4. Thinking that life is a cake walk.

This has the potential to be one of the bigger mistakes because it means that we are blind to the realities around us, and usually insensitive to others. When we have blinders on, we tend to create a personal little world that is in fact very fragile, difficult to maintain, and quite fictional.

Life actually involves all kinds of uncertainties. There are personal risks, such as health, wealth and happiness, and many family and societal risks which can affect our lives as well. Other countries can threaten our security, and even out there lurking in space are innumerable unmentionables that can fry us in a New York Minute!

And there is the ever present struggle we all have as we fluctuate between the Eight Worldly Winds: Praise and blame, gain and loss, fame and shame, and happiness and despair. These really blow us around as we fight to gain footing in, what seems at times to be; quick sand.

An unbroken string of good luck seems to be one of the reasons that we might view life as a lark, because we tend to project that good luck into an endless (egotistical) future for ourselves and believe that it will last forever. This reflects a basic lack of wisdom. The facts are; and these are universal for all material life, that life is uncertain, that life involves stress, and that no one is behind what we believe to be "ourselves."

Lacking wisdom, however, we see life as unchanging. We believe that whatever situation we find ourselves in will last forever whether it is good or bad. Then we compound our basic ignorance of life by remaining in a constant state of denial regarding our real feelings.

We are supposed to be happy, so regardless of what happens, we find a way to rationalize the situation and remain "happy." it's as if feeling unhappy is some kind of failure, but the fact is; unhappiness and stress are quite natural in the human condition. When we talk to people they usually have their happy face on, but if we could overhear their bedroom talk, other faces may many times be revealed.

And lacking wisdom we create a personality that we must constantly shore up and defend, which again in the human condition is a false construction of thought and memory woven into an ego by mind.

Wouldn't it be great if we could just relieve all the pressure and not be concerned about the eight Worldly Winds? Mother Teresa wasn't worried about them. She took care of destitute Indian kids in the poorest section of India. She was not concerned with fame, fortune, personal happiness or any of that. She saw people suffering, she didn't have blinders on, and she did what she could to help. As a result, she of course became famous. Her Missionaries of Charity continues to expand, and at the time of her death was operating 610 missions in 123 countries.

What if we too could perform our duties, whatever they may be, (and which are usually the result of our past kamma and how sensitive or insensitive our minds have become to the plight of others) without the slightest thought of results? Wouldn't that be a stress reliever? Or what if we did what we thought was right regardless of what people thought of us, whether they praised or blamed us, and what if we weren't concerned whether we were happy or not, and never mind if we made a lot of money or a little.

Now we're getting into "Saint" territory, but this territory is only a breath away from a life filled with endless stress. Think about it. Your entire life situation could change.

(Part 5 coming soon: Expecting your life situation to change, but not willing to change yourself.)

Author's Bio: 

Anagarika eddie is a meditation teacher at the Dhammabucha Rocksprings Meditation Retreat Sanctuary
www.dhammarocksprings.org and author of A Year to Enlightenment. His 30 years of meditation experience has taken him across four continents including two stopovers in Thailand where he practiced in the remote northeast forests as an ordained Thervada Buddhist monk.

He lived at Wat Pah Nanachat under Ajahn Chah, at Wat Pah Baan Taad under Ajahn Maha Boowa, and at Wat Pah Daan Wi Weg under Ajahn Tui.
      He had been a postulant at Shasta Abbey, a Zen Buddhist monastery in northern California under Roshi Kennett; and a Theravada Buddhist anagarika at both Amaravati Monastery in the UK and Bodhinyanarama Monastery in New Zealand, both under Ajahn Sumedho.
     The author has meditated with the Korean Master Sueng Sahn Sunim; with Bhante Gunaratana at the Bhavana Society in West Virginia; and with the Tibetan Master Trungpa Rinpoche in Boulder, Colorado. He has also practiced at the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts, and the Zen Center in San Francisco.