When the Buddha set out his noble truths, which form the basis of Buddhism he established that 1. All is suffering and 2. The cause of suffering is desire.
Modern psychology also agrees that it is part of our human nature to always want more. It seems to me that our capitalist and consumerist society is based on these principles and when we buy into them we end up “living in the gap”. The gap between where we are in life and where we would like to be. This is a painful place of dissatisfaction, envy, self-pity and frustration.
There always seems to be something missing, a new car, a bigger house, a better job, more time with friends, more fancy holidays, clothes, experiences, etc. But have you noticed that when you acquire the new things, desire doesn’t stop. At least not for long.
Soon the new clothes are old, the holiday has been and gone and there is another new job or even bigger house on your wish list.
It is not only material things we desire, it is feelings and states of mind as well. If you think about it, what is it you hope that the new job or car is going to bring you? Happiness? Joy? Peace? These states can not be obtained by outside circumstances. This is like the biggest scam in our human lives. We all go around believing that we can make ourselves happier by achieving and / or acquiring things. But this is impossible, for as long as we rely on things outside of ourselves, we live in the gap.
When we want things to be different than they are, we are living in the gap. We are actually disagreeing with reality. What could be more painful or more futile? If you are stuck in an unpleasant situation, does it help to disagree with it? It is basically a childish response, like a toddler throwing a tantrum because they didn’t get their way. It is disempowering, upsetting and completely pointless.
Here are some ways to help you get out of the gap and into the Now:
- Practice Mindfulness. Paying attention to the here and now, in a non-judgemental way teaches us acceptance. It helps us get used to being in this life, as it really is, rather than fantasising about how we would like it to be. It helps retrain our minds from labelling everything as “good” or “bad” to simply noticing what is.
- Practice gratitude. A regular practice of gratitude helps us to focus on the things we do have rather than what we don’t. It trains us to look for the positive. It gets us out of autopilot mode, where we take things for granted so that we can start to appreciate the extraordinary in our lives.
- Take considered action. If there really are things in your life you would like to change, of course it is a good idea to do so. It is healthy to have goals and dreams and to work towards achieving them. The important thing is making sure these goals are your own (not pressure from outside) and that they are not the be all and end all of your life. If you can enjoy the journey towards the goal as much as attaining the goal itself, you are free to be happy every day along the way.