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Do you ever do the opposite of what makes you happy?

Photography as Meditation: The Friday Flower. Sometimes just photos. Sometimes with writing. Appearing on Fridays.

flame © 2009 - 2010 Mahala Mazerov

Do you ever find yourself doing the opposite of what makes you happy?

I don’t mean working when you wish you were on vacation or saving money by not going shopping. I mean continually making choices even when you know they’re the opposite of what would give you real happiness.

Ever since I came home from (glorious) time with my Teacher, I’ve been especially aware of how I direct my life. I’m not very pleased by what I see.

I know in my heart of hearts what would bring me absolute joy would be to give myself enough time for long practice sessions — where I could do all the visualizations and prayers and mantras without feeling like the clock was ticking.

… or spend time creating content for my wonderful shenpa program people.

… or focus on establishing solid work and life rhythms that are sustainable for me.

These are all within my power to choose and to do. So why do I fritter away so much time and energy on meaningless things?

None of my distractions feed me. I’m dissatisfied with myself and with them even as I engage in them. They are the opposite of what makes me happy. Yet I continue to drop into my computer chair instead of my meditation chair. I create little errands instead of a bigger container that will prioritize them.

Why is it so hard to choose what I know I will love? What I know will nourish and revitalize me? What I know will support my ability to help others?


I’m not writing this seeking comfort or advice. Maybe it’s my way of saying I grasp and crash and fail just like everyone else. But it’s also my way of staying present with what is and giving it a name.


You may think that word is reserved for grief as deep as 9/11, destruction the magnitude of Haiti or despair for places like Darfur.

In Buddhist terms, suffering is also this listlessness. It’s walking around numb, but not entirely. Distracted. Dissatisfied. Continuing to wander in ignorance. Turning away from actions that lead to real happiness in favor of fleeting pleasures. Wasting our rare and precious lives.

This is how we create samsara, how we create karma. And, while it’s not as heavy as the karma created by severely negative deeds, there’s a great danger because we continue thinking it does little harm as we pile it up every day.

Effective immediately, I’m stopping the self-flagellation and thinking kindly of myself. I’m accepting I’m a very human being with very human tendencies. But I’m also shining a light on my choices and reminding myself that the stakes of not changing them are high.

It seems that doing what makes you happy requires awareness, like everything else.

19 Responses to Do you ever do the opposite of what makes you happy?
  1. Amna (@Germinational)
    February 12, 2010 | 6:21 pm


    Today I woke up with a writing intention, after a long time of avoiding it. And though it’s afternoon, and I’m still intending to eventually get to it, I’ve been frittering. This is in spite of knowing that there’s nothing that would do more to make me feel like my day was well-spent.

    Frittering ends now. I’m going to write that paragraph or so that’s been on my mind since last night. Go!

    • Mahala Mazerov
      February 12, 2010 | 6:38 pm

      Go Amna!

      And if you want to come back here and do a Dance of Triumph after you’ve done some writing, I would be delighted to see it.

  2. Amanda
    February 12, 2010 | 6:46 pm

    I guess it is indeed happy Friday or the day to remember happy. I had forgotten happy and fallen into a negative cycle that I wasn’t even aware of until, on another blog, we were asked to share our happy of the week…and I didn’t have any.

    It was certainly an “ah ha” moment. I did have happy and just writing about it brought more happy and a shift in perspective. I am realizing, I am forgetting my footwork and part of that for me is meditating and visualizing, all of those nice things you just mentioned.

    Here’s to remembering the happy.

    • Mahala Mazerov
      February 12, 2010 | 10:19 pm

      Here’s to remembering the happy. So important isn’t it, Amanda? When we turn our thoughts in a good direction the rest of us seems to follow.

      “Forgetting your footwork.” Good phrase. Taking one step at a time takes on a whole new meaning for me.

  3. Tracy
    February 12, 2010 | 9:18 pm

    I do this. I avoid making art, even though that’s like avoiding my own soul. I procrastinate going to bed when I’m too tired to do anything useful or fun. I sit around in the muck of my own anxiety about not getting something done, instead of just doing it already.

    I’m glad you mentioned the self-flagellation issue. It does seem that if Step 1 = Awareness, Step 2 = Choosing not to beat myself up about habitual choices. Perhaps there is an eventual Step 3, Rejoicing because I just noticed that an unhappy-making habit has Gone Away! This does happen sometimes, but it seems to take years. Or at least long, long months.
    Tracy´s last blog ..On Mark-Making: Post-It Notes from the Universe My ComLuv Profile

    • Mahala Mazerov
      February 13, 2010 | 5:57 pm

      like avoiding my own soul. You describe the depth of the inner loss so clearly. And it turns out to be a loss for all of us who miss your “marks” or someone’s music, writing, cooking, kind presence…

      I have a feeling if we can just put the self-flagellation on hold long enough to invite awareness of our actions and their consequences, we’ll see many of our habits dissolve faster than years or months. At least, that is my hope!

  4. Clare
    February 12, 2010 | 10:35 pm

    This is my first time leaving a comment but felt so compelled by your post. I feel like you wrote that for me! I have been struggling with why I make the choices I do and how my life seems to be just passing me by. I always feel like I’m in a rush for what’s next rather than what’s now. I keep getting tempted by “time vampires” such as the computer or tv rather than using that time to do things that make me happy. Thanks for pointing out that beating myself up doesn’t help but I do need to realize that I am making choices. Here’s to kind thoughts and thoughtful choices!

    • Mahala Mazerov
      February 13, 2010 | 6:05 pm

      Clare, so nice to see you here. Welcome!

      I know what you mean about feeling always in a rush for what’s next. While examining my distractions, I found most of them centered around my computer (possibly because I don’t have tv.) I think one of the seductions is that I can surf, click, rush, giving me the highly mistaken sense that I’m accomplishing something while what I truly value gets ignored in the whirrr.

      “Here’s to kind thoughts and thoughtful choices!” Oh my, yes!

  5. Melynda
    February 12, 2010 | 11:52 pm

    Amazing! I’m so glad you’re back, and that you had a fine time with your teacher. I’ve been missing you, Mahala, and now you come back with a light shining right into the middle of my dilemmas.

    I was talking about this very thing with my wisest, most trusted teacher on Tuesday, and she reminded me that frittering generally has at its core something that we need. “Bring it to consciousness,” she said. “Look at what you are doing, and yourself, with compassion, and just ask, ‘What am I hoping to get here?’ Wait for the answer. Don’t judge it–don’t judge yourself, but just see it. And then, very gently, ask yourself if there’s a way to get more of what you’re hoping for. If there isn’t, for whatever reason, then take permission to get what you can from what you’re doing. But if there might be another way, then move toward it, gently, instead.”

    Why is compassion for the self so hard?
    Melynda´s last blog ..Homemade Oreos (for my people) My ComLuv Profile

    • Mahala Mazerov
      February 13, 2010 | 6:32 pm

      Hi Melynda. Thanks for the welcome home.

      your teachers words are both wise and kind. I think it’s a good question to ask what you’re hoping to get and how to give it to yourself another way. You’re probably familiar with the term “secondary gain.” All through my head injury and whenever I’m sick, I ask myself if I’m receiving anything positive from the situation. Then I say, “I promise you can get well and I will still let you rest” or whatever it is that I need.)

      Other times, I think giving attention to motivations of habitual patterns is futile. Likely it depends on the person and the pattern. Sometimes it’s wisdom to avoid bringing additional story / self /baggage into the picture. In that case, moving forward in the direction of awareness may serve better.

      What do you think?

  6. michael
    February 13, 2010 | 8:36 am

    Yes. I know I can relate to this. For me, it comes down to self love. Why do I deny myself the love and care I would shower on any of my friends? Do I deep down really believe that I am not deserving of this?

    Being content with the moment is a challenge for me, it is not just doing things that please me. For me it is knowing and truly believing that I am part of something that goes on around me and before me, within me, and without me – creation.

    For me, every moment is about forgivenss and self love not because of what I am or am not, but because when I fail to reach that awareness, there is always that moment that i can turn that around. I am just brimming with the possibility of change. :-)

    Great piece today. I really love getting your writings. They so plug me into what is important. Thank you.

  7. virginia
    February 13, 2010 | 10:45 am

    Dear Mahala,
    I am glad to receive your friday flowers .
    I was about two months off with my computer and internet.
    I loss many nice massages .
    Do the opposite of what make you happy, is feeling that I have now.
    I have to go to a job in the morning time that I use to spend on my computer.
    So I can read all the mails I got in time I was off with my internet.
    I am happy to receive your massage that make me feel good
    and focus what happen around me .
    Thanks Mahala.

  8. hazel colditz
    February 13, 2010 | 11:39 am

    welcome h(om)e mahala!
    boy oh boy i so identify with your post this week! my teacher has been giving us some tough love as of late on WHY we choose this life of samsara over what we now know to be the truth to lasting happiness and benefitting all beings…as is human nature the first thing we do is berate ourself! chuckle…to retrain our minds is a day to day chosen lifestyle i am still adapting to and the karma that ripens!
    hazel colditz´s last blog ..Your Going To Lose That Girl My ComLuv Profile

  9. Becky
    February 13, 2010 | 5:32 pm

    Shoot, yes, I do that in all kinds of ways, oh yes. There are so many ways in which my life fritters away, oh dear lord. It’s funny how “eager” I am to do things I hate and yet, the things that do nurture my soul sit there by the wayside. Gosh, I’d been sort of realizing it over the last few weeks, but your post really concretized it for me. Thanks for the wake-up call!

  10. Didi Pershouse
    February 14, 2010 | 2:19 pm

    Hey Mahala,
    This catches me in a moment of supreme disorientation. I don’t know quite what to think of it, other than to notice. A week or more of very little sleep, which its unclear if it is because of the disorientation or if its creating it, or both. Then a stomach bug that has laid me out flat. And a relationship that is developing, and yet is surrounded by hesitation, indecision and a certain amount of numbness on both sides. I have the feeling that everyone is disconnected from everyone else a bit more, or a lot more, than is necessary. Why is it so hard for us to be close to each other?
    The one great present moment I had this week was yesterday, when, in the midst of this total disorientation, my friend and I poured 5 gallon buckets of cold water over our heads, naked, in the snow. If I could stay in that sort of presentness and connection at all times, life would look very different.
    I love you,

  11. emma
    February 14, 2010 | 4:06 pm

    Brilliant! It is challenging to make the loving choices. I think the power of love and the power of happiness can be so bright, so forceful that they scare the bejeebus out of us. But kudos to you for making this new commitment to yourself. May we all find that courage!
    emma´s last blog ..Open Up My ComLuv Profile

  12. Ann
    March 19, 2010 | 10:45 am

    Dear Mahala, Yes, I’m more than a month behind. Perfect illustration of the EXACT point of this blog post. To me, one of the powers of the internet is the wonderful connections we can make with each other. So how do I spend most online time? Doing very little that connects me with any live person. I learned long ago that beating myself up isn’t really productive, but I haven’t found a way to actually motivate myself, most of the time, to behave differently. *sigh* At least I don’t go completely back to sleep any more, that is, I keep some awareness that this IS a choice, on some level, and that I could be doing something different more of the time. ((hugs)) Ann

  13. Tara Mohr
    March 20, 2010 | 5:10 pm

    I’m really delighted to have discovered your work today. I love your question, “How much love is possible?” What a beautiful, thought-provoking question.

    And this post gets at something that I think is at the center of all of our lives. What I see in my own life, and hear from many of the people I work with is that some very simple things get in the way of doing what we know will make us happy…things like:
    1. It requires leaving our comfort zones
    2. It requires feeling vulnerable, risking “failure”
    3. It makes us more accountable for the reality of our life experience, because we can’t stay in the safe “somedays” and “when blah blah then I will feel blah blah”
    4. The world doesn’t always jump up and applaud us with a standing ovation for following our own unique paths.

    And yet…what is there to do except get clear about what we want, be rigorously honest about how we defer and delay and block getting it…and courageously walk forward…even if fears and resistance is whispering in our ears?

    Thanks for your voice and your contribution.

  14. Sherralee
    April 24, 2010 | 10:38 am

    Ahh! The eternal question…asked pretty much every day. Some days answered. Some days not. Must stay aware.

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