One person may own many cars and houses, but even the richest person in the world cannot possess more than one life.
-Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, Transform Your Life
I very recently started getting back into meditation, a practice I initially got into while in college. “Life” got in the way, however, and I let up on my practice until a long series of events pulled me back into it. Now more than ever, perhaps because of my time in the “real world” so far, I’m seeing the lessons to be learned far more clearly, especially the one quoted above.
Now, I’m not a Buddhist. I was raised Catholic and still recite the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, though I went to more Jewish services in college than I did Christian, started going to a few Unitarian services here and there after I graduated, read many books on Buddhism, and meditate. My dad calls it being a “pluralist” haha. I find the general message in all religions to mainly be the same: life is all about loving and respecting yourself and others and not wasting your life away on material objects, hate, greed, and all those Sunday school seven-deadly-sin-type teachings in order to achieve some sense of spiritual awakening- whatever that is for you. This is our only life and we must use it wisely.
Even if you believe in reincarnation, you only get one life at a time and when you worry it away on petty things you find yourself unable to enjoy it.
Worrying about and focusing on material objects will always, in one way or another, leave us disappointed. In the book from which I quoted by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, he also brings up the following point: Imagine you have a week to live and someone gives you a gift. Does it make sense to receive the gift of diamonds or a big house or a fancy car, etc? This life is fleeting, we could pass at any moment, and focusing on these things only takes time, energy, and focus away from the things that will truly allow us to get the most out of our time here.
I meditate in order to remind myself of this. I meditate to focus and clear my mind of the worries of everyday life that we fall so easily into. Why do I say that life is laughter and tears? Why did I name this blog that? Because life is a roller coaster ride that we have no choice but to go along on. We can enjoy it, or we can fight it. We can choose to cultivate the mind and prepare it for the bad times (by meditating), like strapping ourselves in for safety, or we can let ourselves be thrown at every curve and upside-down twist. Isn’t it so much better to laugh at the end of the ride? We had our moments of fright, our tears, but ultimately we made it, and still in one piece.
True happiness comes from within and is not dictated by outward circumstances and material objects.
We can cry and cry, or we can cry, refocus, and decide to laugh instead. Happiness is a choice- Wow. I think I’m really just realizing that as I type it… and that’s coming from someone with a mood disorder, so I *understand* how hard that is to come to terms with. Learning to be content with where we are in life, no matter what it may be, is the key to a happiness. Happiness comes from spending time with those you love most. Happiness is a good, deep belly laugh in the face of fear. Happiness is that overwhelming warm sensation you get when you’ve done something good for someone else, expecting nothing in return. Happiness is knowing you’re doing something to leave the world a better place. It’s watching the sun rise or set in perfect quietness, experiencing what it is to be with the moment. It’s feeling true joy for someone when they’ve had a wonderful life event, like the birth of a child, marriage, graduation, or a new job. Happiness is not a new car, house, or clothes. Depending on your job, living circumstances, etc. they are necessities, but they do not dictate your happiness.
How wonderful would it be, how wonderful would your life be, if you did not worry about those things, if you did not worry about being happy, because you already were? How wonderful would it be if you were content and happy from the inside, living in a loving, respectful manner always with a smile on your face and a laugh just waiting to emerge from your lips, regardless of the tears that might fall from the sad events that are inevitable in this human life?
I’m not telling you to convert to Buddhism. I’m not telling you to give up all your worldly possessions or quit your job. I’m just asking you to consider how wonderful life could be by reconsidering what you think makes you happy and perhaps by simplifying the material aspects of your life.
May all beings have happy minds.