I was sitting in my office earlier, trying to decide on a health topic for a post, when I realised just how content I felt in that moment. It got me thinking about what exactly caused this feeling, and it came to me that the underlying sensation was that I had enough and was fully complete. I felt satisfied, no niggling undercurrent of desire for more. And then I thought about all the other times I have felt this, and that often this moment of peace only exists in the space of time between obtaining what was desired, and finding the next object to fixate on. I think that we’re often driven by desire for more, and this has been an important part of our ability to survive and thrive as a species. However it feels like we’ve swung the pendulum way to far in the one direction and have forgotten true contentment that lasts. Our desire for wealth, looks, fame or otherwise has become a millstone around our necks.
All of these pursuits and obsessions are based on the feeling that you are not complete, you need more in order to be truly happy. There are those that have run this gauntlet and achieved all they thought was required to be happy and content, only to realise it was all a lie. Good looks, great wealth, celebrity status, and still this overwhelming feeling of discontent. Some turn to drugs or ever stranger pursuits and behavior to fill the void (just look up the latest celebrity meltdown to see a case in point). But some will experience a kind of awakening or enlightenment – if I have achieved everything I thought I needed to be happy but am more unhappy than ever, maybe it was all a lie. Jim Carey is a great example, this quote perfectly summing up his experience “…I wished people could realize all their dreams of wealth and fame so they could see that it’s not where they’ll find their sense of completion.”
The good news is that you don’t have to follow an exhaustive and soul destroying obsessive pursuit of looks/money/fame to achieve peace. It’s in the palm of your hand right now, and it is encapsulated by two simple words: gratitude and acceptance. For me, to be grateful for what you have rather than to obsess over what you don’t is to be at peace. There is so much to be thankful for, and I find that the simpler the object of gratitude is the more powerful its ability to bring peace. To be grateful for a deep breath of fresh air is the ultimate, such a simple act but you would not exist without it. Acceptance is to see the hurdles and challenges in your life, but not fight them. This does not mean you do not try to mend that which is broken, but rather you do not mentally curse and grapple with the ‘injustice’ of every difficult turn in the road. I certainly do not intend to minimise anybody’s struggles, but there are those who have found the most beautiful sense of serenity and peace in the throes of the most horrific ordeals imaginable by finding this place of acceptance in the midst of crisis.
To touch and hold a sense of gratitude and acceptance in our society is a constant challenge. This is due to the fact that our consumerist culture is driven by discontent. Advertising that bombards your senses every waking hour is principally designed to make you feel unhappy with what you have and to desire that which you don’t – this is how things get sold. Don’t buy into the hype. Be thankful for the simplest things – the sun on your face, the touch of a loved one, the smell of a flower, the joy on the face of a stranger when you perform a random act of kindness. All of these will truly make you feel happy, and they don’t cost a thing.