I recently read a fairly good piece in Fast Company about hedonic adaptation. Even liking it in part, I do often find it challenging to recommend articles here, or via social media, simply because even the really good pieces are always filtered through egocentric thinking, and are therefore thought of in unhelpful psychological terms.
This makes a much bigger difference than people can imagine. Taken from a perspective of ego, hedonic adaptation is about how achievements feel over time. A new car feels less exciting once we’re accustomed to it, etc. But this very definition implies an ego-based, time-travelling state of mind in which we compare now to before, in ways that lead us to buy more new cars than we need.
Of course, in reality, there is only Now. And there, because we have no way to create comparison, our feelings are generated by whatever we place our attention on. And nothing stops us from placing it on positive things. If we do so, we are neither satisfied or dissatisfied with our cars—we’ve just shifted our in-the-moment attention to driving, and a satisfying song on the car’s radio.
While it can motivate us, we do not need disappointment to drive progress. The fact that we seek novelty, discovery and creation is simply an expression of our role as the universe experiencing, and expanding, itself. Of course it wants to uncover as much as it can—that’s what feeds its infinite growth.
For the universe, our experiences are all originals. In being so, they expand the universe. In this way we can do no wrong. Even when we fail, or we’re in pain, or we suffer—those experiences are still serving to expand our awareness and understanding, which in turn expands the universe itself. We’re just healthier if we don’t take the unfolding universe personally—which is all an ego does.
Free yourself from the clutches of ego. It will always be our companion. But, if we know what we’re doing, our ego will rarely be in charge anyway. And that’s good, because a soulful life is a faster route to a rewarding life than even the newest, shiniest and fastest car there is.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.