You might think you want to be happy all of the time but in reality you would not enjoy that. In fact you wouldn’t even be aware that there was anything to enjoy unless you had something to compare it to. The only reason you can see these black letters is because they are on this white page. So you need both things, hence the idea of Yin and Yang. But while you may require both for existence to happen, you nevertheless will have emotional states you prefer. So rather than saying an emotion is good or bad it would be better to describe them as emotions you enjoy for long periods, and emotions that derive their value from their rarity.
It can feel really, really good to have a good cry and yet no one wants to be depressed. We all love the feeling of falling in love but the very nature of it demands that it come to an end in one way or another, so in a way we are setting ourselves up for pain and disappointment by pursuing that joy. I love my parents dearly and so when I lose them it will be painful, whereas I have friends who had terrible parents and they were relieved when they were gone. For every positive feeling there’s a negative one. The trick for us is to stay conscious about what we’re entertaining within our consciousness so we can spend more time with the feelings we enjoy. We just don’t want to entirely lose touch with the value of our more poignant or intense feelings.
The world will always have its Yin and Yang. As a monk on a train once lead me to conclude that the secret of life is that everything changes. So how this works is that when things are good you should be grateful because it will change. And if things are going badly, don’t worry too much because it will change. So you can see in that equation that there are still bad feelings, but they are inextricably connected to this Yin and Yang circle of existence. Each needs the other much like a wave is made of a trough and a peak and yet you cannot separate the two parts.
Do you see then that this is how you listen to songs, read books, or go to the movies or watch TV? You volunteer to be scared or worried or angry or sad and you do this because the nature of the program allows you to accept the idea that this pain is limited. You’ll only suffer for a maximum of a couple of hours and then the movie will end. This act of acceptance happens in your head and is the act of not thinking about an alternative. So the reason you like movies more than your life is because you’re not in a movie theatre thinking, I’m really scared in this horror and I want to go home! Because you know you went for the thrills! And it’s just like that with the rest of your life.
You’ve already lived all of the perfect lives. This is the one you chose to live Now. If you genuinely accept the dramatic, sad or torturous parts of life then you also get to experience the most wonderful joys. It’s a package deal, the only problem is you keep wasting your peak by complaining that you want a wave without a trough. You think that resisting thought over and over. You wonder how it might be or how it would have been. You do not accept now for now. You do not see your life as a theatrical display in the way you see the movie. And so you take it more seriously and that leads you to suffer more in the real world. And you’re doing it by experiencing the very same feeling that you’ll happily pay for at a theatre!
Start seeing your life less as a competition or pursuit for happiness. Be content instead. Be fine where you are. Offer no resisting thoughts to the moment you are in and you will discover that a wonderful peace is waiting for you there in that mental silence. Quiet your arguments about how you wish things were and watch your own life like a movie instead. Enjoy all of it, the good parts and the bad. Because when you can do that you are free of most of the agonies in this world and that is a beautiful thing.
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own overthinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.