Most of us keep trying to improve our lives by making adjustments to the outside of them, or ourselves, but that’s a bit like trying to fix the Titanic by softening the iceberg rather than just getting the current Captain to pay more attention and steer around it. Likewise, if we manage our life from the outside our resulting direction can sink us.
Precisely because we get some good feelings from some things we like, it appears to confirm what we’ve heard so we’ve never looked to see if we get good feelings from things we don’t like.
Everyone tells us that the things we like are better than the things we don’t like so it all makes sense except for the part where we’re doing that and we’re still not happy enough.
Part of the problem is that we’re looking for ‘happy’ instead of ‘satisfied.’ Happy sounds like it should be better doesn’t it? If we put life on a ladder, happy would be higher up than satisfied, wouldn’t it? But that’s thing; we’re not on a ladder. This isn’t a one-directional space.
Yes, we must move forward relative to ourselves, but we can’t do that relative to the universe. It doesn’t have a top or bottom or left or right side. It’s infinite. ‘Forward’ for us can look like ‘wandering all over the place’ to the universe. Likewise, ‘satisfied’ for us can turn out to be what we expected ‘happy’ to be.
The way this works is that satisfaction done in this way is complete satisfaction. Rather than being happy about our entire life at once, we can be satisfied with everything about the moment we are in.
We can have left tragedy and be moving toward disaster, but if we are satisfied in between then no one can ever take that away from us. That time will have been lived and we will have been profoundly satisfied. The idea is to win as many of those little time-squares as we can.
Consider every moment like a quadrant on our voyage through life. Each quadrant contains our thoughts and actions. If the box presents a problem like an iceberg then we can enjoy the action of finding the solution, or we can resist finding a solution by idly thinking about the problem.
One will feel good one will feel bad. The bad one is us telling ourselves that we shouldn’t have ever saw an iceberg because we’re not sure what to do about it. But if we’re present, we’re looking for possible solutions and can experience grateful once we know how to make the situation better by making some direction changes.
Doing all of this is a lot easier if we stop reconsidering every moment in our past and stop worrying about every potential moment in our future. If we do that we have no mind left to find a solution in a current moment. We can’t be so worried about the schedule of the passengers that we start ignoring the icebergs that exist when and where we are.
Note that when we’re healthy we ‘find a solution,’ we don’t ‘fix a problem.’ We’re only fixing something if it wasn’t supposed to be that way in the first place. But no one ever made that deal with any of us. If anything we made the opposite deal. Life is like the North Atlantic. Everyone has to steer past icebergs. No one’s boat is that good.
We can abandon our expectations for this day. We can look into ourselves for our hopes and our beliefs and our wants, and we know that those guarantee us nothing. Everything changes, it’s only a matter of when; and were we appreciating it before it did change?
If we’re in the act of appreciating, then that feels good. And if we accept that that feeling could go away, then we can immediately shift to rewarding thoughts about its presence in our lives in that moment. Gratitude for gratitude. It works every time.
Rewarding thoughts can include things like being grateful that we know how to create the solution that is required in the new moment. And if we don’t know the solution, then we get to use the subsequent moments to learn and expand ourselves so that we might then have a solution within us for the future. Either way we’re winning. We’re either gaining or growing.
In the end it just depends on what we’re focused on; our happiness that we’re able to help, our happiness that we have the ability to learn and then help, or our happiness about having an appreciation for the fact that it does no good to flog a dead horse, so we’re happy to move on to something else worth appreciating.
It’s not like the universe is stingy with opportunities for joy or growth, unless our egos start getting picky about the specific sources.
We are best to not expect, to not become attached, to manage our reactions to change instead. It won’t be classically good or classically bad in a health state of mind.
Our satisfaction can come in the form of us being happy to be working on a solution. Or we can equally be grateful for a direction change. Or, we can painfully wish for what we expected and got attached to in our thinking.
One hurts, one feels good. Which one we do is always our choice. Either way, we create the reality we live in.
It can do us good to find today’s attachments. They’re inside us. We should find ways to manage them now, so that when they come up we have an actual strategy we believe in to execute.
Those feelings originate inside of us, meaning we have total control over them. Trying to fix the external world, on the other hand, is like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
Forget the outside. we all need to become our own Captain. We need to take control of the inside –of our own bridge. We need to take the wheel. Not because we have any specific place to go. But because we want to maintain our presence while we travel. That’s the only real way to avoid the icebergs.
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.