Thursday, April 20, 2017

What do you really have?

What does it mean to be happy?

It means that for just a moment, you are not longing for something else. You are not craving or searching or yearning for things to be different in any way. What you have is truly enough.

That's it. That's a simple but complete description of the condition we spend lifetimes struggling and fighting and killing for. Of the one and only thing everybody fundamentally wants.

This may surprise you. It couldn't be that simple, could it? After all, most of the time you're not longing for something else, and yet you're not perfectly happy, right?

You may not have noticed that for the vast majority of your life, your mind is indeed preoccupied with scheming up ways for things to be different. It can take some practice to detect.

Or perhaps you are aware of this, but consider it perfectly reasonable. If you didn't seek ways for things to be different, you wouldn't accomplish very much, right? It's lazy to be content with what you have.

But have you noticed what you really have?

Suppose you say "I have a sports car!"

Concretely speaking, what you have then is not a sports car, but the thought "I have a sports car!"

Suppose you go to your garage and point at it, to prove it to me. Now what you have is a visual field that looks something like this:
(Yeah, right, you only wish you had a Lambo)

You can get it in and vroooom off into the distance, and you may have super-sweet vroooom sounds and wind in your hair, but you'll never have a Lamborghini.

What you will only, always, and ever have is this one moment and whatever it contains. Just one frame. You can save all you like, but you'll never have more.

Wouldn't it be a damn shame if you didn't want the one and only thing you had?

Wouldn't it be an incredible tragedy to discover at the end of your life that all you ever really had to do was appreciate the one thing you had?

Wouldn't it be unfortunate if the reason you failed to appreciate it was fear? Fear that if you enjoyed what you had, that you would turn into a lump of complacency?

Wouldn't it be amazing if the opposite turned out to be the case? That when you started enjoying what you had -- not what you thought you had, but what you actually had -- that things got better, not worse?

Wouldn't it be funny if teachers have come before to tell us of this, and we are just refusing to listen?

“Accept — then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it.This will miraculously transform your whole life.” -- Eckhart Tolle


Tom Vykruta said...

This perfectly and beautifully sums up a symptom we all suffer from. Over time i have become disciplined enough to catch myself and immediately fast forward to the "if I actually ave this thing right now, would my life really be better?"

The sad truth is sometimes, the answer is yes.

If we think of life as experience, then the more experience, the more life. I would argue that, for the most part, more is better. Take for example and unfortunate soul, a person born in an underground cave. They spend their whole life in this cave, it's all they know. However you measure it, they experienced less. Their brain evolved less. They had fewer thoughts, their imagination was probably stunted.

Don't believe me yet? How about a person born in a cave who died after just 24 hours of life. Very little experience.

Ok, now let's apply this to practical life. Many times per day you come across opportunities and you can act based on a match between the opportunity has transactional costs of various currencies, and your ability to fulfill those. Example.
1. Physical skill currency (big wave and surf board in front of me, but do I know how to surf?)
2. Financial currency: Hamlet tickets are $650, I cannot afford them.
3. Time currency: I want to go sail across the ocean, but i don't have the time because I have to work to pay for my kids school.
4. Age currency: This party looks really fun but I"m too old

So I think there is a balancing act here in assessing correctly if your "I wish I had" has an ROI.

Some of my favorite things now are exploration and kitesurfing, both started out as "I wish I could" (fly an airplane so i could go to remote placeS) and "I wish I could kiteboard". These have brought real, repeated, measurable experience to my life.

What I tell people is "invest in experiences, not things". Sometimes things lead to experiences, it's a little fuzzy.

Aditya said...

Thanks for the thoughts Tom!

Whether or not you have everything you want, or whether having some new thing will improve your life, the behavior in *this* moment can be the same: appreciate the heck out of it. That's where we mostly go wrong.