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Lions Roar : January 2007
SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2007 81 The possibility of a life free of suffering is as close to zero as I can imagine. It’s hard to imagine what that would be like. If we think about what emotions do for us— why the brain evolved feelings like happi- ness and unhappiness—it becomes per- fectly clear that having positive feelings all the time is neither possible nor desirable. What are feelings for? From the psy- chological and biological point of view, emotions constitute a primitive signaling system. They are your brain’s way of tell- ing you when you are doing things that are or are not in your best interest. It’s no coincidence that fat, sugar, salt, and sex tend to make people happy. These things are, by and large, very good for mammals. They keep them alive and re- producing. It’s no surprise that a whack on the head or a scary face make people unhappy. They are dangerous. Your emo- tions, then, are a very rough, but not bad, guide to what’s good or bad for you in the world, a compass as it were. What good is a compass always stuck on north? A compass needle has to be free to fluctuate. Similarly, an emotion- al system, substantiated in the human brain, has to be free to go from happy to unhappy. It can’t get stuck on endlessly blissful, or else it approaches everything or avoids everything equally. We are meant to be happy, and we are meant to suffer. We’re supposed to suffer when we are encountering circumstances that aren’t good for us. Do you believe that happiness can come from returning to a state of grace from which we have all strayed? No. Many people have a kind of Lud- dite notion: “Let’s go back to the mead- ow, back to the Garden of Eden. It will be wonderful. It will all be like it used to be.” Well, it all used to suck. Women were oppressed, children were used like cattle, people raped, pillaged, and plun- dered, everybody lived to about the age of twenty-seven and had bad teeth! Who would want to go back? What we have right now is marvelous. It’s far from per- fect, but our job is to make it better—not to go backward, but to go forward. ♦ Institute of Transpersonal Psychology INSTITUTEOFTRANS PER SONALPSYCHOLOGY1 97 5 G raduate E ducation for M ind, Body, & Spirit 1069 east m eadow circle palo alt o, ca 94303 650.493.4430 • www.itp.edu Counselors Practitioners Organizational Leaders Research Education Business Consultants Health Services Spiritual Guidance Community Service Coaching CareerTraining Personal Growth Residential and On-line Distance learning Community openings for enrollment call today 650.493.4430 • www.itp.edu ph.d . • m.a . • one-year certificates Clinical Psychology • Transpersonal Psychology • Spiritual Psychology • Counseling • Creative Expression • Spiritual Guidance Education & Research • Indigenous Wisdom Studies • Coaching f schools & colleges Big Mind Big Heart Peaceful Dwelling at Kanzeon Zen Center This year’s Spring Ango (Peaceful Dwelling) will be a unique combination of traditional Zen and daily Big Mind practice led by Genpo Merzel Roshi. Deepen and refresh your own life this Spring at Kanzeon. All are welcome and beginners are given special support. Part time attendance is available. Call us for further information. April 15 – May 13, 2007 www.kzci.org / bigmind.org 866.759.6137 / 801.328.8414