Waking up to Wisdom
In Stillness and Community

Finding the Deepest Joy in Relationships

--by Ezra Bayda (Nov 01, 2011)

One very helpful tool in both clarifying and working with our relationship difficulties is to return to the three questions:

Am I truly happy right now? What blocks happiness? Can I surrender to what is?      [...]

The first question helps identify what we’re actually feeling (often we don’t know).

The second question shows us where we’re stuck in our conditioning—our expectations, demands, or unhealed pain. Once we see our expectations clearly, and once we work through our surface emotional reactions, we usually reach that uncomfortable place where we begin to feel our deepest fears -- such as the fear of being unworthy, the fear of being alone, the fear of being hurt again, the fear of rejection, or the fear of the loss of control or safety. Our fears may not necessarily be logical, but we still believe at our core that they are the truth, and they certainly dictate how we feel and how we live, thus blocking any chance for true contentment.

Finally, the third question leads us directly into the experiential process of coming face to face with our own fears—the fears that are almost always at the root of our unhappiness in relationships. Asking the third question -- Can I surrender to what is? -- allows us to do the one thing that can help free us from the domination of our fears: that is, to welcome them in and actually feel them. We may think we can’t stand to feel our fears, but the truth is we just don’t want to, primarily because they feel so uncomfortable. But over time we can develop the courage and confidence to stay present with our fears. We learn again and again that it’s awareness that heals; and gradually, the fears, which at one point felt so solid and unapproachable, are now much more workable. 

As we become more inwardly free from our conditioning and our fears, the love and connection that are possible in relationships tend to flow through us more naturally. As our defenses are lowered, our heart opens, and there is a natural desire to give from the generosity of the heart. We discover that genuine happiness in relationships is not a product of having our expectations met or getting what we want but rather it is the consequence of freely giving in order to bring happiness to another. Nearly every parent has experienced this at some point -- their deepest joy coming from giving unselfishly to their children. Unfortunately, this truth is often forgotten as relationships become more complex, and especially as fear supersedes our innate desire to give from the heart.

-- Ezra Bayda, from "Beyond Happiness, The Zen Way to True Contentment"

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Previous Reflections:

On Oct 29, 2011 Conrad wrote:

Thank you Somik for the opportunity to respond. I rarely experience acceptance of all feelings in a difficult moment within a relationship. My feelings are frequently mixed, not only within relationships, but much of the time. I have learned to accept mixed feelings in a way that satisfies me. Ezra's message is very worthwhile. I am a former Roman Catholic who, when helping someone, formerly thought that it would give me merit in heaven. Now, as a Zen Buddhist, I find that giving help to others has its own immediate reward as though heaven were here right now.  I am impressed with Aldous Huxley who, after many years of study and writing said something to the effect that the one  essential thing in life is to be kind. I believe he was in a secular writer writing about secular spirituality.

Warm and kind regards to everyone.and thanks to for making these available to so many people.

On Oct 29, 2011 Edit Lak wrote:

Greetings to you all

I’ve just read this passage for the second time, and even on the second time, I took a deep sigh

I read the title again, and took a sigh..  ‘Finding the Deepest Joy in a Relationship’ Hmmm!!!    This is a lovely passage, interesting and questioning...

But, I don’t know...  Love has no expectations; True love has no expectations- right?

So if we have to question our level of love in the form of ‘Can I surrender to what is’, then it’s not the trust in ‘Love’ that we fear, it’s the lack of love, or understanding in our self’s that we question..   So if we have to do the three fold questioning and assessments of; 

Am I truly happy right now? What blocks happiness? Can I surrender to what is?

That in itself states your working on development – personal development..  And the other person you’re referring to in the relationship is but only a means for you to understand ‘SELF’ 


Then assuming only a parent has a degree of deep understanding of selflessness from a giving ...  Hmmm, another sigh ...  I’m not completely convinced of that...  Do I really need to be a parent to give selflessly as that is only where my ‘experience’ will come from? 

 Hmmm!!!   Deep sigh.... Are we not all the experience of the relationship, to the journey of life?

Anyway ..  It was good to ponder a questioning of Deepest-Joy and Relationship... 


I don’t restrict my life to follow anything in particular,

I joyously learn from everything, I practice the greater good of all,

and, continue to grow from the soul..

So, as a semi-oneness with ‘all’ and most probably an outsider in the whole...

This passage just didn’t sparkle for me as the ‘Deepest Joy’ maybe, and just maybe, this short passage didn’t do justice on the entire ‘WHOLE’ passage of the learning...    I do not know works of EZRA, but thank you for sharing as I will learn from reading this book :-)


Much love


On Oct 30, 2011 Ravi Sheshadri wrote:

I am absolutely with your views. Nowadays I am being more and more aware about what I am living and what I am speaking. I become aware many a times during interactions that I must be 'here and now'. I must be with the speaker. It is as it should be.

The first two questions have not come across the mind.

With regards



On Oct 30, 2011 smile wrote:

 Beautifully said. 

I had read someone's goal in life as 'Being happy and peaceful within' and it comes back to me so often.. This can help make decision of our attitude, reaction to any situation.

It may be very difficult to follow no expectation or not wanting something for our actions in return, but an immediate materialistic reward may prevent us from getting the non-materialistic deep experiences and rewards.

The one who understand and explores this may not come back but reaching to that point in every situation even most troublesome ones can be a big challenge.

On Nov 1, 2011 joanne wrote:

This was a lovely, thought provoking passage to read this morning.  In fact, I made myself a little 'work sheet' with the three question so I may work thru them every once in a while when I find myself strugling with a situation.

I would agree that there is immense joy in separating oneself from the expectation of a specific outcome in any situation.  I have accomplished this on occasion, but it is a challenge.  I am having a human experience so such is 'life'. 

While I do not so much label myself, I do find Buddhist philosophy comforting and it resonates deeply with me.  I seek to separate myself from attachement to outcomes but have observed so much of our conditioning and western societal teaching in contrary to this philosophy.  he notion of doing for another without expectation has been labelled as co-dependant behaviour by others.  WHile I am open to this consideration, returning to the question "Am I happy right now?" helps erase the frantic questioning within my brain and return to that source of peace.

As always, I am most grateful for these wonderful readings and the sharing of everyone's experiences.

Much love,



On Nov 3, 2011 Raymond wrote:

 This was very very informative and encouraging......came across it at a time when i needed it.....thanks so much.

On Nov 3, 2011 anna leex wrote:
true! most of us especially those who experience so much heartache hold back their self 'coz of fear, so havin' this kind of articles really help.:P scm

On Nov 3, 2011 supriyaa wrote:

 nice one .. i am feeling relaxed after reading this ..

On Nov 4, 2011 Dinesh Mehta wrote:

 Audio clip from this week's circle of sharing ...

On Nov 15, 2011 Marian Schneider wrote:

 The world as it is today, not 73 years ago when I was born and raised, has become greedy, non-caring, and selfish.  I watch my grandchildren, who are in their 20's, unable to focus on the important thing in life, which is their self.  They need to "fit in", "they go with the flow", or are overcome by anxiety when they cannot find a job, but have to pay their school loans!  Is there a place within where they can find more comfort, understanding, and continue to be true to themselves?  I find my place deep in my heart and soul.  However, these young people don't understand how to do that, or they just don't care.  How can you make them understand with all the negativity in this world of greed and crime.  Would this book, "BEYOND HAPPINESS, The Zen way to True Contentment", be my salvation for them?  We are a family with Religious beliefs, but somehow they lost the key!   

On Dec 26, 2012 Carrie wrote:
 I am one of those 20-somethings, if only for another year. I feel the anxiety of living in my current culture, and it does cripple me, making me blind to reality. It is such a challenge to live right now, for me personally, but I also think for my generation. I've grown up and become who I am very much on my own, which is unlike most people in my age-group, I think. Whereas most of my peers are quite dependent on their parents or other elders, I find myself being shut down, cutting people out of my life just because of how I grew up.

Regardless of those differences, however, I think many people my age feel an overwhelming sense of disconnect...from ourselves, from others, from the world. There are many movements (local economy, local food, small community development) that millenials are working towards, and these are steps in the right direction. These steps express a desire for that connectedness. But we're all still educated to think a specific way, and that if we work hard enough, we will get the life we want. But that is not true. When we live with that expectation (because we've been conditioned by our culture to expect it) and then fail to get the life we want, we have overwhelming anxiety. We feel duped. We realize the lie, but aren't educated in enough "right mindedness" to see our way out of it. Then we're trapped by the debt we agreed to in order to participate in this system, or we encounter health problems and accumulate debt that way.

Even now, I walk the path. I meditate. I read things that help build skillful practice, thoughts, and discourse. I practice yoga. I try to be mindful in all things. And yet, I lie awake at night with such anxiety, such a heavy heart over feeling trapped into a system I know is a lie by something as trivial as debt, whether for education or health matters not. I can see my fears. I can articulate them. I can even invite them in and sit with them a while. But learning to live in our current culture with this mindset is my greatest challenge. I wonder if that is a generational thing, or just a Western thing?

On Dec 27, 2012 Conrad P. Pritscher wrote:
 Dear Carrie,
I have grandchildren near your age  so I experience our changing culture somewhat differently.  There is suffering.  And there is a way out of suffering  Siddhartha Gotoma said. Reading the Dahmapada and practicing what it says may be of value. I'm reminded of what Gandhi said: "if you want to make others happy, be compassionate.  If you want to be happy, be compassionate."   You sound like a wonderful person and I expect everything will be fine. Warm and kind regards to you and all readers.