Most of us have grown up in a culture where we look outward for happiness. This is something we have picked up since we were children. We did things that would please people around us, so that we got praise and approval from others. We grew up learning that in order to be happy, we would need certain things: we would need to be the best at something; we must have a big house, a job, money, partner, kids, etc. Our happiness is always “somewhere out there”, tied to getting something, or getting somewhere; always in the future.
This results in us spending most of our lives trying to change things around us, in order to be happy. If we are not happy, we think it is because something is not going the way we want it to, or that someone is not behaving the way we need them to.
When we live at home growing up, we cant wait to get out from under our parents’ roof, and live on our own; to find our independence. Then, we need to find a job. Then, we need to get out of the apartment we are sharing because we dislike our roommates. Then, we need more money to afford the new apartment. Then, we decide we are lonely; we need a partner. It would also be great if we had kids, and a house, and a yard, and a dog. Good friends. Loving family. Rapid career advancement.
Then we have all those things. And then, we think we’re overwhelmed, and that we need a break; we need a vacation. We dream of that perfect vacation at the beautiful beach that we see in those brochures, where we can finally, truly, relax. We end up at the exact same beach, from the beautiful brochures. Ahhh now to relax. How long do we really enjoy, though? When we’re on our vacation, in our mind, we are already back at work and home, thinking of all the catching up we will have to do, and the friends we have to call, and the stories we have to tell. We take many pictures to capture the beauty of this wonderful beach, because, even though our mind will not let us enjoy the beach right now, we’re sure that when we are back home we can look at those pictures, and enjoy the vacation then!
So other than the few minutes of joy we experience when we do get something we really want, are we really happy? And if happiness happens when we get our desires fulfilled, why is it that so many of us cannot stay happy, even when we technically have all our lifelong dreams fulfilled (well, most of them, anyway)?
“Until I get this object (money, friendship, anything) I’m not going to be happy; I’ve got to strive to get it and then when I’ve got it, I’ve got to strive to keep it. I get a temporary thrill. Oh, I’m so thrilled, I’ve got it”! But how long does that last? A few minutes, a few days at the most. When you get your brand-new car, how long does the thrill last? Until your next attachment is threatened!” ~Father Anthony de Mello
So is there a way to really be happy? Could it be that there is a flaw in how we are seeing things? We spend so much time in trying to change the world around us; have we ever thought: “Maybe the world is just fine; maybe, just maybe, it’s the window we’re looking through that may need some cleaning?
This window we look through is our mind.
We have all experienced walking through a park or along a beach, lost in worries and thoughts, and then walking down the same path another day, when in a better mental space, enjoying the scenery. The park/beach is still the same; the only thing different is our state of mind.
Or when someone praises us, we are very happy with this person, but the minute they are no longer saying things our minds like to hear, we change our opinion about this person.
When we are in a bad mood, everyone around us seems annoying and grumpy, even if they are not aware of this. When we are happy the whole world seems happy. Is it possible that all the people around us can be happy or grumpy around the same time? Do you see how our state of mind, the window we are looking through, actually determines how the world around us looks, at any given time?
“We see the world not as it is, but as we are.” ~Anais Nin
There are a few techniques covered in the Living: Techniques section on how to identify this window (mind) that we’re talking about. If we can’t locate the window, we definitely won’t know how to clean it, will we?
- Living Unbound: Dissolving Emotional Reactions In Reality
- Living Unbound: Identifying Mind Stories
- Living Unbound: Accepting Reality
- Level 1
- Level 2