Once there was a greatly admired martial arts master. He was at the highest level of his field, skilled not just in his physical prowess, but in his deep understanding of the subtle energies that govern the practice. He was a great friend to many, often the first to help in a time of crisis. He was even an accomplished sushi chef. It seemed there was nothing he couldn’t do. He was the envy of many. One day, he took his life “with his own steady hand.”
My teacher opened up one of his courses with this story. His intention was to remind us that while cultivating great skill is a wonderful thing, it does not erase the deep sense of not being enough.
Achievement and success may feel good, but if you have hungry ghosts in your heart who always want more, the pleasure is fleeting. What was once your dream come true becomes ordinary, and not quite what you wanted.
One of the signs of addiction is believing that the thing you desire will solve your problems. It doesn’t work, yet you persist in the belief and want even more. You’re like a big empty bowl, that only gets bigger the more you try to fill it up.
Here’s another way. Become a smaller bowl.
I know this is the opposite of what many self help books and life coaches tell you to do. They tell you to dream big and reach for the stars. With the subtext being, this will make you happy.
The truth is, beyond what you need to live a comfortable life, there is no evidence that dreaming big and reaching stratospheric goals will improve your well-being. None.
But what if you want to discover the cure for HIV, or make sure every girl on the planet gets an education? Nothing at all wrong with following your calling. I highly recommend it.
But – and this is a big but – don’t count on the external success of your calling to give you the happiness you crave. Don’t be a big empty dream bowl, that makes everything you accomplish seem like a tiny drop.
Instead, become a smaller bowl. Small enough so that everything that is already in your life fills it up. No more striving needed. Everything else you do beyond your basic comfort and security is a bonus.
It’s a bonus you can pursue from a place of freedom, knowing that you are already enough.
Here’s a mental practice I use when I’m in scarcity mode: I imagine that I am a refugee who has finally made it to a safe country. I pretend that I’ve just survived a disaster with my home and family intact. Suddenly my ordinary bathroom feels like a treasure. Because it is.
Wanting more when you have enough is the cause of many personal, economic, and environmental crises. Isn’t it time we start questioning this desire?
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