Many weeks ago, a woman [that I didn't know] approached me in a parking garage and said, “I’m trying to get to your level.” I laughed her comment off with a smile and kept walking. But she continued, following me, and said, “I know it wasn’t easy.” We were walking together now towards the steps in the parking garage, and without missing a beat I said [with a smile and a shrug] “Life is as easy as you make it.” She then replied, “But there are always external things.” At that point I paused and looked over at the woman. She was looking at me expectantly, her eyes were urging me to disagree. Instead, I just said, “Yea.” I noticed her satisfied head shake as we parted ways.
I happily went on with my day, but the exchange was an important one. If you’ve read any of my posts, you’d probably know that I wouldn’t agree that there are “always external things” interfering with our lives [in fact, I just wrote a post all about taking personal responsibility for your actions and reactions!]. But when I looked over at the woman, I realized clearly that she had already made up her mind. When I said, “life is as easy as you make it,” she already had a response ready. She had created a consolation…life wasn’t easy because of everything else. In one of the richest countries on this planet, I just didn’t have it in heart at that moment to share my different reality. I also try not to make a practice of arguing with everyone who has a different opinion ;)
But it is amazing, we have everything, but somehow we feel that we have nothing. There is always something more to gain before we feel successful. Marriage, more status, more money, children, recognition, fame, and on and on.
One could argue that in war torn or impoverished parts of the world, life is difficult because of external factors. Most would easily agree with this consolation…of course they are not happy, they have nothing. But the surprising reality is that often, those with nothing, feel that they have everything. In this light, phrases like The meek shall inherit the Earth; the least of us shall become the most of us; and others have a different flavor. Without the weight of desire and attachment, those who are free are able to soar and have all. Truly freedom is the greatest joy.
Just yesterday, a friend shared a story of meeting an impoverished man, living in a shanty, in Guatemala. A person in the group asked how he was able to be joyful despite his circumstances, and he answered, “I have my loving wife and my happy children…what more do I need?!” How many of us say this is enough, but constantly feel the need to gain another achievement to actually feel happy?
[A Taoist or Buddhist would recognize these relationships as other attachments, but he was happy without identifying material things, so I still consider this realization to be quite impressive ;) Bob Marley’s famous last words to his son Ziggy were, “Money can’t buy life.” An excellent proclamation!]
Now this is not a story of comparison…just because he was happy with little doesn’t automatically mean we should be happy with much. The story here is that contentment should not be based on how much one has (I just use the rich nation/poor nation as a material example). Simply being happy is natural. It is not for us to determine why another is happy, but rather to inquire as to why we are not. This is internal work. But the example exists to show us that this kind of happiness is possible without having more things.
So, my challenge to you is this…when you find yourself complaining about your circumstances, or feeling that life is hard…turn the question toward yourself. Resist creating a consolation (e.g. Life is hard; It’s their fault; There’s nothing I can do; etc.) and ask yourself these questions:
- Is this situation a result of your decision?
- Is there something you can do to change the situation?
- What are small steps you can take today to move you in the direction you are being called toward? Remember, resistance can be the source of depression, stress, and illness! [Previous post: Do What You Fear tackles this topic!]
- Believing that everything is happening for your highest good, is there another way that you can spin the situation to identify the positive?
- Are you looking for some external meaning or validating from the situation (or person) that you feel you are not receiving?
Question yourself. Cultivate true contentment. Truly understand that only those who know when is enough is enough can ever have enough. Breathe deeply and look within to feel your connection with all of creation. Free yourself and just be. Einstein said it best, “Stand still. The trees ahead and the bush beside you are not lost.”
We have no limits except those we create for ourselves.
I hope that you free yourself ;)
Photo source: All Tied Up by Thomas Blake