Why is it so difficult to not "fall off the wagon" and get entangled in your emotions, judgments, cravings, etc.? The answer is simply that we were raised and have lived our whole lives in a culture that is inimical to the Buddhist path. I'm 77 years old, so even though I've been a practicing Buddhist for 27 years, I spent 50 years being molded by our culture and all the neuroses that I developed in early childhood.
Now you're trying to change the paradigms of your life. And that is not easy. I have always taught that we live in this world and we can't change it. But we don't have to interact with the world on its, the culture's, terms. We must interact with it on our own spiritual terms. This is laid out in detail with specific examples in my book, Making Your Way in Life as a Buddhist.
Then one recent morning I had a very interesting and empowering experience. I woke up in a funk, probably because I have been trying to get a project off the ground and I recently sent emails to a number of people, 3 of whom I new rather well. And I have heard back from no one.
One option to deal with this type of situation would have been to say, it's summer, people are traveling now that restrictions are lifted, etc. so it's not reasonable to expect a quick response even though that's what I would have done after receiving that email. That would have been good, it would have temporarily ended my frustration, but that's all.
I also could have said, "It's just the way it is." That would have provided permanent closure to my mild case of angst.
What I realized instead during my meditation is that while I may be dependent on others for the success of ventures where I'm trying to make money or be heard, I am not dependent on any one or any thing for my peace and happiness. I know that I have everything I need inside myself to be at peace and happy.
The way to be a Buddhist and live in this world, free of frustration, is to realize that the two worlds I am inhabiting are distinct and discrete; they interact but they are discrete. There's the real world out there and there's my spiritual world – how I relate to myself and the world around me.
I know that all I need to be at peace and happy is to offer myself and others joy, to be in the company of loved ones and friends, to respect my mind, to respect my body, to be in touch with nature, and to live within my means. (For a detailed discussion of these steps, see my post, "Happiness - What You Need to Be Happy.")
Regardless of the material or other situation you are in, you have the power and the choice to be at peace and happy rather than agitated by any factual hardship or frustration at the situation. Again this is hard for someone who has been formed by this culture to truly accept, rather than just mouth the words. In our culture, having enough money has a very real impact on one's peace and happiness. And so it is easy to confound the two. But that is the province of the mind, not your heart, your true self.
When I saw clearly the demarcation between the two worlds, a load was lifted off my back. There is nothing that is more important to me than to be at peace and happy (see my post, "What's Most Important to You?"). My efforts on this and other projects, and the results, are what they are. Period. They have no impact on my peace and happiness.
Post-script: When I reread this before posting, I thought, is this last statement true? When I get good news or bad news, I certainly feel that my peace and happiness is impacted. But I realized that that impact is momentary. Within a short time frame I have regained by normal equilibrium, Whatever the situation is, it has become my new "present."