Welcome to this glorious Friday, October 18, 2019. This is a rare and precious day that will never come again! How are you choosing to live it?
I spent a significant portion of my life seeking more happiness. After all, isn’t that what life’s all about? The pursuit of happiness? I was never quite happy enough. Of course, there were times when everything aligned and it seemed like I won the happiness grand prize, but quickly it was gone.
Regardless of how many times I pursued and found happiness through some joyful experience, I soon became unhappy - again. Trying to re-create the conditions was futile. It was never quite the same.
If you’re like me, despite having your needs met, you’re probably not as happy, peaceful nor content as you’d like to be. You might be thinking that you need more of something to make you happy. There comes a time when it might be helpful to consider that if we keep needing more of something to increase our happiness, maybe it doesn’t work.
If I look at my discontent, I find that it’s within me. We have a saying in recovery: “when I am disturbed, there is something wrong with me.” Forget that! I’m discontent because of A, B and C. My tendency was, and to a lesser extent still is, to try arranging the conditions around me trusting that they were the source of my discontent. How many times and how much energy have I spent trying to arrange people, places and things only to find fleeting peace and happiness? Ugh! The discontent is mine.
For me, finding enduring happiness, peace and contentment has taken quite some time to cultivate and isn’t fully rooted. There are times when I still think there is something missing. But it’s times like these, however, when subtraction has proven to work far better than addition.
We’ve heard the wisdom that we don’t own our stuff, it owns us. I believe this to be true in so many ways. And yes, I have found much freedom, peace and happiness subtracting material possessions from my life. I mean seriously, how many coffee mugs, mixing bowls, spatulas, blankets, sheets, books, movies, pants, shirts and socks do I think I need? I’m keeping my cat socks! Meow! Sure, some of the stuff is useful and some quite memorable, but do I need it? Can someone use it more? Regardless, in practicing mindfulness, I’ve discovered that my unhappiness is less a result of the material world and more of a result of what’s between my ears.
In continuing this work, I see how incredibly destructive my own thoughts are and how they rob me of my peace and happiness. Actually, I feel like it is more accurate to say that my thoughts cover up the enduring peace and happiness already within me.
With a lot of guidance and self-reflection, I’m seeing how the stories I tell myself create discontent. I have self-limiting beliefs about who I am and what I do. I tend to tell myself stories about how a painful childhood experience, the loss of a career, a divorce or a disease are the causes of my suffering. It’s as if these transitory events somehow define me. I can’t be happy because… We need to see through these stories. Though I can’t subtract past events from my life, I’m discovering that I can let go of, or at least reframe, the destructive stories. After all, the events are long gone. In surrendering who I think I am, I create the space to become the person I want be – happy.
I work daily to subtract my personal biases, opinions, judgments and labels about myself and others. They are many and run deep. One of the most persistent thoughts that keeps me from connecting with the peace and happiness within is the unrealistic idea that I should be happy all the time. It turns out that it’s quite normal and healthy to experience what we describe as negative emotions. It’s ok to feel sad. It’s ok to feel anger. With practice, we can learn to let go of the desire to change the way we feel – the discontent that drives us to add. In time, we can be content experiencing just about any difficult emotion, thought, worry or concern.
When we work diligently to subtract the things that cause suffering from our life, what’s left is peace, content and happiness. These qualities are always there.
“Maybe the journey isn’t so much about becoming anything. Maybe it’s about un-becoming everything that isn’t really you, so you can be who you were meant to be in the first place.” ― Paul Coelho
I love you and there isn’t anything that you can do about it!
I’m less than I used to be, and paradoxically, more happy. Just what I always wanted 😉