In the classic tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, a young girl wanders into the forest and stumbles upon a cottage. She enters and begins the classic search for happiness. She tries the porridge – "ouch, too hot!" Another... "too cold." And then!
Ahhhhhhhh – happiness – just right!
Moments later, her quest for happiness begins anew. She searches for the perfect seat. Too hard. Too soft. And eureka! Happiness ~ just right! And finally, (well, not finally – just the last trial in an afternoon's quest for happiness) she searches for the perfect bed. You get it – same story, different object.
The children's tale mirrors our modern predicament. Our contemporary consumer culture relentlessly propels us towards an impossible ideal of happiness – one that depends on nailing down the perfect arrangement of external circumstances: the perfect job, the perfect relationship, the perfect lifestyle (and/or all of the above). In this ceaseless chase, we become the proverbial hamster on a wheel – continuously exerting energy but not really gaining ground on the elusive happiness.
The truth is – the pursuit of happiness that is tied to external conditions is exhausting because life is constantly changing. Any "perfect" conditions grasped are short-lived, at best. Flashes in the pan. The perfect bowl of porridge becomes too cold. The perfect sized pant becomes too small because your perfect waistline grows too big. The perfect job becomes too demanding. The perfect boss leaves. The perfect eyesight grows dull. And so on.
Thankfully, the ancient wisdom traditions offer a contrasting solution. And no – it's not to abandon all your desires, goals, visions, ideals, altogether. The practice of mindfulness, as you've learned it through MBSR, offers an alternative perspective and pathway to a deeper and more enduring sense of happiness. Let's call it, THE JOY OF BEING. This approach doesn't require surrendering your smartphone. Or cancelling your Netflix account. It doesn't require eating kale or believing in some far-out, esoteric philosophy. It doesn't require that you get up at 5:30am every morning. It's not a productivity hack. And let me reiterate, because it deserves saying again: it doesn’t advocate for the abandonment of your goals or plans for the future.
It is an invitation to fully immerse yourself in each moment. It involves a commitment to being present to whatever is happening – right here and right now – in a non-judgmental manner, moment after moment. It is from within the mysterious, ever-changing present moment that we discover the true joy of being alive.
It's quite simple. And on the surface it sounds easy, too. But you know it isn't. It takes commitment. Courage. And community. It's insanely hard to go it alone. To shed our inner-Goldilocks, we have to unlearn the habit of constantly chasing the next high. And our whole behemoth economy and the consumer world we live in are designed to encourage more, More, MORE! Drink this! Eat that! Hack this! Shed that! It's our default, whether we know it or not.
So if you're intrigued and want to learn more, stay tuned! Our new blog on the Pause MBSR Grad Community page is dedicated to sharing the insights that actually help us on the path to finding true, enduring happiness. And this month specifically, we're exploring the theme of HAPPINESS in daily classes. We'll also be diving into "Happiness" during our monthly Immersion Retreat on Jan 28 as we explore the two main aspects of the joy of being:
working with discomfort and the stuff that propels us out of the present moment
training ourselves to feel appreciation and cherish the goodness that is already here in our life
So stay tuned for more insights and feel free to leave your comments below!
And, of course, if you want to jump in and swim, I invite you to come to the weekly Everyday MBSR or Everyday Resilience classes to join the conversation!
All my best,