Dear Stranger, what you are reading below is an important personal journal entry. Several months later, I am still feeling this way, and the feeling has only deepened. It took years of reflection and self-discovery to arrive here and I am absolutely convinced this is accessible to anyone. I hope you will consider opening the door yourself.
Note To Self
Note to self. A quick inventory of desires, December 21, 2021. All seem quiet. Pausing briefly as I write this, moved to tears, as I realize this might be the first time in 39 years when I don’t want anything, or at least, any sense of want is a whisper.
For the past several years, catalyzed by some combination of reading, and years of solitude, and years of sitting with anxiety about accomplishing and reaching and obtaining enough to quell a relentless feeling of dissatisfaction – further influenced by mindfulness, and essaying, and inspecting all of my motivations and behaviors. I have arrived, here.
Reflecting on all that has stirred me…
Money? Its value is to support survival, plus a little extra. Material things are worthless. I have plenty.
Sex? This is like ice cream. Satisfying for a flash, then completely gone, and there you are, the same person as you were before.
Romantic Love? Potentially wonderful. Prone to aggrandization? Yes. Can one feel entirely whole in the absence of this? Yes. Can platonic love be experienced in relationship with the entire world as opposed to one kindred spirit? Yes.
Accomplishment? Healthy aspirations are wonderful. In this moment, they are of no concern.
Health. Shelter. Civil society. Friends. Family. Access to knowledge. Access to wisdom. Access to art. Access to self expression. Access to explore the outer, physical world, and access to explore the inner, psychological one. This is the fortune of a lifetime. I have it.
I am not so foolish as to believe this epiphany too, is not fleeting. Life will jostle me. Pain and suffering await. Desires will arise. Emotions will flare.
But here, I plant a flag to forever remind myself that this is all I need. The peak of human experience can be discovered in the simplest things.
Will I continue to strive? Will I used my muscles until the day they fail me? Will I use my mind to support the wellbeing of others as much as possible? Will I passionately explore the deepest reaches of my creativity? Will I exhaust all available energy in service of these things, until I am no longer able? Yes, yes, yes.
Do I attach my own happiness, my own meaning, to the outcome of these things? No.
I am happy now.
May I be grateful for simple fortunes. Always. May I rediscover this state of mind again and again and again.
Days after experiencing this, I went looking for others who may have described this place before me. Here is what I found:
The pursuit of happiness for its own sake is a fool’s errand. As a goal it is frivolous and unrealistic—frivolous because happiness is a transient state dependent on many conditions, and unrealistic because life is unpredictable and pain may arise at any time. The happiness you feel when you get something you have always wanted typically lasts no longer than three days. Bliss states in meditation are similar, whether they arise as physical or emotional bliss or the bliss of infinite space, infinite consciousness, or infinite nothingness. These states soon dissipate once you reengage the messiness of life. A dewdrop on a blade of grass, indeed!
Life is tough, but when you see and accept what is actually happening, even if it is very difficult or painful, mind and body relax. There is an exquisite quality that comes from just experiencing what arises, completely, with no separation between awareness and experience.
In this freedom you are free from the projections of thought and feeling, and you are awake and present in your life. Reactions may still arise, but they come and go on their own, like snowflakes alighting on a hot stone, like mist in the morning sun, or like a thief in an empty house.
What is freedom? It is nothing more, and nothing less, than life lived awake.
Forget about being happy. Put it right out of your mind. When you say to yourself, “I want to be happy,” you are telling yourself that you are not happy, and you start looking for something that will make you feel happy. You go to a movie, go shopping, hang out with friends, buy a new jacket, computer, or jewelry, read a good book or explore a new hobby, all in the effort to feel happy. The harder you try to be happy, the more you reinforce that belief that you are not happy. You can try to ignore it, but the belief is still there.
All suffering comes from wanting your own happiness. Complete awakening arises from the intention to help others. Therefore, exchange completely your happiness for the suffering of others—this is the practice of a bodhisattva.
Bliss — a second-by- second joy and gratitude at the gift of being alive, conscious — lies on the other side of crushing, crushing boredom. Pay close attention to the most tedious thing you can find (Tax Returns, Televised Golf) and, in waves, a boredom like you’ve never known will wash over you and just about kill you. Ride these out, and it’s like stepping from black and white into color. Like water after days in the desert. Instant bliss in every atom.