What is it that we’re after, really?
A house in the Hamptons? A perfect boyfriend? A TV series? Fame?
Or might it be the corresponding feelings we think (and are incorrectly taught) that we’ll experience once we get those things that make us desire them so much?
Once I get that fill-in-the-blank I’ll finally be happy.
Let’s be clear on one thing, there’s nothing wrong with desires. We live in a world that is essentially created through desire. The universe itself at an atomic and cellular level had an inherent desire to expand and materialize into form billions of years ago. Desire is an extension of will which itself could be understood as consciousness or intelligence that promotes and sustains life.
Without it, we probably wouldn’t be here on this planet. And possibly there would be no planet.
But with the advent of material things and a material-based culture, we’ve lost connection with the knowledge that joy (or love or fulfillment or compassion or hope) is born from the inner. And we are here to simply experience the physical embodiment of the energy equivalent of joy (or love or fulfillment or compassion or hope) with the world. But we mistake that our happiness is derived from things.
It’s a state of being. It doesn’t lie in a thing. It’s already part of our inherent spirit (and genetic make-up). We all have access to it. Not through titles or jobs or awards but through self-expression. And often, because we’re so affected by outward appearances – and make our happiness dependent upon them – it’s also about a choice.
We can choose to be happy.
When I was 8 or 9, I wanted this Fisher-Price farm set with every possible attachment, accessory and animal that came with it. One Christmas, I got what I wanted. I loved it. I played with it for hours. But eventually, I got bored. It wasn’t enough to have every animal Fisher-Price made for that farm – I mean, how many cows could I have? I found myself starting to add dinosaurs to my set (to eat the cows). And my Star Wars figures. And my brother’s G.I. Joe and my sister’s Barbies. (Whose glamour never bored me, but that’s another story!)
Eventually, the entire farm set sat in the corner of my room, collecting dust. Then it became part of our garage sale. We get used to things. We get bored. Science calls it “hedonic adaptation” which suggests we have a “happiness set point” that is encoded in our genes. Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky recently stated in the NY Times that our happiness set point rises when something good happens and then falls if something bad happens but eventually will return to its normal set point.
But perhaps an element that isn’t being taught because it’s not understood is that our set point can be raised if we became a little more conscious of the actual feeling that is derived while in the process of creating. Because that’s the real reason we’re doing anything, whether we’re aware of it or not, in the first place.
Mythologist, Joseph Campbell said “We’re so engaged in doing things to achieve purposes of outer value that we forget the inner value, the rapture that is associated with being alive, is what it is all about.”
The inner wants to be filled by the inner. Not the outer.
Have fun with the outer. Experience the outer. Celebrate the outer victories. But don’t let them replace where it all originates from anyways.