, and read books. Or if we are someone who doesn’t really smile, we can then train to smile a lot. Smiling has an effect on our blood to flow more to the brain. The brain’s temperature lowers, we feel more at ease and it reduces stress in our body. Smiling activates chemicals in our body, because when we feel at ease in our body and heart, then the brain is releasing endorphins that we know as the chemicals of happiness. This makes the mood of the mind to be joyful, cheerful, and gladdened. Smiling is bringing up our strength so that we can contend with different situations, without anxiety and fear. But having been born, there will be times when we do some wrong things and we do need to forgive ourselves. We do our best to attach to goodness and virtue, and lead our life with honesty and integrity, effort and diligence, kindness and compassion. And these qualities will lead us to success.
And lastly, to really bring up inspiration and spirit in our heart, we can read the life of the Buddha. The Buddha suffered and endured difficulties for countless lifetimes. The great compassion of the Buddha is vast and boundless. Every Bodhisattva, practising to become a Buddha, builds their parami like this. And so what about us then? Just this much, and we already lost heart? Just this much, and we are burnt out? Just this much, and we lost hope, got discouraged already? Look at the Lord Buddha! No matter how difficult and hard it got, it never discouraged the Buddha’s effort. The Buddha was completely firm, with sights set on the goal, towards Bodhinyana, enlightenment, doing it all for us only. And so what we are doing these days, who is it for? For ourselves, for our family, for husband and wife, for parents, for our young children, and we can’t even do this? Just for this small family of ours? We don’t even need to mention the family of the Buddha, because every single person was his child. The Buddha aspired to take all these people to go beyond samsara, the unending cycle of birth and death. So don’t be disheartened in your learning, studies, in doing work, in your bhavana, mental cultivation.
Even when discouragement does arise, it is a normal feeling in the heart. When there are still feelings of ‘I’, then there will be feelings of discouragement. When there is still ignorance, there will be feelings of discouragement as something normal. So though we may feel discouraged, do not lose hope. We are discouraged, but we still walk. Even though it’s hard, we walk. It’s hard and troublesome to do, but we practise without stopping. We keep continuing to meditate with Buddho. We remember the virtues of the Buddha, and we bring to mind our meditation object. So we keep practising, and one day the discouragement will disappear, and there will be inner joy and gladness, inner happiness, and mental ease.
Or we keep doing our work and we may meet with work that is good for us, that we wanted to do, that is correct for ourselves. We are able to find ourselves, what it is that we must do in order to make the mind at ease. Is it through art? Drawing? Or sculpting Buddha statues? The mind will be at ease, and gladdened. We can do that activity well. And it could even become an occupation that can support ourselves and our family. So we try to reverse our mood and go against these feelings. Don’t lose heart. Even those whose bodies have disabilities, they are able to compete in sports at the Olympic level and can win. They can contend and have inspiration and spirit coming up. So this ability is important in learning about our minds and developing them, and in order to increase our heart’s spirit and strength fully. So that we have the inner strength to do our work and activities, and to use one’s life in this world with happiness. May you grow in blessings.