By Dan Hagen
Both Buddhists and Stoics like to point out that, second by second, much of your day is devoted to — they might say “wasted on” — attraction and aversion.
You see that fellow over there and grimace ever so slightly because he reminds you of something your father did that you didn’t like when you were seven years old. You want the new Smartphone and that beautiful person to have sex with you and a dish of French vanilla ice cream. So your day goes.
And so what? That’s life, right? Not really, not life at its best. In many ways, that’s the avoidance of life as it actually exists. Even if you obtained all those things you want and jettisoned all those things you don’t want, would you then be happy? No. These unconsidered, only half-recognized wants and worries would be instantly replaced by others equally fleeting, and those by still others.
“As soon as we get the object or experience we have been longing for, we move on to another desire, because the more we pursue desire, the more desire we experience,” Steve Sampson wrote.
“Fulfillment of desire can never satisfy — a fact that turns upside-down our cultural understanding which tells us we will be happy if only we fulfill sensual desire for pleasant experiences: food, sex, cars, clothes, homes, and on and on.”
Your wants carry you to a future that does not exist, your regrets call you to a past that cannot be changed. Both stand between you and the here, the now — your presence in the only reality you can ever really experience, and therefore the only reality that can ever really satisfy you.
What would be better? Mindfulness — the practice of being aware of your thoughts and actions in the present, without judging yourself. Mindfulness brings the heart rate, blood pressure and stress hormone levels down, and raises the consciousness up.
Mindfulness is examining one’s thoughts as if they were as remote as the dancing reflection in the pond of the distant streaks of clouds high in the sky. It is simply being.