Happiness and satisfaction don’t come from material goods or external attainments.
Everybody knows that.
It’s so well known by us all in fact that it has become a cliche. When we hear this advice we don’t even pay it any attention any more. “Yeah, of course, I know that”.
The thing is that, most of the time, we live our lives and make important decisions as if we’re completely unaware of this fundamental truth of human life.
“If I had a big house I’d be happy.”
“If I had a cool car I’d be happy.”
“If I could just afford those Manolo Blahnik’s I’d be happy”
We know that this stuff is all nonsense. We would never even say any of this stuff out loud (or even think it consciously). Because it’s foolish. Everyone knows that happiness comes from within…
So instead, we say
“I wish I had a slightly bigger house, life would be a bit easier”, (cut to daydream of living in a beautiful house with a happy face)
“Those new 6 series BMWs are nice. I could definitely see myself in one of those”, (cut to daydream of driving around with a happy face in a BMW)
“Man, I would look sooooo hot in those Manolo Blahnik’s, and everyone would know how cool – and rich – I was if I had them”, (cut to… you get the idea)
In all of these imaginary scenarios that play out in our minds we end up happy. We are completely fooling ourselves if we think that we’re not falling into the trap of seeking happiness in ‘things’. We’re just not stupid enough to say the words “if I had (insert desirable item here) then I’d be happy”.
BUT WE STILL THINK IT!
I mean, what the hell is wrong with us?!
Every spiritual tradition in history tells us that true happiness comes from within but yet we cannot fully grasp how to really make ourselves believe it.
The Yoga Sutras say that the six poisons of the mind are desire, anger, delusion, greed, envy, and sloth.
Next time you’re feeling dissatisfaction, frustration, or depression try to become aware of which of these poisons are at work (often it’s a combination of two or more). Becoming aware of your own mind is the first step towards solving the problem.
Once you have identified the cause then the solution is usually pretty simple. If anger is causing you pain, you try to let it go. If sloth is causing you pain then move your body. If you become aware that delusion is your problem then you’ve probably just solved that problem (because how can you delude yourself while you know that you’re deluding yourself?).
I am of course hugely over-simplifying the process of becoming aware. But it is important for our long-term emotional health and fulfilment that we begin the journey towards awareness.
For those of us with an interest in yoga practice, reading the yoga sutras can be a huge help in identifying common mental patterns that humans are prone to. We can then begin to deconstruct the, sometimes unhealthy, narrative in our minds.
And don’t stop practising. Never stop practising.