Over the past few weeks, I have been thinking about the concept of mental immunity. The term, as defined by the Dalai Lama, describes a state of being in which an individual’s happiness is independent of one’s external circumstances. In such a state, a person is able to maintain a state of joy amongst all of life’s experiences.
As I have continued to think about this idea, I have been struck by a number of things. The first thing I am struck by is the idea that one’s mental immunity, one’s power to remain in choice of one’s perspective, is built during challenging times. Under this notion, the things that happen to us, that have the potential to break us, are also the very same experiences that have the potential to build us up and make us stronger.
The second concept I continue to circle back to is the idea that our mental immunity is dependent, in part, on our relationships to others. This idea relates to the South African concept of Ubuntu – “I am because we are.” From this perspective, we can build our mental immunity by realizing that even in our states of angst, discomfort, pain, and sorrow there are other people out there who are also suffering. If we can remember this, and make ourselves of service to them in their time of need, instead of wallowing in our own discomfort/misery, we can increase our ability to modulate the levels of happiness amongst life’s varied experiences.
Taking these two concepts in consideration, the question I have for you, the one I am asking of myself, is this: How do you view life’s circumstances? Do you see the challenging moments as opportunities to strengthen your resolve to live a happy, joyful life? Or do you allow external events to be the determining factors to your levels of happiness? In moments of adversity, are you able to see that you are not alone in your suffering and reach out to others or do you withdraw into your own suffering? How are these patterns working for you? If your patterns are not working as well as you would like, are you willing to make the necessary changes that might better allow you to remain joyful regardless of what life presents?
Remember, knowing something and being able to consistently do it are two very different things. Building and practicing mental immunity is a practice – one which is believed to promote a greater sense of joy, freedom, and ease in all aspects of our lives. Be patient with yourself and remember that you are not alone.