Is this not the purpose of our life? Is this not what we have been educated for, and what modern marketing has led us to believe?
Yet, ‘getting what you want is vastly over sold’, to quote Michael Singer, a wonderful contemporary yogi, teacher, and author. We are promised so much in life. In marketing and politics, for example, we are assured that if we just work hard enough, try hard enough, have enough money or resources, then we will be eternally happy. Even in our yoga practice we have the same aspiration … but is getting what I want the key purpose of my life?
Our notions of what will make us happy are governed by the mind, which is deeply conditioned from our past experiences. Thus, we desire what our past conditioning wants, not necessarily what is good for us in the present. Furthermore, we often project happiness onto a new object or person, initially seeing only the positive aspects, yet finding out what the object of our desire is really like after some ‘honeymoon’ period. Pleasure and pain are inextricably two sides of the same coin. No person or object will only give us pleasure; pain will inevitably also be present in one form or another.
This is not to say that we should not seek to acquire new things – whether a new gadget, partner, house, possession and so on – but that we do so with our eyes open. Engaging with the world is part of life, yet we can relate to new things with a more balanced perspective, knowing that they will inevitably bring positive and not so positive aspects. Essentially, life is not set up to pander to what we want, but to give us opportunities to learn and grow in our understanding.
Yet this is a difficult lesson to learn. We are so conditioned to believe that certain people or objects of desire are necessary to fix or complete us and that they will give us abiding happiness. Furthermore, we persist with this hope even in the face of repeated disappointments. Yet slowly we learn and eventually the penny drops – we start to realise in our own experience that abiding happiness, joy and fulfillment can only truly arise from within. Along the way, we come face to face with our own insecurities, restlessness, dissatisfaction, or emptiness – which push us towards desiring this or that – and this is where our true work starts. Otherwise we are continually running after things in life, desperately searching to fill the inner void, whilst in fact, we are really running away from ourselves.
Rather than following the whims of too many desires and all they promise, can we let go a little and flow with life as it is? Can we not see our life, not in terms of what can I get, but as presenting ongoing opportunities to learn and grow? Trusting in life to bring us what we need for our growth, not necessarily what the mind may want. A fulfilling life is not one in which we always pander to the likes/ dislikes of the mind, but one that is open, available, and grateful to life as it arises.