It is easy to keep a simple and disciplined life when we are set in a pattern that is uninterrupted by external (or internal) variables; the only difficulty is starting/establishing such a life. The true test of someone’s strength however, is in their ability to adapt to changes in their pattern of life. Their ability to stay disciplined when other temptations rear their ugly heads. Their ability to remain calm, and approach obstacles with rationality, and not freak out, when things don’t go according to plan.
Now that is easy for me to say, as even I have been known to FREAK OUT when a life changing event comes along that I did not plan for, and did not cause. But this is still true nonetheless.
When something happens to us that shakes our very foundation, I have found that it is important to remind ourselves that it is ok to mess up. It is ok to fall. We are still important, we are still loved. THAT knowledge will give us the strength to pick ourselves up and grow again. That knowledge will permit us to remain positive and focused, so that way we sleep the night, and approach a new day with a positive attitude.
“It’s one thing to see it on the page of a book, or a TV screen, but it’s another thing entirely to see Saturn’s Rings live in the night sky through a telescope.” Me
The above quote was after an experience I had in my early college years after a professor had a whole bunch of us students over his house for a “Saturn Viewing.” Truthfully the view of Saturn was not as glorious as it is in the books and one the screen, But the rings were obvious and very pronounced and that was more than enough to make me giddy.
There is no substitute for real life. Real connection and real experience can not be found through a speakerphone, a screen, or via any digital means. Or, more precisely, there are elements, subtleties that are missed when experiences and connections are made digitally. While all of these wonderful technological advances increase the potential for real connection and experience, if not used responsibly and in moderation they will inevitably replace real connection and experience.
Technology can be an great resource to start a connection, but in the end you gotta be there in person.
Looking into this equation a little deeper though to see it’s application in our culture however, seems necessary. Western culture seems to have us striving to increase the numerator in an effort to increase our happiness. The trouble with this is that human nature gets in the way. It is in our nature that the more we have, the more we want. As per the equation, this will do nothing to increase our happiness.
Example: In an effort to live the good life we move out of the apartment, and purchase a beautiful home on a full acre of property. Our “What we have” value goes from 5 to 10. Now that we have the home however, we desire a nice fancy sports car to compliment the new life and fill the new garage. Our “What we want” value goes from 4 to 8. (10/8)=1.25=(5/4). Happiness has not changed one bit. And if we think now getting the car will settle our desire, …… c’mon …… do we really want to go down that rabbit hole?
(Note: The example above is a generous one)
Many eastern philosophies instead focus on the denominator of the equation. They make real mental efforts to decrease the want. How do they do this? They do this through Mindfulness, and Gratitude.
Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.
I do not believe gratitude needs to be defined, but from what I have seen in our western culture it DOES need to be cultivated. I am sure there are many ways to cultivate gratitude, but the technique I have found to be most effective is culture shock. A change of perspective.
You see ….. most people only understand life though the narrow lens of the only lifestyle they have ever lived. And lets face it, if we are reading this post, we live a life of abundance. We have:
(And more than enough of the above to survive)
The good news is, our “what we have” value is already great. HUGE actually considering 90% of the planet hasn’t as much as we do. And a large portion of that 90% is perfectly happy with their life. How’s that for perspective?
If we want to cultivate gratitude, I suggest we step outside our small box of abundance from time to time. See how other cultures, other demographics live. It is equally as helpful to see how those of greater abundance than ourselves live, as they no doubt have their own gilded cage (mental and otherwise).
In the end, becoming a more cultured person will cultivate gratitude.
I am not going to go into a description on how to become more Mindful (It’s easy enough to look up on your own). But I do want to mention that being mindful permits us the ability to enjoy what we already have. Brings clarity so we are aware of how great our “What we have” value is, and forces us to self analyze to determine what we REALLY want. Once we determine that, we will find that the “what we want” value is much smaller than we instinctually thought.