YOUNT IN FOCUS: Let me explain my situation. I am a working mother with two children (one 9 and one 7). Although we have disagreements, my husband is generally good to me and our sons. Still, I am bored with my life and I feel suffocated. Consequently, I want to go overseas on my own to study and later work. I believe that we should all live our dreams and if I don’t do this now, I’ll be too old (I’m 28). Some friends are pushing me to go, while others say I should stay with my family. I’m confused. What does lama think?

KT, Thimphu

I agree that people should follow their dreams in respect to their career, but our happiness should not be the cause of other’s misery. How many oppressive rulers have caused the death of millions of people in the name of living their dream?

If you were single, I would say yes – definitely go overseas and explore your planet. In your case, however, you made a decision to get married and have children. You now have a shared future. Your life is not just about you and your personal happiness. All of us need to remember that we are part of a family, a community and a planet and that our decisions affect those around us.

It is important to realise that a family is not like a toy that we can discard when we feel bored. These days, I see a lot of children suffering and getting lost because their father or mother (or both) decided to live their dreams and their children were no longer part of that dream. Now, if you had told me that your husband was being abusive or having an affair, I would be the first person to advise you to get out and start a new life with your children. But that is not the case.

Actually, life will naturally have ups and downs and times of excitement and boredom. Like mountains and valleys, one cannot exist without the other. Instead of trying to escape the tedious parts, I suggest you learn to accept all aspects of life. In this way, you will gain wisdom and be at peace with yourself.

Furthermore, it is important to know that the excitement that we initially feel when we move overseas and embark on a new career won’t last. The newness soon wears off and again the boredom sets in. Then what will you do – again abandon your friends and quit your job?

You might find this tale helpful: There was once a fox who had a disease that caused his skin to itch. At first he thought that the sun was the problem, and so he stayed in the shade. As the itching persisted, he blamed the shade. He even tried sitting in water, but the problem never went away. He spent his entire life blaming his circumstances and so never discovered the cause of his problem and never found peace. When we jump from one relationship or job to another are we not like the fox? Instead of looking at ourselves for a solution, we blame our family or job. Likewise, we never find peace.

In reality, it is a mistake to think of loyalty and responsibility as destroyers of freedom, but instead try to understand them as a means to help us find joy and develop stability in our daily lives. Once you fully commit yourself to your family, your relationship with them will change. Instead of dreaming of life elsewhere, you will begin to find ways to make your present situation work. Basically, you will learn to enjoy the fun times but know that they will end. Likewise, you will learn to accept the boring times and also know they will not last. You will see them as equally part of life.

Perhaps as a means to ground yourself and to bring some wisdom and lightness into your life, you might like to consider contemplating ‘the Four Immeasurables’ (loving-kindness, compassion, appreciative joy and equanimity):

Shenphen Zangpo was born in Swansea, UK, but spent more than 28 years practicing and studying Buddhism in Taiwan and Japan. Currently, he works with the youth and substance abusers in Bhutan, teaching meditation and organising drug outreach programmes.

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