The greatest source of unhappiness is the gap between what we have, and what we wish we had. When there is no gap, we are content. We feel a sense of abundance because we have all we need. Recognizing this, the search for happiness may involve a never-ending process of attempting to fulfil needs.
The problem is, there is no end to the needs that may be identified by the mind. We need more money, more things, more love, more peace, more time. We need more respect, more self-esteem, and more confidence. That list is endless. Then, we can go on with a list of what we need others to have or be.
So in order to be happy, our partner must be more dedicated, more attentive, more passionate for example, or our children must be more responsible, have higher marks, clearer goals, better friends and a different attitude. Our friends should be there for us more/ give us our space, talk about others to us, but not about us to others, and should be more/less spiritual. Then there are the people in the neighborhood who should be more friendly, less nosy, mow the lawn more (except not on Sunday morning), lend their tools or return your tools more readily.
Don’t forget the merchants with whom you do business. They should have more efficient service, lower prices, more selection and stay open longer (or stay closed on Sunday). What about the government? Certainly we would all be happier if we had lower taxes, more services, more growth, less inflation, and fewer politics. But then there is still the weather. If we had longer summers, milder winters, no rain on long weekends, and just enough snow for skiing and white Christmas but not for bad driving and shovelling, then it would be good.
It is easy to see how working on being happy could be a full time job!
There is an easier way. A wise Buddhist teacher once said something like this: the smaller the vessel of your needs, the more easily you experience abundance. We do not have to make our happiness dependent upon anything. If we are grateful for each new day, we will be happy every day we are alive. If we tend the inner garden of our own awareness, and weed out the negative thoughts, and the conditions we place upon our ability to be happy, then we find peace. If we ceased to exist tomorrow, how many of our concerns would really matter?
One day we will not exist. What will happen to our ‘problems’ then? If they won’t matter then, they probably do not matter that much now either. What does matter is that each day is a gift. It is given like a gift certificate, which we may spend however we choose. It is, however, only valid for this day. Spend it wisely, spend it well. Use it for some joy.
Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning psychologist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books, CDs or MP3s, visit www.gwen.ca. Follow Gwen on Facebook for inspiration.