Wanting a Peaceful Life
Q: I am French and I am not Buddhist although my mother is Buddhist. My principal religion is Catholic and I believe very much in God. This week I had a problem with my body, near my heart. I got scared because I know I'm often stressed, anxious and nervous. I also smoke, and that doesn't help.
I was very scared that something was going to happen, and so when I drove back to my house I made the decision to pray very strongly. But the more I prayed the more I felt angry at God.
I love God, I respect God and I usually don't think bad things about him. It was like something was trying to control my mind. I often try to pray so I won't be afflicted by that kind of thing, but this feeling is very strong and it makes my life difficult.
My problem is that I am really scared that I will die before I can make a life for myself. I'm 20 years old, I try to do my best, and I love someone who I want to share my life with. I want our love to grow stronger every day. I haven't seen her for a while because I'm in France and she lives in America. I want to work hard at my studies and to go there.
I try to respect everyone but sometimes I don't understand why I'm the one who seems to have all these problems when other people I know don't even care if God exists. I really want to feel better, I really want to find my way and to live this life as perfectly as I can. This is very important to me.
A: It seems that your mind is very agitated and this makes you very nervous. The manifestations you are experiencing are due to the fact that your mind is uneasy, and the more you become worried about your uneasiness, the more uneasy your mind becomes and the more you suffer. As long as you are fighting against what you perceive to be a controlling influence your struggle will continue, because in fighting it you acknolwedge it and when you acknowledge it you give it more power. This also has unreasonable effects on your body, since the body and the mind are interconnected.
My first suggestion to you would be to consider the practice of meditation. Meditation is the practice of focusing and calming the mind, enabling you to gain deep insight into your true nature. Over time, the practice of meditation helps a person to remain calm for longer and longer periods of time, and it can help you to determine exactly what is causing the anxiety which is so troubling. Meditation does not go against your religion because it is simply a way to calm and discipline the mind and has nothing to do with philosophy or theology. After a while, you may see clearly that those things that are troubling you are simply illusions and have no substance in and of themselves. This makes them much easier to deal with, to the point where you can simply let them go altogether.
Secondly, you should try to simplify your life to the extent that you are able. This is not always easy in modern society but the more input we take in, the harder it is to remain calm and peaceful. I'm not saying that you shouldn't work hard at school, but I'm sure there are many ways in which you can make your life a lot simpler than it is now.
Thirdly, you should remember that you are a worthy being. From our Buddhist viewpoint, all living beings are to be respected because they all have what those in your tradition might call "a spark of the divine." While respecting and honoring others we should respect and honor ourselves, not in a selfish way but in a way that recognizes our inherent dignity and sanctity. Extending kindness and compassion to one's self makes it easier to extend kindness and compassion to others. To do otherwise is to become like a hollow tree that blows down easily in a windstorm. And so when you pray, pray with a sense of love and compassion instead of fear and desperation. Don't worry so much about the death that surely comes to us all, but instead enjoy and appreciate the life you are living now.