You know how it is when you’re praying for the one thing that will make everything alright. A win on the lottery, and all my troubles will be gone. If I could only find the perfect partner, I’d live happily ever after. Getting my health back will make my life worth living. If people would just stop fighting, world peace would reign. Even physicists are looking for that one unified theory. I have certainly thought all of the above at one moment or other in my life. And that is the point. What will make your life alright, better or perfect changes from moment to moment, year to year.
It has dawned on me, finally, that there is no one thing that will make everything better. A problem is only a problem because of your perspective at that point in time and space, and in some other moment, it’s not a problem at all.
Perhaps that’s why lifestyle gurus and life coaches are keen for us to adopt the idea that a problem is only a challenge to be overcome. It’s all about the meaning we attribute to a situation in relation to how we are feeling generally at the time.
When you are freezing to death on a snowy mountain, a fire is a lifeline. When crawling through a desert dying of thirst, only water will do. Once you have those things, you move onto the next thing – a rescue helicopter, an oasis with camels or four by fours…There is always one more problem to overcome, one more thing to make it perfect. A job. A house. A husband. A holiday…
We are searching for that feeling of being alright, feeling worthy, feeling happy, feeling settled, comfortable, full, relaxed, thrilled, loved…We believe that things, or even other people, will bring those feelings, but we already have the ability to feel all those things inside of us now. Our minds don’t know the difference between the real and the imagined when it comes to feelings. As long as we have something to eat and drink, and shelter and safety, all the rest, I mean the feelings engendered by literally everything you can think of having or owning can be imagined. Our minds are powerful things.
Can you imagine what it would be like to sail a yacht into the harbour at Cannes or Monaco? The light breeze ruffling your hair. The bright sun, high in the sky, on your face. Its warmth enveloping your body. The sound of the waves lapping at the stern. The tinkling slap of a halyard on the mast. The call of the gulls as they wheel through the clear air. The smell of sun lotion. The murmur of envy of the people on the quay. The feeling of relaxation and happiness. The excitement…
‘Ah, but it’s not real.’ I hear you cry. No, it’s not. It’s just a feeling. Do you believe the feeling is any more or less real in other circumstances? The chemicals and hormones your body produces are the same. The somatic sensations are the same. It’s only your mind that distinguishes one situation as being more or less real. Of course, that doesn’t stop you from aiming to acquire those material things if that is your desire, but motivational master, Maslow, was on track when he said that as long as you have shelter, food and drink, and physical safety, all the rest is about a feeling and the meaning you attribute to it – belonging, esteem, and self-actualisation, to use his words; feelings of love, friendship, confidence, respect, fulfilment and creativity to use others.
A Sadhu, a holy man in India, renounces all material things and lives usually without home or possessions, focusing on his spiritual path accepting donations of food from those whose path he crosses. There is literally no thing that makes his life alright. I know that wouldn’t be the life for me, but I admire, from afar, his choice. It must be very liberating not to have to worry about things: storing things, losing things, keeping things safe, and maintaining things in tip top order. I know when I backpacked around our amazing world, for the first three days I worried about whether the tenants were looking after my house, my furniture, my stuff, but that faded and I was liberated. One small backpack contained all I needed in that moment, in that year of moments! Can you imagine just how much energy you would have to invest in having a real Mediterranean luxury yacht? How much work to earn the money? How much time in recruiting a trustworthy crew? How much worry in keeping it safe from pirates?
Maybe things are a little over-rated sometimes when we already have within our grasp so much. I still wish I could have more days pain free, and be able to walk the miles I used to when I traveled, but at that time I was wishing for a perfect partner. Go figure. A different time, a different wish – I’ve just made my case. There is no panacea, no one thing, only a myriad of different meanings and feelings at different times that go to make us the complex emotional creatures we are.
Come learn more about living in the moment at the Mindfulness and Meditation evening. See events page for more.