“We are uncomfortable because everything in our life keeps changing — our inner moods, our bodies, our work, the people we love, the world we live in. We can’t hold on to anything — a beautiful sunset, a sweet taste, an intimate moment with a lover, our very existence as the body/mind we call self — because all things come and go. Lacking any permanent satisfaction, we continuously need another injection of fuel, stimulation, reassurance from loved ones, medicine, exercise, and meditation. We are continually driven to become something more, to experience something else.” ― Tara Brach, Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha
What makes you feel good? The answer is different for each one of us. For some, it’s a wonderful meal. For another, it’s accomplishing a big goal at work or finally reaching a new milestone in a weightless or wellness journey. These most sought-after moments are so very sweet, yet so fleeting. The unfortunate part of a glorious high is a looming low, and when we fall from our moment of magnitude, many times, we feel more powerless than ever.
How many times have you felt a sense of loneliness or emptiness after a big, much anticipated event is over? We spend much of our lives planning for moments in time that we believe will make us happy. We look forward to that particular date on the calendar, maybe we even circle it, put it in our planners—annotate it in a special way. The hours leading up to the event are flush with anticipation— the preparations are accomplished, the time has come and we’re ready to go! We enjoy the experience, soaking in each moment of it, feeling anxious about its impending end, and after its over, then what?
We’re drift back into feeling ‘normal’— many times, bored, agitated, annoyed or otherwise. In those ‘in-between’ times, we are continually asked ‘what makes us happy?’ Sometimes internally and often times by others— family, friends and lovers alike— want to know what it is that will help cultivate our own joyful existence; especially when they sense that we are suffering. It’s wonderful to know that they care, but as much as they want to help, it’s just not up to them. We know deep down that we’re in charge of our own happiness, but we become disenchanted with our ‘normalcy’.
Instead of being able to ride the waves of high moments into our everyday existence we tend to look for substitutes for immediate satisfaction. As we know, those ‘quick fixes’ are undoubtedly less gratifying, but we feel they are necessary. Instead of allowing ourselves sudden, serendipitous bursts of joy, we seek it out in opportunity. Opportunities that are usually less than stellar options for our overall health and happiness.
So what do we do? Beyond recognizing the difference between true bliss and quick-fix feel-goods, embrace the fact that you’re not always going to feel complete satisfaction in every moment. Need more of a reason to believe that? How would you know and appreciate joy without experiencing sadness too?
The path to embracing impermanence is cutting out those gratuitous, quick bursts of self-satisfaction by swapping them out for practicing being grateful. Finding beauty in the mundane, but fascinating moments that make up our unique existence. On a day that you feel that you’ve accomplished nothing, remember, you’ve made it through every single second of every single day of your whole entire life. There are always things for us to be grateful for; the key is to recognize them.
Finding those truths, our own personal ‘pick me ups,’ will allow the opportunity for light to shine in on darker days. Happiness can then become a quiet reminder of peace within moments of pleasure, instead of a determined destination we’re striving for. When we allow ourselves the opportunity to experience every aspect of our journey, our appreciation for all moments can flourish through eyes, mind and body that embrace life as a whole, not by the sum of its parts.