We All Want to be Happy

We’ve just passed the 9/11 anniversary and you’ve probably heard a lot of remembrances about that day.  It’s the kind of event that you never forget where you were when you first learned about it.  I can even see in my minds eye where I was and the first images I saw on TV.  

Our hearts easily break open when something like this happens.  We saw how the whole county came together to help, to grieve and try to put the pieces back.  

What I’m struggling with now is how can I open my heart to people in my community, state and country I strongly disagree with on such topics such as covid, the vaccine, climate crisis, Jan 6th and so much more.  So much seems at stake and yet we fight and argue and say hateful things.  I find myself thinking and saying ugly things too and I’m ashamed.  I find people of like mind to share these thoughts. I take a deep breath to settle myself but those unkind words rise up again.

The Buddha said that ‘we all want to be happy’.  But I wonder about that when I see the  screaming, chanting, or uninformed words spewing out of people’s mouths.  Are they happy?  Am I happy when I think or say to people of like mind how ignorant they are and how much damage they’re doing?  How can we address the very serious problems we’re facing when that’s going on? How can I see the humanity and desire to be happy in the people I strongly disagree with?  This is where my practice is and has been.  It’s been a struggle.  

How have you dealt with that?  What do you do when those thoughts and words come out of your mouth?  Have you found a way to open your hearts to people who think so different from you?

I read this in Lion’s Roar which I think is applicable to this situation. It’s titled “Breaking Open in the Bardo” by Pema Khandro Rinpoche.

We hold pictures of our ideal self in an ideal world. We imagine that if we could only manipulate our circumstances or other people enough, then that ideal self could be achieved, and in the meantime, we try to pretend to have it together.  It’s the game we play all the time:  we keep postponing our acceptance of this moment in order to pursue reality as we think it should be.

Pema Khandro Rinpoche
Photo by he zhu on Unsplash

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About Erica Dutton

Erica Dutton is an experienced teacher and practitioner of Reflective Meditation. She has dedicated herself to sharing this practice so others can succeed in meditation, see their experience as important and valuable, and realize the benefits.


  1. Thank you for posting this. I have been struggling with the same problem, and find myself avoiding people who may “rile me up”. Just because I haven’t been able to learn to deal with my anger

  2. Of course it’s easier said than done, but when I encounter someone saying things that I disagree with, or think are plain wrong, or are even offensively wrong… I try not to respond right away. Instead I let them talk and I ask for clarification. “Really? Why do you say that?” or “Is that really true?” If I can manage to ask those kinds of questions in a way that isn’t insulting or combative, I sometimes am able to invite a more thoughtful explanation. It sometimes even leads to a realization that our thoughts are not that different after all.

    I have some people in my family who have been in the military. They can speak in ways that are very pro-military, which sometimes offends my “world peace” idealism. But having been able to go beyond the one-line statements and actually have a deeper conversation, I realized that they are not actually pro-war at all. They are able to support the troops as people who are great at their jobs, while simultaneously they are strongly against the politics of war. I learned that while they share a different view and use a different language to communicate their thoughts, we all agree on a lot of points: humans have inherent value and dignity; war is never an ideal situation; our leaders need to do better.

  3. I am in the same place Erica. I like what Ken says. I have gotten pretty cynical this
    year, I’m sorry to say. And of course, I have a lot of anxiety about the future of
    our democracy & our health & our caring for each other. I wish I had an answer.
    Thanks for opening up this question.

    • Ingrid, I think fear runs underneath my anger. Fear for our future, the health of my family, friends, and me, the future of our country, democracy… but anger is readily available and less vulnerable.

  4. In my hermetically sealed life, I don’t often meet people who see the world strongly different from me. I see/hear them on the radio, internet, or social media and that seems to be enough of a challenge. See Ken’s suggestions below; that might help.

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