It’s easy to think happiness is circumstantial. If I only had the right partner, the right job, lived in the right city, or had the right diet and fitness plan, then I would be happy.
But as we live our lives, we find it’s hard to get things just right.
Maybe we get one part of our lives how we want it, but we can’t keep it that way. Or something else in our life gets out of wack instead. Or it’s doesn’t feel as good as we thought it would.
This is what the Buddha called the truth of suffering. But today we might better understood as the truth of dissatisfaction. Let me explain what I mean.
Choose Your Own Adventure
A few years ago, I was living in Nashville, Tennessee and I wasn’t happy. I felt like my life wasn’t going the way that I wanted. I needed to make a change.
I wanted to go on an adventure. I wanted to mix things up. So, I took out a map and plotted a long road trip to Portland, OR.
I had been to Portland only once before, and I loved it. It had a great music scene. There were mountains for skiing. And it was filled with cute hippie girls.
I’d drive across the country and get to Portland just in time for winter. I’d get a job as a ski instructor. And while I worked as a ski bum, I’d look for a job in the music business.
Before I knew it I was on the road, camping, hiking, and loving it. I got to Portland and bagged a ski instructor job. Everything was going just as planned.
Only there was one problem. I wasn’t happy.
Mountains and Molehills
I planned to live on the mountain, but I soon realized I couldn’t do it. All the ski bums I met were obsessed with skiing. (Big surprise right?)
They would wake up, work on the slopes, and go skiing or boarding all day.
Then at night, they would come home, drink to excess and talk about skiing. They would watch skiing videos. They told stories about skiing.
Now I love skiing but seriously, there’s more to life. I remember thinking to myself, “Don’t you want to talk about politics, or literature, or even TV? “
My plan was going awry, but instead of realizing my error, I pushed ahead. I worked double time to find a gig in the music business.
I contacted everyone I knew. I met with dozens of people. And it worked. I got a small gig at a music venue.
I worked hard and when the house manager quit, I applied. I nailed the interview and got the job. I thought, ”It’s all working out after all. “
Except again, it wasn’t how I thought it would be.
The Working Life
The job was brutal. I worked over 70 hours a week. I had two bosses who gave me conflicting instructions and then criticized the results either way.
I was doing the job of three people. I was being paid half what I should. And I was constantly told I wasn’t meeting expectations.
Then I caught one of my bosses doing something super unethical. I didn’t know what to do. I confronted my boss and lost the job.
Again, my plan had unraveled before me.
A Come to Buddha Moment
But this time was different. I realized that the way I had been living was crazy.
I had made plan after plan. And it didn’t seem to matter whether the plan worked or not. At the end, I’d found myself right where I started.
For the first time I saw the problem in a new light. I kept looking for the right circumstances, but I couldn’t find them. I wondered, “What if I could never get them right?”
What if I was looking for happiness in the wrong place? What if what I needed wasn’t ‘out there’ at all?
This may seem obvious, but for me it was a revolution. I had heard things like this before, but I have never felt the truth of it. And wisdom doesn’t mean much unless you experience it directly.
Bone Warming Truth
When I really felt the truth in my bones, I knew I had to find something different. I had to find a happiness that wasn’t based on my circumstances.
Soon after, I discovered meditation and mindfulness practice and I haven’t looked back.
Do circumstances matter? Yes, of course, they do, but you can’t rely on them to make you happy. It’s up to you to find the path to living a deep and satisfying life.
Make a list of everything you think you need to be happy.
Then write down what you would need to feel and who you would need to be to find happiness where you are right now.
There’s nothing wrong with working on list one, but it’s the second list that creates lasting happiness
Let’s Talk: What truths have changed the way you look at the world?
I’d love to hear about it, comment below!