Sunday, October 21, 2012

100 Choices Every Second

In Western culture we have an incredible neurosis. We rarely feel worthy. We are never quite satisfied with who we are and where we are in life. This menace appears in our careers, where we never feel competent enough. It shows up at the gym, where we never feel fit enough. It shows up in school, where we never feel cool enough, popular enough, or smart enough. The shopping mall thrives on the fact that we are never satisfied, we can't just be happy.

There is probably someone in the world right now who is more satisfied than me, with less. I'm going to contemplate what makes that person tick.

I sometimes lose sight of what is in front of me at this moment and fantasize about where life might be taking me. I strategize about the future. Then I get frustrated because things aren't working out according to my 5 point program to become the super me.

At some point I could just take a step back and appreciate where I am in life. My refrigerator works. I have a job. I'm healthy, but this won't always be true.

In Western culture we value individualism and freedom. I love this about my culture, but this freedom is worthless if I fail to realize that thanks to all of this freedom, I am constantly making decisions. I make 100 decisions every second. I need to develop my discipline so that these choices don't destroy everything I love: my relationships, my career, our planet.

I make 100 decisions every second about whether to be happy with how things are, or to complain. Most of these decisions are subconscious. Sometimes I realize what I've decided only after I've opened my mouth and rattled off a list of grievances.

Through meditation, I am re-arranging the mental pattern, so that I am more often making the conscious choice not to complain, but to let things be the way they are, free from judgement. The more I do this, the more I make the choice to be happy. At some point, even the subconscious choices take new shape. I complain less. I'm more content and I can't even point to the moments when the decisions were made. Some people call this re-wiring your brain.

Letting go of the fantasies.
Last night some friends and I discussed this late into the night, over beers. While we agreed on the fact that happiness requires a conscious decision to be satisfied with where things are in the present, we still wondered about how to approach the future, without setting ourselves up for unhappiness.

I can't help the fact that my mind makes up a vision of the future. Some part of that vision may come true, but it is almost guaranteed that my future won't turn out how I imagined it. If I hang on too tightly to that vision, I will be unhappy. The trick is to know my mind intimately and to see the tricks it is playing on me, to see the hopes and fears. Meditation is the practice of becoming familiar with the mind.

Fantasies about the future are part of being a human. I can't stop my mind from doing this. But I can recognize the fact that my mind is playing this game. Then I can have a sense of humor about the whole thing and let go of the fantasies, like smoke rising in the air.

Being satisfied and content with the way things are doesn't mean we ignore the future. We can't afford to. There are real problems in the world that we can influence. If we are going to make the world a better place, we need to know the qualities of happiness. We need to take this out into the world and make 100 decisions every second that make the world a happier place for all sentient beings.

1 comment:

  1. I like when you say "There is probably someone in the world right now who is more satisfied than me, with less. I'm going to contemplate what makes that person tick."