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Finding Inner Peace In Outer Circumstances

14481448 Massachusetts New

Hello, everyone. I haven't been around in a while, it seems. Life has been very busy for me and I have a plan of what I wish to do with my life and living. However, I find myself in a bit of a conundrum regarding how I know myself.

I have always wanted to help people. I consider myself to be rather personable, friendly, insightful, and am someone people go to in order to feel better or calm down. Therefore, after much deliberation (and 4 years of college -- I'm graduating so soon!), I have decided to pursue a Master's degree in social work in order to give opportunities and resources to people who are in situations or circumstances where thy might otherwise not have them -- prisons, shelters, rehabilitation facilities, etc. Ideally, I would like to incorporate culinary arts into my methods in order to promote the therapeutic qualities of cooking and proper nutrition in the recovery process, and provide opportunities for individuals (such as prisoners) who may not have them.

However, I also know myself, and I carry deep amounts of empathy. Whil empathy is a good thing, of course, I find myself unable to control how it permeates. I find myself caring deeply about others to the point where it it exhausts me, and I know I can't stand it to see others in struggles that I know they can overcome.

To help myself, I want to discuss this with perhaps a personal Buddhist teacher (master?) to help navigate through that. Maybe go to regular sessions to discuss and meditate and pray. But I also would like to ask advice from you all, since you have all given me such great advice and wonderful opportunities to share your stories.

What would you suggest I do? I know loving kindness and having yourself loving others is very important, but how can I lessen the toll it takes on me? Is there a way to change this thinking?

Many thanks!

ShoshinlobsterKeromeBuddhadragonadamcrossley

Comments

  • NeridaNerida Denmark Explorer

    I empathise with you in this situation because I too feel so deeply and allow it to consume me at times. I admire your dedication though

    BuddhadragonVastmind
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran
    edited April 30

    @1448 said:

    What would you suggest I do? I know loving kindness and having yourself loving others is very important, but how can I lessen the toll it takes on me? Is there a way to change this thinking?

    Many thanks!

    Perhaps you should focus attention on understanding "Anatta"...

    Meditation on "Anatta"


    Metta <3

    Buddhadragon
  • TsultrimTsultrim Hawaii Veteran

    @1448 said

    What would you suggest I do? I know loving kindness and having yourself loving others is very important, but how can I lessen the toll it takes on me? Is there a way to change this thinking?

    I think you are going to continue to get fried. Certainly, Buddhism isn't going to help you in the short term. Do you have any mental problems, anxiety, depression that could be medicated and allow you to do your job?

    You may want to look how much you are involved in your empathy. We usually get fried by ego, so you may look at where your ego is in all this.

    What you are facing are old habit patterns that will take a long time to work through, if ever. Your story is an old one in Buddhism: you have pain and want to get rid of ii. Buddhism approaches pain through having a teacher, practicing meditation and reading the Dharma. For most, the path to fruition is a long one, but you might as well get started now. At least don't waste your pain, having it will help your progress on the path.

    Also, one goes to a psychologist to change one's thinking. In Buddhism we see what thinking is, not so much what it says. If you find out what it is, that would certainly relieve some of your pain.

    My condolences, you appear to be good material for the Dharma. =)

    BunkspersonadamcrossleyKerome
  • BuddhadragonBuddhadragon Carpe Diem Samsara Veteran

    People who work in social help have a strong network of psychological support available, @1448.

    Friends of mine who are doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers, have compulsory weekly psychotherapy sessions to help them cope.

    I have worked in social help and when you are an empath you can't help taking on the people you help's suffering and suffering with them.

    At the end of the day, the only thing that helps a bit, is the thought that you are doing your share to help alleviate the world's suffering.
    Your effort may not impact the macropicture, but your humble contribution will definitely make a difference in the lives of the people you interact with.

    Neridalobster
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think 'Merica! Veteran

    I'm an empath too and as it is true that we take on the emotions of others, that also means that we can take on positive, spiritual energies just as well. So what has helped me the most is having found a real world spiritual community where I can spend a few hours a week to help me recharge and build up a positive reserve. Also, watching or listening to accomplished teachers rather than, or maybe more than, entertainment or news and needing lots of alone time.

    I've never found a way to turn it off and I'm not sure I would want to lose the positive aspects.

    @Bunks link seems to offer a more long lasting solution hopefully.

    1448lobsterKerome
  • BunksBunks Australia Veteran

    I have also found the Tibetan Buddhist technique of Tonglen useful too. It appears counter intuitive (as do a lot of things on the Buddhist path!) but can be very beneficial....

    personlobsterBuddhadragon
  • TsultrimTsultrim Hawaii Veteran

    @Bunks said:
    I have also found the Tibetan Buddhist technique of Tonglen useful too. It appears counter intuitive (as do a lot of things on the Buddhist path!) but can be very beneficial....

    Tonglen is an interesting idea. It used to require personal instruction , but it's become common knowledge now, and probably doesn't require instruction.

    What i like about Tonglen is that along with taking in dark, hot etc it also teaches us to go out with bright etc. To me, the going out is important, because most of us have a tendency to hold on to whatever dark emotions we encounter and we haven't learned how to let them go. At all levels of Tibetan Buddhist practices there is a coming in and going out, a cycle that helps us not to hold on to experience.

    Actually coming in and going out with the breath in shamatha/vipasyana meditation helps as well, although i wouldn't do it deliberately, we're always breathing, so we only have to follow the breath.

    Bunks
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    However, I also know myself, and I carry deep amounts of empathy ...

    <3
    Understood.

    Much Buddhist lore may have a tendency to cerebral solutions. Feeling based dharma?
    http://thubtenchodron.org/2011/06/afflictions-and-antidotes/

    Increase in Love (Dervish saying)

    <3

  • BuddhadragonBuddhadragon Carpe Diem Samsara Veteran

    @Bunks said:
    I have also found the Tibetan Buddhist technique of Tonglen useful too. It appears counter intuitive (as do a lot of things on the Buddhist path!) but can be very beneficial....

    To those of us that have been brought up in the Western New Agey ways of positive affirmations and creative visualization, the Tonglen technique of breathing in other people's suffering and breathing out whatever good we can send out in return, sounds extremely counter-intuitive.

    I do know that I was a bit in shock when I first learned about it.

    But the more I practised it, the better it felt.
    It seemed that the inner well of goodness where the metta and compassion come from is inexhaustible.
    And I am invariably left with the feeling that I am indeed doing my share to help someone else suffer less and feel more uplifted.

    adamcrossleypersonlobsterBunks
  • adamcrossleyadamcrossley Explorer

    Hello, @1448
    My girlfriend is training to become a social worker, with the Frontline programme in the UK, and I volunteer in the same sector. We’re both well aware of the current “burnout” rate in this line of work. But a social work qualification is a major door-opener into all kinds of care work. My girlfriend says she wants to plunge in and see what happens. If she burns out in a few years, then so be it. She’ll have done a great thing and can move on to other great things. I think this is a very wise attitude. What do you think?

    personlobsterBuddhadragon
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    Lots of good advice in this thread already.

    @1448 said:
    I find myself caring deeply about others to the point where it it exhausts me, and I know I can't stand it to see others in struggles that I know they can overcome.

    This was the bit that really stood out for me. If you are so caught up in the lives of others, wouldn’t you want to know why? In psychology there is an affliction called co-dependency which seems like an excess of attachment, is it perhaps related? Usually empathy is a slightly distant other-feeling-like-self which leads us to understand the other’s viewpoint, without necessarily taking it so far that we start attaching our own goals to the other’s viewpoint.

    What would you suggest I do? I know loving kindness and having yourself loving others is very important, but how can I lessen the toll it takes on me? Is there a way to change this thinking?

    Loving people is not the same as truly seeing others-as-self... perhaps a worthy topic for meditation?

  • TsultrimTsultrim Hawaii Veteran

    Finding Inner Peace In Outer Circumstances

    To be complete @1448, Buddhism can show us peace in outer circumstances through non duality. With non duality whatever we see is us (actually no longer us), so there is no separation between the outer world and us inside. Non duality takes a bite out of the world of us and other that leads to peace.To get to that point though, we have to see through the falsity of ego and the realness of phenomena, a lot to do, but it can be done.

    Even at the non dual stage, people are particularly hard to experience non dualisticly, a chair or tree being much easier. People are difficult because they have so many tools for appearing real, rather than ego-less: they talk and impart meaning, they display emotions that affect us, and they have an ego like ours. Working with the manifestations of people is always challenging at any level of Buddhism.

    You came to a Buddhist forum for answers and non duality is one, though a difficult one to experience (without an experiencer) and even harder to do continuously. I thought in fairness to you, however,that i would mention it.

    As perverse as it sounds, your pain from a Buddhist perspective is ideal, because it can drive you to experience such things as nonduality, an aspect of the true nature of mind, that doesn't have to be manufactured.

    Well, we are all going to have pain, why not use it?

    adamcrossleylobster
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran
    edited May 1

    @1448 said:

    What would you suggest I do? I know loving kindness and having yourself loving others is very important, but how can I lessen the toll it takes on me? Is there a way to change this thinking?

    @1448

    My first comment in a sense just relates to one's Dharma practice...Dharma practice will eventually help one to overcome suffering/Dukkha/unsatisfactoriness in whatever form it takes...and when one as overcome one own suffering one is in a better position to help others overcome theirs...

    One term for meditation in Tibetan is "Gom" (possibly one of many) which roughly translated into English means "Familiarise" one familiarises oneself with the workings of the mind...the ups & downs, twists & turns, the cravings & clingings... one eventually get to see/experience the 'clinging' aggregates at work (experiential understanding) and as one's awareness develops it begins to add more grease to the mental workings of the mind so that they flow more freely....Hence the importance of understanding "Anatta" (Non-self) if one truly desires long term freedom from suffering...

    There is Dukkha/Unsatisfactoriness
    There is the cause of Dukkha/Unsatisfactoriness
    There is cessation of Dukkha/Unsatisfactoriness
    There is the Way/Path which leads to cessation of Dukkha/Unsatisfactoriness

    ...and the rest is (Buddhist) history :)

    Buddhadragon
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