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  • Mark Brafield

Learning to drive with the Buddha

My son has just passed his driving test, so naturally I am very proud of him.

When I was young, I used to think that learner drivers learned to drive in some parallel universe, on a facsimile network of roads reserved just for them. It came as quite a shock to me when I discovered that they took their chances (and their tests) on the actual roads, just like the rest of us.

Not surprisingly, Buddha got there first.

The Buddha teaches that 'nirvana is samsara', that is to say, there is no separate, magic universe in which we can achieve happiness. The only place in which we can achieve happiness is the ordinary world in which we live out our everyday lives.

All of my clients, sooner or later, need to come to terms with anxiety, depression and anger (although they may not, at least to begin with, see it in such terms). And part of the difficulty is that these feelings become self-generating. You feel anxious about feeling anxious. You feel depressed about the fact that you are depressed, and you get angry with yourself for being angry.

The solution, counter-intuitively, is to confront the original feeling, but without the criticism or judgment that generates those satellite feelings. Anxiety, depression and anger are deeply-rooted in our being for a very good reason. They are there to protect us and have been part of our DNA stretching back over tens of millions of years, so there is no point in beating yourself up about feeling them.

Working with my clients, both in discussion and in hypnosis, we can learn simply to observe those original feelings and so come to terms with what they are, why they are there, and thus learn the message they might be trying to tell us. We might even grow to like them, at which point they stop bothering us.

The Tibetans have a proverb; run away from the monster and it will chase you. Stand up to the monster and it becomes a friend.

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