The Hidden Stress Within a Moment of Joy

When the mind holds the belief or perspective that happiness can be gained through sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touches, and thoughts, it creates mental images of what constitutes favorable sensory inputs and what doesn’t. It separates the world and compares every single separation to the delusional images it has created for itself.

It’s always seeking to match the outside with these self-created images—always on the lookout, always searching. So far we’ve talked about how this vexatious search comes to an end for some time when the input matches the image in the back of the mind. The result feels joyful and blissful. Unfortunately, as the input doesn’t actually contain any joy or bliss, the vexatious search starts yet again.

While this observation holds true at a surface level, it is actually more complicated than that. Even when an expectation is fulfilled and the feeling of joy reaches its peak, the underlying search or vexation doesn’t actually disappear, although it may seem to. This hidden stress goes entirely unnoticed. As a result, you continue to feel that you require external things for your happiness.

Once you know what really is going on, you’ll start seeing the world in a completely different light.

In How Your Attachments Suffocate You, we discussed how your mind always compares everything it encounters through the senses (including thoughts and memories) with an image in the back of the mind. It does this consistently. In this article, we will delve deeper into this concept and provide further evidence for it. The goal is to realize that the happiness we all strive for, which is entirely dependent on conditions, is nothing but a mirage and, in fact, obstructs unshakable unconditional happiness.

If this is your first article, please read the previous ones in the Pleasure and Vexation section first. Understanding the core concept that happiness is merely the relief of vexation is crucial. Without this clarity, the content in this article may be confusing and could lead to misunderstandings.

Seeking the wrong answer to the problem

As long as we don’t understand the mind, we can’t help but think that the problem lies on the outside somehow. Allow me to provide a real-life example closely related to the one given in How Your Attachments Suffocate You.

“Anna” never had any major issues with her appearance while growing up. But at some point, she started developing the belief that her nose was somehow deficient. This serves as another great example of how our views are not only subject to change but also powerful in shaping our perspective of the world.

Television, advertisements, and social media surely played a role in shaping her view. Plastic surgery had become increasingly popular. More and more women felt like they needed some work done, highlighting how our views can be influenced and how much they can influence us.

At some point, Anna became friends with a particular young lady who wanted to get surgery done on her nose. Although it’s impossible to say who or what influenced her the most, rest assured that the idea of getting a nose job would have never emerged if it weren’t for outside influences, including this friendship.

As her views started changing over time, her perception of beauty changed, and as a result, her thoughts changed as well. While she previously had no significant concerns about her nose, she began to feel increasingly unsettled each time she stood in front of the mirror.

When any type of vexation builds up, we tend to find ways to relieve ourselves of that vexation. That’s the only way we know how to be happy. This is a natural consequence of the view or perspective that happiness can be acquired through our senses. Therefore, thoughts started emerging in Anna’s mind of making a change to her appearance. As this vexation built up, at some point, it became so strong that she took action – going to the hospital, speaking to the doctor, considering options, and finally setting the date on which the surgery would commence.

As we’ve discussed throughout the section on pleasure and vexation, as long as your happiness is conditional, you can only feel happy when you can alleviate yourself from vexation. Whether that is frustration, anger, disappointment, pressure, or any other discontentment, the moment you’re relieved of those, you feel like a million dollars.

So how do you think she initially felt after all the pain and bruises subsided? It seemed that she was happy because she felt relief from the vexation that had been building up all that time. However, was that vexation truly gone? Was a single instance of relief enough?

We need to deepen our understanding of the mind and recognize that even IF her nose perfectly aligned with the newly formed image in the back of her mind, i.e., her expectation was “fulfilled,” her vexation could never be removed this way. That’s because she still has that image in the back of her mind telling her what she needs to look like to be happy. EVEN AFTER SURGERY.

The same applies to any any other “correction.”

You also have an image in the back of your mind of what constitutes beautiful sights, sounds, and delicious smells and tastes, etc. Therefore, you can’t eradicate your vexation since you’re always searching, every single moment. Yes, every single moment. That’s because the images in the mind remain. It filters your entire world.

You view the world through colored glasses. Your views may change along the way, which is akin to changing your glasses from one color to another. However, you never actually take off the glasses and see the world for what it truly is. That would be changing your view at the root, which is the sole purpose of all posts on this website. 

We’re going to first discuss why Anna, despite achieving her desired look, can never feel settled. Then, we’ll explore another example, followed by a detailed analysis that includes some practical experiments to provide further evidence of how the mind is incapable of experiencing true happiness free from vexation.

The moment she had been waiting for

So now she stands in front of the mirror with her newly enhanced nose. Remember, she still holds the image of perfection in her mind. What happens next?

Just before she sees herself in the mirror, she is vexed. How do we know? Because the moment she sees herself and looks at her nose, she feels better. She experiences a sense of pleasure. This means she transitions from a state of relatively more discontentment to a state of lesser discontentment. If she were to stand in front of the mirror and keep her eyes closed for a few moments, that vexation would become much more noticeable. It would accumulate and be relieved as soon as she could see herself and her nose.

Now, if the vexation were truly gone, she wouldn’t need to look at herself again to feel better. I’m not referring to the occasional need to check our appearance for work or other reasons.

As long as that image of beauty persists in the mind, the mind cannot help but compare. Even when the object matches that image, the mind continues seeking confirmation. That’s why Anna always returns to the mirror—to seek that confirmation. And every time the object matches the image, she feels a bit of relief.

We could also say that every time she seeks, the accompanying vexation is momentarily relieved when she finds what she’s looking for. But has she ever truly found what she was seeking? No, because there’s an image in the back of her mind demanding fulfillment. Every time she blinks and opens her eyes again, she yearns for fulfillment.

However, because it’s impossible for an external object to fulfill that image, simply because it contains no inherent joy or pleasure, the mind finds itself in a repetitive chase, like a hamster running on its wheel. It expends a tremendous amount of energy in the process, yet covers no distance in the end. 

You may not have undergone a nose job, eyelid correction, or breast implant, but, just like Anna, you constantly seek to fulfill the images in the back of your mind to achieve a sense of fulfillment. ALL the time.

Let’s say you’ve found your dream partner and have the family you’ve always dreamed of. So, are you truly happy now?

Your family is not a source of happiness

“Of course I am, why wouldn’t I be?” would be a perfectly reasonable response to that question.

But things are not always as they seem.

Let’s say you’re on your way home from work. You anticipate your spouse and kids to be home, ready for dinner together. In your mind, everything is fine because you expect them to be there. Let’s assume you have no other obvious concerns at this moment and you’re looking forward to reuniting with your family. As you drive home, you feel happy. You really feel happy and nobody could deny that. However, there’s an issue with that happiness.

As you’re almost home, you expect to see your family. By “expect,” I don’t mean predicting them being there similar to predicting what tomorrow’s weather is going to be. This expectation is deeply intertwined with attachment. So when you think of your family just before arriving home, that image in the back of your mind is briefly fulfilled. You envision being with your precious family members, the people who you believe make you happy.

But this satisfaction can only last for so long. Eventually, the mind requires more than just mental confirmation. 

That’s why you need to physically see your family sooner or later. Prolonged separation from your family leads to a buildup of vexation. Anticipation is a form of vexation. When you receive a mental confirmation, you experience some relief. However, when the real confirmation doesn’t occur, that vexation cannot be alleviated anymore and will significantly increase. That’s why you can’t be apart from your family for too long.

If you’ve been apart for a few days, or even a few weeks, doesn’t it feel good to see them again when you return? That’s because a lot of vexation is relieved all at once. It is not your family that brings you this feeling of joy, because otherwise you would be in ecstasy every day you spend time with them.

In your mind they are your source of joy, so even just the thought of something unfortunate happening to them that might be very unsettling. That’s because this thought threatens the image you have in your mind that your family is your source of happiness.

You always need confirmation that your family is there, not just every single day, but throughout the day. Not only that, you also need confirmation of their well-being. So you don’t want to hear about your child being in the hospital or contracting a serious illness. You don’t want anyone in your family to suffer an injury or other harm.

I mentioned “throughout the day,” but when you’re engaged in work, the mind is preoccupied with other things. During these times, occasional thoughts of your family might arise, but mostly thoughts will revolve around your work duties simply because you’re in that environment.

However, let’s say you have a day out with the family, like a trip to an amusement park. Without you realizing it, every time you see the kids, for example, your expectation is fulfilled, and you experience a slight relief from vexation. That’s because what you see aligns with the image in your mind.

But you may not notice this because the vexation has no chance to truly build up. Thus, the relief you experience is minimal. You are so accustomed to vexation that it’s challenging to recognize unless you reflect deeply on these concepts with wisdom. That’s the only way you can come to a realization.

The amusement park dilemma

We can indeed prove that the above is true. Let’s imagine you took your kids to the amusement park. As you walk through the park, they are always close to you. Over the past few minutes, you’ve been looking around quite a bit because there’s a lot to see.

For instance, you looked up at a rollercoaster and didn’t see your kids during that brief moment. Then, you looked forward and saw them again. Let’s designate this moment as moment 1. Next, you turn to your spouse and crack a joke. Funny you. You didn’t notice your kids at this time either. Then, you turn your head and see them again. This marks the 2nd moment.

Let’s say this pattern continues for a few minutes, with your kids intermittently moving out of your line of sight and back in. If we count all the instances where your kids go out of your line of sight and return, we come to a total of 12 times.

You’ll likely feel that there’s no difference  between all those moments. That’s because you’re so accustomed to being in a state of vexation. Granted, the vexation is subtle, but it’s still present.

Every time you caught a glimpse of your kids again, a minor vexation was alleviated because there was confirmation that your kids were still there. This occurred at the first moment, the second moment, the third one, all the way up to the 12th moment. But do you not feel the need to see them again the 13th time around?

Say, after the 12th moment, you look up at a roller coaster and at all the screaming people. Then you turn back, and one of your kids has disappeared. Now, your vexation cannot be relieved. So you begin searching for your child, not just because it’s your duty to do so but because you feel tense.

You feel uneasy, and now you’re scanning the area to locate where your child went. After a few moments of searching, your vexation gradually intensifies, and you start calling out for him. Let’s assume you spot him again. If you pay close attention, you’ll notice a distinct relief of your vexation. That’s because it accumulated while you were searching for him. Vexation always accumulates over time, sooner or later, as we’ve discussed in our recent articles …

Have you ever wondered why so many people enjoy a roller coaster ride?

At the start of the ride, the carriage slowly makes its ascent and tension builds up. As it approaches the top, that tension builds up further and further, and you start feeling a bit nervous and queasy inside. Then, as you approach the abyss-like descent, your heart starts pounding like crazy, and when you finally race down, it feels like it’s being forcefully pushed towards the back of your throat. Fun, right?

What would happen if they were to extend this “fun” part? If it were truly fun, that should, logically speaking, be even more fun. In reality, even if you had an iron stomach, you would not be able to handle it. However, thankfully, a roller coaster is designed to provide you with just enough time to catch your breath before plunging into the next adrenaline rush.

This ebb and flow of anticipation and release repeats throughout the ride, leaving you breathless yet craving more. This happens throughout the ride. Finally, when the ride is over and you thank the heavens you’re still alive, all that has ever happened was you getting scared to death and being relieved of that fear. How’s that for a ride?

You can’t enjoy the ride without a certain amount of fear. The more you get relieved during and after the ride, the better you’d say that the ride is.

Have you ever considered asking someone to scare you just so you could experience that blissful relief afterward? Not just that, would you even be willing to pay for that?

This isn’t meant to offend anyone. I’ve done it plenty of times myself. Just like everyone else, I didn’t fully understand what was actually happening in the mind.
So, the question we should be asking ourselves now is:

Do we want this kind of delusory happiness?

Imagine going through 20 of these loops in a row.

… But say you don’t find your child. What would happen to that unpleasant and uneasy feeling? It amplifies even further. It can escalate to the point where you might begin to panic. For some individuals, that threshold may be reached sooner than for others, and it may manifest more prominently in some than in others. Nevertheless, feeling deeply unsettled is inevitable in such a scenario.

Whether it’s the 13th, the 113th, or the 1,000,113th moment, you always seek confirmation whether your prized possessions are still as you hope and expect them to be. It doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about material things, people, or mental phenomena; once the mind has formed an image, it will always seek confirmation.

The relief from that seeking is the only thing that brings joy, but it will never truly add anything to your joy because there’s nothing to add. You always end up at zero. Otherwise, all those moments should have accumulated into a substantial amount of joy. But every time, you have to seek confirmation again and again. You can’t fill a pot with a hole in the bottom. The image in the back of the mind is a mental creation that gives you a false sense of reality. It is this creation to which you get attached.

Even when you’re in the comfort of your own home, you constantly seek confirmation. Again, I say “you,” but it would be more accurate to refer to the mind here. This is a process that happens unconsciously.

You feel happy for as long as you see your home in the way you like it to be. Every single time. Every time you open your eyes. The moment your children draw on the wall, break something, or your spouse rearranges the furniture in a way that you find unappealing, the sight you hope and expect for doesn’t match with the external reality. A conflict arises, causing the amount of vexation to increase relatively quickly.

If you ever find yourself shouting at someone because of an unwanted occurrence, the vexation has built up very rapidly to such an extent that you need to vent. If you don’t, the pressure will continue to build up.

So you see, it doesn’t matter if things are the way you want them to be now; the next moment, you’ll still want them to be like that. And the moment after that, and after that, and so on. You can’t fulfill an expectation once and then be done with it. Only wisdom can combat expectations.

Wisdom is an understanding of the true nature of reality, whereas expectations arise from the ignorance of the mind, believing that happiness can be extracted from external inputs. Once it becomes clear that this is not possible, the mind begins to let go of the illusory and vexatious images and starts to feel at ease.

Can your eyes give you pleasure?

The concepts I’ve discussed so far are very subtle. Understanding them isn’t easy. It’s not overly complicated either, but it requires patience and the right mindset to realize the truth.

The subtlety of these concepts is even more discreet than what we described above. I hope to clarify this through a visual experiment.

For this experiment, it would be helpful if you found the image below appealing to some extent, but if you don’t, it’s not a big deal. You can still follow along and test it out with any other attractive sight.

I’m using the sense of sight for this example because it’s easier to illustrate visually. However, we can apply the same concept to other sensory inputs, which we’ll explore in another article.

The purpose of this experiment extends beyond what you have hopefully practiced so far. Beauty cannot be a component of the image because if it were, you’d be able to look at it non-stop and still sense its beauty. Instead, what happens is that if you look long enough, you might even be willing to look at something you find ugly just to get a break from it. We delved deeper into this concept in The Illusion of Beauty.

Assuming you’ve already scanned the picture a few times, I’m asking you to do it again, but this time, pay attention to how you look at it. How many points of contact do your eyes make? You’ll find that your eyes are jumping all over the place. These “jumps” are called saccades.

If I’m looking at a painting, my eyes don’t do a smooth scan of everything. They do a series of jumps, and each of those jumps is a saccade. Even if you are trying to stare directly at a point, your eyes are going to be making the very smallest of saccades that you can’t even notice.

— Dr. Jorge Otero-Millan

If we visualize this, we could represent the way we look at a picture something like this:

The red spots symbolize the points of contact, while the arrow represents the pathway to the next point of contact. Although it’s difficult to represent this accurately, and listing all points of contact would be incredibly time-consuming, this illustration gives you an idea of what happens in a very short time span, perhaps only a second or two.

So, there are many more points of contact than shown here. If you pay close attention to how you look at a picture, despite not noticing the smallest of saccades, it’s possible to recognize that there are numerous noticeable saccades occurring. And all of these occur very naturally, don’t they? You don’t have to exert any conscious effort.

Another point to consider is that this visualization excludes your peripheral vision. If we were to visualize that, a single point of contact would actually look more similar to this image:

You can only ever focus on one point clearly, which is what the little red circle represents. The bigger circle represents the peripheral vision. Now, I’m aware that the peripheral vision is much larger than this, but again, this is just to give you a basic idea.

When you see an image, you scan it from place to place. When you find it beautiful, you feel pleasant. Since beauty is not contained within the image, where does that feeling come from?

We’ve discussed the feeling of pleasure being a relief of vexation. A vexation is the result of something you desire but have not obtained yet. You always need to make some kind of sensory contact with an object you desire, either through your eyes, ears, nose, mouth, body, or mind. 

Remember, you don’t have to desire it consciously. As long as you have the underlying view or belief that happiness can only be attained through these sensory inputs, an image resides in the back of your mind of those things which it is always on the lookout for.

For example, if you hardly receive compliments at work and then one day your boss and co-workers show you genuine appreciation, you’ll feel good about it for as long as that matches closely with one of those fabricated images. You may have not even concerned yourself with this matter before and believed you were doing just fine the way things were. Therefore, with a surprise event like this, the same principle still applies. An expectation gets fulfilled, you get something you wanted, and therefore, as soon as you get what you want, you feel a sense of relief.

This principle applies to anything else as long as you deem your happiness to be acquired through the senses. It can be a compliment, eating desirable foods, hearing pleasant sounds, etc.

Uncovering the moment-to-moment hidden stress through a set of experiments

The exact same principle also applies to seeing a beautiful image. However, we haven’t discussed how this event takes place from moment to moment. With a visual image, we can easily test this. So let’s do that now using another image. You can then apply this to any other image, picture, view of the scenery, or a person you find attractive. Any sight will do for that matter.

Experiment 1: Fixing your view

The image is found in the link provided below. Please read the below before pressing the button. Similarly to the red dots, you lock in on specific places throughout the entire process of seeing the object for extremely brief moments. We’re going to do that now as well but choose a single point as our focus without deviating from it. This is harder than it sounds, as you’ll feel the tendency to look around right from the start. And you will likely do that even if you set your mind not to do so, even if only ever so slightly.

To make it a little easier, I have marked a red circle in the image (on the right side). You fixate on a spot within that red circle, but don’t look around within the circle. Fix on a single point and stay there. You will want to shift, even if it’s just a millimeter off to the side. Watch when that happens.

Finally, as you keep your focus, try to notice your feelings as well and see what happens to them. Maintain your focus for about 10 to 20 seconds. You can go for longer, but this should be long enough for you to collect “data” for our next step.

Go to image.

Looking at a fixed point is far from pleasurable. If you paid attention to your feelings, you noticed that there was, in fact, a vexation building up. If you somehow managed to go to the red circle straight after opening the image, fixated on a single point, and stayed there, you likely strongly felt the urge to look elsewhere. So when you felt the time was up, that’s exactly what you did—even if it was only for a brief moment, scanning the picture—before you continued reading. Assuming you find the picture attractive, that is the part where you felt you actually enjoyed it. You did not enjoy fixing your glance.

Having said all of this, if you happen to be someone who enjoys partaking in an experiment and challenging themselves to endure for as long as possible, the outcome will be distorted. That’s because you have an expectation (read: vexation) to last a certain time, and fulfilling that to some extent is pleasurable (read: relief of that vexation). However, since vexation naturally builds up over time, you could circumvent this issue by simply redoing the experiment and increasing the time a little bit until you notice the vexation intensifying.

Experiment 2: Shifting your view

Let’s do another experiment. You noticed a vexation built up while you were fixed on one point. Keep this in mind while we do the next experiment. We can use the same image this time. Now you’re going to focus on a point for about two to three seconds and then immediately pick another focus point (nearby or further away) and stay there for the same amount of time as well. In this way, go through the picture. After you’re done, continue reading. This time you can use the picture here below.

The hidden stress while enjoying a beautiful sight.

Although we’ve decreased the time now, you could still notice a subtle vexation building up as you were fixated on one point. Then, as you switch to the next point, you feel a quick and brief relief, which is followed by a vexation building up once more. The relief you get when you switch is incredibly brief, but there is a relief nonetheless.

We can confirm this as soon as we stay at a point a little bit longer, giving enough time for vexation to build up. The question is not whether vexation will build up. It will. It’s just a matter of how quickly that will happen.

Experiment 3: Aware of the peripheral

Some might argue that they don’t zoom in on a small fixed point but instead shift their awareness to the surrounding area. For example, you might look at your screen but focus your awareness on what’s happening next to you or behind the screen without actually moving your eyes in that direction.

The same principle still applies. You could increase the time by a few seconds. You will notice that vexation will still build up and as you shift your eyes to another spot, you’ll feel relieved. This is how you experience beauty. Because what is beauty after all? It is a pleasant feeling you get from sights. You can’t perceive something beautiful without generating some degree of pleasure.

That’s why the moment you see an attractive person on the street, and you try to look away on purpose, you still feel the urge to look again, even if it’s just for a moment. When you feel you want to look but don’t look, that is not pleasurable, that is vexatious. So to relieve yourself of that vexation you have to look.

Experiment 4: Examining an eye

This is also a great example. How do you look at a person?

Do you fixate on a single point? No, in a similar manner, you make numerous points of contact. You cannot simply stare at the tip of their nose or the center of their pupil.

“But I really like to look at someone’s beautiful eyes.”

Let’s say they let you do that and they don’t consider you a creep and call the police on you – you wouldn’t focus on a single point. Even with a small surface area like the eyes, you scan them all over the place, making numerous points of contact. You couldn’t gaze at a single point and experience beauty for very long. That would be vexatious. Try this out for yourself. I don’t mean to go out and harass others now. You can just use an image of a person instead. 

Let’s just use the image of an eye:

Here’s the way you’d look at the picture (again, this doesn’t reflect minute details but gives you an idea of the process.):

hidden stress

Vexation is always present, at any given point in time. It’s relieved so quickly that you are not conscious of it.

Inherently devoid of essence

Whether you examine it on a micro level, from moment to moment, or on a macro level (anything longer than moments), the outcome is the same: The mind constantly desires to perceive specific arrangements of matter and is therefore always seeking them. It can only find momentary relief each time it perceives arrangements that match the image of beauty it has constructed for itself, based on its current view or perspective.

Now, one might argue that these individual micro-moments serve only the purpose of experiencing the culmination of all of them, resulting in a complete perception. 

Unfortunately, this overlooks the fact that even after experiencing what is perceived as “the sum” of all those moments, the vexation persists. It also disregards the initial dependency on something for happiness, implying that one is discontent to start with and that the object possesses some kind of property that can contribute to happiness and contentment. 

Regardless of how you look at it, the “end product” will still not be able to satisfy you; that’s why you get bored with it at one point and crave it at another. We will examine how our wrong views of happiness contradict the cause and effect principles which govern the entire universe in the next article.

The key is changing your perspective

As mentioned earlier, the mind forms an image of beauty or pleasantness based on its underlying view or perspective about the world and happiness, driven by an intense longing for happiness above all else.

But perspectives can change. That’s why you may learn to appreciate certain types of art or arrangements. Have you ever found somebody becoming more attractive once you got to know them better? Your views can change, affecting your preferences for various things. Your music preferences have changed over the years. You have learned to appreciate coffee, tea, wine, certain foods, smells, etc. If beauty and pleasure were intrinsic to the object, then how could the same object evoke different feelings at different times?

Perspectives change constantly and they’re significantly influenced by our environment, as we briefly discussed in the previous article. Spending time with the rich and famous for a few months can shape your tastes differently than if you were to live with a simple farming family in the countryside for a while.

But does this mean that one perspective is inherently more refined than the other? Is caviar a more sophisticated food item than boiled potatoes? Is one objectively better than the other? It’s like choosing between expensive, shiny marbles and cheaper, plain ones at the toy store. Regardless of which you choose, you’re still playing with marbles. You’re still playing with marbles because you have the view they can make life more enjoyable.

Now, mind you that I’m also trying to change your view. I aim to alter your viewpoint at its core so that you recognize you don’t need all those things to be happy. The wrong view puts you in a state of discontent because you feel incomplete without your desired objects. Consequently, you invest effort and energy into obtaining and maintaining them, all in an attempt to alleviate that unhappiness.

This is the paradoxical reality we mistake for happiness until we grasp this truth and liberate ourselves from it. Then, we can begin to utilize our senses for their true purpose: simply to perceive. That’s all they can ever do.

Happiness & Mindfulness Exercise

mindfulness exercise and happiness exercise.

As we’ve conducted a few experiments in this article, don’t expect them to radically alter your views just yet. Conviction typically comes from putting concepts into practice. That’s when your perspectives begin to shift at the core, and your happiness starts to become independent and unshakable.

We focused on sight because it’s the easiest sense to understand. Now, apply the exercises we’ve done to any sight you encounter in your daily life. Whether it’s people or objects, ensure that your actions are considerate and respectful of others’ comfort. Don’t suddenly start staring at someone or their body parts.

For any object of your choosing, follow these steps:

  1. Recognize how you naturally scan the object all over the place. Notice how you feel. If you find the view pleasant, you’ll feel a sense of joy arising. That means your experience of beauty is a mental feeling.
  2. Practice fixing your eyes on a single point on different parts of your desired object. Notice how this can be vexatious until you shift your focus point.
  3. Apply different time frames, varying from a few seconds to whatever you can tolerate. Notice again how vexation builds up the longer you keep watching and how your mind urges you to look elsewhere. When you shift your view, observe the relief it brings.
  4. Reflect on the entirety of the practice thus far. Your perception of beauty is not what it appears to be. There’s a presence of vexation being relieved constantly, yet it’s never eradicated. That’s why, even as you experience beauty in a sight, the moment you remove yourself from it, you feel the vexation resurfacing more prominently—it never vanished. And because the sight itself doesn’t inherently possess beauty, the vexation becomes more apparent the longer you engage with the sight making it impossible for you to sense beauty any longer during that time.


You’ve become so accustomed to the feeling of vexation that you don’t even notice it’s always present. Even when you believe you have everything you want, the mind seeks constant confirmation. Every moment of confirmation provides relief from vexation. But when that confirmation doesn’t come, especially when desired objects are absent, the presence of vexation becomes more and more apparent.

True joy has never been acquired in this way. True joy is completely free from vexation. Your true state of being is joyful and blissful, but you’ll never experience that as long as the perspective remains that it must be obtained through your senses. In that case, all you can experience is relief at any given time.

However, the moment your perspective changes and you begin to realize the true nature of the mind and the world around it, you’ll start to break free from this trap.

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