Maybe the whole problem is that this world is just so completely confusing. There are so many forces pulling us in so many directions that we often feel worn out by the end of the day. But underneath all this confusion is a secret. And the secret is this. Life is easy. People don’t really want you to know this, because if you did, then you wouldn’t need their products, their governments, or their dramas, which are all designed to fix the never-ending list of problems in our lives. But once we strip things away, life is deceptively simple. A nice starting point, then, is to take a good look at life and see what’s really going on.
The Usual Worldview
By this point in your life, you have received an immense amount of teaching. From the time you were born, people around you have been teaching you how life works. What if I were to tell you that almost everything you’ve learned is false? Everything you’ve learned thus far has given you a life view that goes something like this:
Life is precarious. The world outside isn’t always very nice. It has many good elements that I want, such as money, love, friendship, Amedei chocolate, and good movies. But it also has many bad things, like cancer, death, trans fats, and flat tires. The best I can do is to learn from my past mistakes, plan carefully for the future, and try to get a better ‘good vs. bad’ ratio in my life. If I am really smart and plan carefully, I can make my life pretty good – at least until a family member dies or my pet runs away or I get the flu. Then it will suck, but if I deal with the negative things, they’ll go away and I’ll be happy again. At least for a while.
This makes perfect sense to us, and a moment’s reflection will show you that this is how we live our lives. We put lots of thought into making the best decisions so that our life will get progressively better. The problem is that this belief system sets us up for a series of ups and downs. Life has a funny way of manifesting in the way we expect it to (which is often counter to the way we want it to), and if we structure our entire life-long education around the idea that we have to do our best to carve out a niche for ourselves in this rather hostile world, then the world will respond just as we expect it to.
But guess what? The world is actually much simpler. Here’s the secret.
The True Nature of Things
Everything in the world is known to you only through your senses (your five senses and your ‘sense’ of thought). Think about that for a while. Anything you experience is coming in through the filter of your senses. If one of your senses is altered, your world changes drastically. If you are blinded, you’ll have to make a few arrangements to adjust to the new way that the world manifests for you. If we somehow received a new sense, like Spiderman’s danger sense, then we’d also look at the world in a different way.
Now, you’ll notice that I said your senses consist of your five senses as well as your ‘sense’ of thought. I include this because if you sit down on a couch and just hang out there for a while, you’ll soon notice that the only thing that’s going on in your experience is perception. You perceive the following things – the input from your five senses, and your thoughts. That’s it. (We could argue this point by adding other senses, like the sense of balance, or by including psychic impressions if you feel that you receive such input, but the important point is that the world evident to us consists of only the various ‘sensations’ we experience.) By thought I mean mental activity, whether it’s emotional, rational, memories, or whatever.
Now, consider that you’re sitting in a room with five people. Fill that room with some things – let’s say a plate of shrimp, a cat, a picture of our current president, a cigarette, and a string bikini.
Reflect for a moment on the experience each separate person might have. One person might love shrimp, be allergic to cats, disagree with our current president, crave the cigarette, and wonder if the bikini belongs to the hostess. Another person might despise shrimp, love cats, think our current president’s face should be printed on every dollar bill, think the cigarette stinks, and get depressed because she doesn’t think she’d ever look good in a bikini like that.
The raw sensory input is relatively similar for each person. But what they think or emote regarding that input can be vastly different for each individual. All of life is like this. For the most part, people have access to a similar set of sensory input in any given situation. But they’ll have a wide range of reactions to any given circumstance.
The key here is that the important thing about life is not what is around us, but what we think and feel regarding what’s around us. Understanding this is one of the most important elements in finding true happiness and fulfillment in life.
But what we’ve been taught is that we need to change our circumstances. To change what’s around us. But that’s a futile quest, because our inner attitudes don’t change as we get more money or more fame or more friends. You might think your life would be better if you only had a million dollars, but if someone gave you a million dollars, you’d be craving more money next year.
It’s not a certain amount that’s going to make us happy. It’s just the fact of having more. And once you have more, it soon becomes normal, and then we want more. And more and more and more. More peace, more security, more love, more money, more time. We’ve all been programmed to want an endless amount of more, and the tragic thing is that the constant desire for more is destined to backfire. For instance, we want more money, but because we also want more security, we fail to take the minor risks necessary to gain large amounts of money. Or we want more time, and that conflicts with having more love, because paying attention to our spouse takes up so much of our day.
In fact, our lives soon devolve into a constant conflict between our different desires for more. Each one wants to be the most important, and we scamper about trying to fulfill one, then the other, then the other. Our very drive to acquire more, more, more is what programs our lives to have less, less, less.
Changing Our Attitudes
If we forget, for just a moment, about having more and better circumstances, and instead attend to changing our thoughts and feelings regarding our current circumstances, we soon find that something incredible happens. Not only do we become happy with where we are, but we find that the blocks to acquiring all those things we used to lust after are gone. We’re now free to bring lots of money into our lives, because we’re not clinging desperately to our desire for security. The doors are wide open to acquire all the love, friends, time, and wealth that we want.
A common reaction to this goes something like –
“But if I don’t have a desire for money, then why would I seek it?”
The answer to that question is also simple. Becoming satisfied with your life doesn’t mean you become complacent. It means you become playful. And as you become playful and filled with happiness, it becomes pretty exciting to try to become a millionaire or find the mate of your dreams!