“Happiness comes from spiritual wealth, not material wealth…happiness comes from giving, not getting. If we try hard to bring happiness to others, we cannot stop it from coming to us also. To get joy, we must give it, and to keep joy, we must scatter it.” –John Templeton
Take a deep breath right now and just know: you are right where you need to be in this moment. As much as the advertising industry would like you to believe otherwise, you are right where you need to be. It’s difficult to grasp this concept, but once you come into it, you will never view reality the same again. You do not need a double mocha latte to find happiness right now, nor do you require a slice of stuffed crust pizza, or a new set of high heels to feel complete. What you need is you, once you realize that you are all you need, life becomes lighter.
Physical objects can be useful; food and water sustain our bodies, modern appliances save time, but these objects alone are not life. Rather, they are treasures we possess for a time, but which ultimately cannot be taken with us when we pass from this life. Objects are blessings (and sometimes burdens) that we encounter in the physical world. Every single thing (including our bodies) is made of this earth and is a blessing to have formed so perfectly so that we could experience life. Every meal consumed, every cup of coffee ingested, every new outfit that fits like a glove was created from this earth and along with everything else, will eventually change forms. Every single thing is temporary.
Consumerism is rampant in modern day society; many people have been taught that they will not be complete until they have more things. Although there are places in the world where this is not the case, we do not often hear about them in media reports. Individuals from countries with consumerist economies work the most and also have the most debt. Statistics show that the highest rates of depression arise in these very same countries, a strong indicator that having more money and more “stuff” does not bring contentment.
Before I started on my own spiritual path, I always looked for comfort outside of myself. In high school it was drugs and alcohol that I thought made me complete. In my early 20s, during my first long-term relationship, I thought it was my boyfriend that completed me. It wasn’t until I stopped my addiction to drugs, alcohol and men that I truly faced myself. I began meditating in my mid-20s and for the first time ever in my life, sat with my emotions soberly, by myself. It was one of the scariest things in the world, to sit with myself without any of the coping mechanisms I had used in the past to cover up the difficult emotions I had carried with me since childhood. After just a couple years of practicing meditation, my whole take on reality had transformed and I started to realize deep spiritual truths.
Often times, when we humans are struggling with a common human problem, such as the death of a loved one, divorce, the end of a relationship, we look for things to fill the hole that was created in the wake of these types of losses. We might find ourselves going clothes shopping, drinking or smoking more, or treating ourselves to expensive restaurant meals. While it can be useful to treat ourselves gently following emotional turmoil, it is important to remember moderation. Otherwise, we are just pushing away the difficult feelings that will eventually come back to haunt us if we don’t go through a proper grieving process.
Instead of getting wrapped up in thinking about the future and what items you require to be part of “normal” society, what may be even more productive is to go within. Some find that meditation, prayer, and spending time in nature or with support groups to be particularly helpful. Music, art, writing and other creative activities can transform the previously-held notion that material things lead to happiness. Everything you need to know is within you.
This article serves as a gentle reminder that getting to know oneself can be one of the greatest lessons ever learned. Each of our lifetimes has an expiration date.