The Journey from Craving to Contentment

The Journey from Craving to Contentment

The Union Path Podcast

"The Journey from Craving to Contentment"

Episode Transcript:

It's so easy to focus on what we don't have. It's so easy to focus on the negative. It's so easy to spot and focus on lack, on what isn't, on what doesn't exist for us, on what we don't have. In a lot of ways, our entire culture, at least our entire economic culture, is organized around this very fact. That's probably an oversimplification, but I would think that if everyone was already satisfied, our economy would collapse. If we weren't trying to find ourselves in the external, if we weren't trying to define and express ourselves mostly through what we choose to include in our life on an external basis, whether this be our possessions, whether this be our relationships, whether this be our job titles. If we were just satisfied, if we had what we needed, if we had all we wanted, there'd be no reason to pursue anything else, there'd be no reason to strive, there'd be no reason to achieve, there'd be no reason to do or buy or try to gain anything, because we're already whole, we're already complete. We wouldn't need anything. Of course, we could certainly still want things, but I think, if we're honest, a lot of our behavior, a lot of our accumulation, is about meeting unmet needs, is about trying to balance the scales, about trying to make ourselves whole through the inclusion of the external. Yet, to my way of thinking, the idea of always being in a deficit, the idea of always being in lack, is a choice, is a mindset, is a perspective. Really, habits of thinking, habits of ways we look out at the world, these habits can very easily imbue it into our personality, into how we're being in the world. Because when we think about our lives, what's our default? What do we think about first? Do we think about what we have? What do we think about what we don't have? When we think about how we spend our time, how we spend our energy, how much of our energy, how much of our time, how much of our thought do we spend in appreciation? Do we spend in acknowledging what we already have? What's the balance in our thoughts, in our energy, in our action, between what we have and what we don't have? Because one of the funny tricks our minds can play and this is definitely influenced heavily by our culture is we convince ourselves that we don't actually have what we want. We convince ourselves that what we want comes in a very particular package, can only really be experienced and felt in a very specific way, and so it's very easy to have that lead us to the conclusion that we don't actually have what we want, because we don't actually have the package of what we want in our life, and if we look at our own lives, we can see this reflected everywhere.

But wherever we feel lack, it's important, it's vital, in my opinion, to spend some time with those feelings of lack, to understand where does this actually come from? What am I actually lacking, really? And is this lack even true? Have I just trained myself to want, just to want, to need, just to need? Have I hypnotized and brainwashed myself that I'm living in a far more state of lack than I actually am? Do these feelings and these perspectives of my experience of lack really hold true? And is this the whole truth? Because it's almost like a switch in our minds.

When we switch from thinking about what we do have to what we don't have, and when we switch to what we don't have, it can be really easy to get caught up in our own appetites, in our own wanting, and have that wanting take on a life of its own. And, of course, every spiritual and religious tradition in the world advises against getting lost and want. A lot of times this is interpreted through a moral lens, that somehow it's bad to want, that it's bad to have appetites, that it's bad to have desires, and in my opinion anyway, this is nonsense. This is demonstrably false Because our whole life, the way our life plays out, is an endless series of appetites being satisfied.

And the real problem with appetite is getting lost in the appetite itself. It's going through life as just a giant stomach where everyone and everything around us are just resources to be consumed. That getting lost, getting overly devoted, overly focused on our own consumption, well, of course that's gluttony and that's not a good thing, but it's not a good thing because of the wanting or the appetites. It's not a good thing because it's out of balance. It's overly prioritizing our own consumption, our own want, our own need, our own greed. And if we've completely lost track and lost touch with appreciation, with gratitude, because when we shift from what we don't have to what we do have, that's usually the shift that happens as we shift out of our own gratification of appetite to appreciation of what we already have. And I think we've all experienced when we make this shift, just making that shift alone feels better. No one wants to go through the world as a hungry ghost, constantly seeking and seeking and seeking and seeking, but never really being able to be satisfied. No one wants to be a slave to their own wanting In a perhaps oversimplified way.

I think that could be in a lot of ways how we talk about addiction that whenever we're wrapped up in addiction to anything or wrapped up in our own wanting, we've become obsessed with our own needing. We've lost the ability to experience equanimity, to experience peace, to experience wholeness. Just through our own being, we've built a dependence on someone or something else. And even though there are definitely things in this world that are physiologically or chemically addictive, we can get addicted to all sorts of different things.

When we look at our life, it's important to ask ourselves what masters do we actually serve? What do we actually worship? And we can find the answers to these questions when we think about and become aware of what we spend most of our time thinking about and making effort towards that. Whatever we think about and prioritize the most, that's our master, that's what we serve, and we all get to choose. We all have agency, we all have the ability to choose what we serve, to choose what our life is in service of and, more importantly, we also have the ability, through our own awareness, to ask ourselves in any given moment, with whatever we're doing, what is this in service of? What am I really trying to get? What are my motives really? What game am I playing really? What kind of person am I being expressed through my own choices, through my own behavior, through my own action, through my own thoughts?

Because, again, maybe this is oversimplified, maybe this isn't universally true, but it's been my experience that when we really get centered, when we really become aware, when we really work and endeavor to understand ourselves, understand what's really important to us, what we really want, we kind of get past all the things we've been conditioned to want, all of the things that we think we want, past all of the spotlights and all the fame and all the notoriety and all the accumulation and all the prestige and all the adulation. What do we really want? What really matters to us? What is this life really for? What is all of this in service of? We really start to answer these questions in a way that feels real, that feels true. I think a lot of us find that these answers are actually far less than we thought they were. It's actually far less complicated than we thought it was and again, perhaps another oversimplification. But in my opinion, here's what enlightenment is.

Enlightenment isn't some sort of grand breakthrough of where we become some all-knowing, all-powerful, deely-like figure. Enlightenment is connecting with the present moment so completely and so deeply that we realize we don't actually need anything, that we're so grounded to the present moment, we realize that just being just our existence, just our consciousness, is enough. Then, when we connect with the present moment, with reality, with truth, so deeply that that connection floods out all other wants, all other needs, all other wishing anything was different, all other needing anything else to make us happy that we realize in that moment we're whole, we're complete, we're enough that just being just the miracle of existence is enough that, in my opinion, something like enlightenment is not something we gain and then have from that on. Enlightenment is a state. Enlightenment is something we achieve through our being in the present moment. It's something that has to be experienced. It can't be artificially managed, manufactured or maintained, no matter what books we read, no matter how long we sit, no matter how much we contemplate, no matter how much we learn or know. It's a state.

Maybe this is another area where I differ with other people, but I believe ideas of things like heaven and hell are the same. These things are states, in my opinion. That's why they're described as being eternal, because states can only exist in the present moment. And the present moment is timeless, is eternal. We can't measure the present moment. So we could say the present moment is infinite. It has no measurement, it has no size, it just is Sure. We can think about it, we can build ideas about what it is, but the present moment, in order to be real, has to be experienced, and that experience is made more full, more complete, by how completely we experience it.

I think, when this happens, when we have this experience, when we touch this for the first time, even if it's just for the blink of an eye, that experience itself can change everything, because now we've experienced something different. We've experienced something outside that doesn't seem to conform and comport to all of these appetites, all of these wants, all of these desires, that we've been satisfied a brand new way and that satisfaction is so much more complete than anything we've ever experienced. And when we experience this, we may want to grab it and hold on to it and keep it forever. But that's not how it works. It exists in the present moment. We can't save it, we can't hold it, we can't freeze it, we can't lock it away. We have to actually experience it. And that experience will be fleeting. We may touch it for the first time and not touch it again for quite a while.

But the knowing, the knowing that it's there, the fundamental shift that that does to our consciousness, is often enough, is often enough to change us, to change our perspective, to change our outlook, to modify us on a fundamental level, to where now we are different. And then there's myriad effects, myriad ripple effects throughout our entire life. That comes from that knowing, that comes from that truth. And once this is known, it can never be unknown again. And we all experience this. We all experience this in our lives that when we have moments where we really touch truth and really touch the big truth, the capital T truth, that can't help but change us. Because once we know something, once we really know something, that can't help but be integrated in what we do from then on.

And one of the ways we can lead ourselves into having this experience and to experiencing and appreciating this truth is recognizing we've gotten a little too lost in our own wanting, a little too lost into our focus on lack, into our focus on what isn't. Because that experience, that confrontation with the truth that in this present moment, when we inhabit it deeply and fully, we don't actually need anything else, there's really no reason to want anything else, but that experience in and of itself is enough that can't help but change our attitudes, that can't help but change our perspectives, that can't help but shift us into really questioning these wants, these appetites, really questioning the way we've been living our lives. And is the satisfaction of appetites all it's cracked up to be? Is that all there is? Is there more to life than gratification? Is there more to life than sensory gratification? Is there more to life than our own consumption, our own accumulation?

And each one of us will answer this question in different ways, but, of course, anyone listening to this, I would think, would at least have an inkling that the basic answer to this question is yeah. Yes, there must be. There must be more to life than just the superficial material reality that I see in front of me. There must be more to life than these endless struggles and conflict and tension and dissatisfaction and sadness and disappointment that, while not constant, seem to happen fairly often. Is there more to life than the physical and material struggle and strain that I seem to be presented with? Is there more going on here than what appears to be, than what my senses tell me? Do I have a knowing deeper inside? Do I have an intuition? Do I have a hunch? Maybe even do I have a hope that there's more going on here than simply my own gratification, that there's more going on here than my own frustration. There's more going on here than my own satisfaction and there's more going on here than my own dissatisfaction.

Have I gotten lost in the external and the superficial and I failed to notice what's going on underneath, what seems to be driving all this, what seems to be at the root of all this, what seems to be at the core of all this? And again, one of the pathways in, one of the pathways in to really connecting with the present moment, really connecting with what is, is to shift our focus, even a little bit, from what we don't have to what we do, asking ourselves are there ways that I can be more satisfied with what I already have, rather than prolonging my own dissatisfaction, because I'm overly focusing on what I don't have If I'm frustrated in my job. Have I really tried to enjoy my job? Have I really tried to appreciate it? Have I looked for all the ways that my job is actually good? Doesn't mean I have to stay in it forever. Doesn't mean this is even the right job for me.

But in the meantime, rather than deferring any kind of satisfaction until that situation changes, can I take any kind of satisfaction now? Can I find ways to appreciate what I have now, rather than deferring and delaying my appreciation of my own life to some undefined, unspecified future time? Can I actually enjoy and appreciate my life now, rather than feeling like everything has to change before that's even possible? Can I enjoy the abundance in the gifts that I experience now, rather than believing that the only way I can ever be happy is through some sort of different and future abundance, some different and future gifts? Can I look at my life and say you know what? This definitely isn't perfect and probably never will be, but this part, even if it's just this small part, pretty good. Pretty good that I have the freedom to this or that. Pretty good that I look around at my life and I have things going for me which I do really enjoy. I have relationships that are meaningful, I have experiences that are meaningful, and that getting caught up and overly focused on what I don't have has distracted me from what I do. It's distracted me from the present moment, which is the only time I can ever actually enjoy anything anyway. Because if I've deferred my enjoyment to the future or if I believe that the only enjoyment for me actually happened in the past, then I'm missing my life. I'm missing what's actually happening right now, I'm missing the opportunities for joy and happiness right now, and maybe that's as simple as the fact that I'm alive right now, I can breathe right now, I can see right now, I can hear right now, I can think right now, I can walk around right now.

And it's also one of my beliefs of why practically every religious tradition there is encourages some sort of gratitude practice Because it's good for us, it's like spiritual nutrition, to take our focus, even if it's just for a minute, off of all of our umbrage, all of our complaints, all of our laments, all of our quarrels, all of our dissatisfaction, and just for a minute, do the opposite, because that shift in focus is actually probably closer to the truth than our belief that everything is wrong and everything is bad, even if we have some sort of a core issue with our bodies. We feel our bodies aren't the shape we want them to be, they're not the size we want them to be, they're not the color we want them to be, they don't perform as well as we want. Whatever it is and at some level there's appreciation available for just having a body in the first place that we're the ones choosing to not value it and not appreciate it. And the worst part is the most unfortunate part, is that a lot of these standards we hold ourselves up to are just made up. They're arbitrary. We've chosen to believe them. We've chosen to not value ourselves. We've chosen to not honor ourselves. More than that, often we choose to hold negative feelings for ourselves Because of some standard that was made up by somebody else that was perpetuated by other people.

But we're an individual. We get to choose what we value, we get to choose what we honor, we get to choose what we respect, and one of the greatest freedoms in life is the realization of this, is the realization that we get to set our own values, we get to set our own priorities, we get to believe whatever we want and we can change what we believe in whenever we wish. That's an amazing thing. When we first do it, when we realize we believe in something that we actually don't want to or don't even really believe is true, that realization is like flipping a switch. And now we're different because we believe something different. And more than that, we've realized that we can change our beliefs. That's amazing. That's awesome, that is liberating, that we get to decide what matters. We get to decide what we focus on. We get to decide what we pursue, and thus we have an incredible influence on our own life, on the way our life goes on, what our life experiences, because we get to choose what we value. We get to choose what we pursue. We get to choose what actually matters.

We get to choose our own perspective, and one of the most valuable ways we can choose to expand and enrich our own perspective is by making the shift from what we don't have to what we have. Because when we look at our life, look at what we really want, one of the main things we really want is to feel genuine, authentic gratitude for what we have. That's kind of that whole idea of when we have dreams. That would be amazing If I had this or experienced that well, in that moment, that we had that experience, we would feel genuine gratitude, genuine appreciation for what's happening. Well, why not practice that now? Why delay and defer that to some future circumstance, To some unknown? We can actually apply it right now. We can apply it to the things we already have, to the things already around us, to the things we're already experiencing. We can open ourselves up to feeling those feelings, to having that reward, to having that fulfillment, now shifting from the negative to what we don't have, to the positive of what we do. It sounds trite, but in my opinion anyway, it really is better to live as a positive person. It feels better, it's a better experience.

I think we can also make the argument that it makes us better to be around. It makes us better people, not only for ourselves, but for everyone we interact with. It doesn't mean we have to live in some kind of fantasy world. It doesn't mean we can't acknowledge the truth of course not. But it does mean that when we look into our life, when we look after our life, we look for the positive, we try, we try to find the good and even when a situation is horrendous and absolutely bad. We leave ourselves open for good to enter. We leave ourselves open for that, that value, that good, that blessing, whatever we want to call it to come. And of course we acknowledge reality. We acknowledge what's happening. We're not trying to gaslight ourselves. We're not trying to get caught up in the spiritual bypass of everything is maximum, amazing, all the time.

But at the same time we also don't get caught up in our own negativity, in our own lack, even though, to our senses anyway, in our media culture, in our culture, culture that can be the focus, but it doesn't have to be. A lot of times that's a set of incentives that's feeding itself. When you have industries that are built on and perpetuated on advertising, of course it's natural to want to create, want to want to create need, even if it's completely made up and artificial. That's just incentives. That's just how that system works, that's how that is perpetuated and that's fine. We don't need to demonize our culture. We don't need to say that all consumerism is bad and all materialism is bad.

We are physical beings. Having a physical experience and enjoying ourselves, having a good experience on the physical level of life is real and does actually matter. But the key is not to get lost in it. The key is not to be overwhelmed by it. The key is to not be addicted to it, to be able to acknowledge that. That's true. But it's also true that there are layers to it, that there's depth to it, that this life experience. We can create a shift in our life by shifting our perspective, even a little, from what we don't have to what we do. Again, this doesn't mean we shouldn't change. It doesn't mean we shouldn't do different things. It doesn't mean we shouldn't try different things. Quite the opposite.

Life is about the never-ending creation and satisfaction of appetites. It's kind of like if we look at ourselves and realize that we eat two or three meals a day, and if we could just find a way to never be hungry again, just have that one perfect meal so we never have to eat again, then our life would be amazing. We never have to think about it. It's like no, because we need to eat to nourish and sustain ourselves. But food is one of the pleasures of life. We have these senses for a reason. We have taste buds for a reason. It's not just to detect nutrition.

That also gives us the opportunity to experience joy and pleasure, and that's good. Here's a good thing we're supposed to experience pleasure but not get lost in it, not have our life only about pleasure. Not have our life only about consumption, not have our life only about gratification Of have a balance, be able to appreciate what is and then bring that appreciation to what isn't yet. But what's next? What do I do now? Find a greater sense of fullness and completeness with where we are right now and then go out into the world, into our life, experience from that place, knowing that our whole lives aren't leveraged and predicated on what we're going to get next. For the same time, allow ourselves the ability to enjoy and take pleasure in what happens next. It's both To be able to enjoy our own appetites, be able to enjoy our own desires, be able to enjoy our own gratification, be able to enjoy our own pleasure and, at the same time, not be dependent on it. Have it be additive to our life rather than subtractive, when we're not experiencing it every moment.

One of the easiest ways, in my opinion anyway, to shift to more of a focus on what is is to find things to be grateful for, the counter blessings, to just be thankful and look for opportunities.

Actually try. Try to spot the things on our life that we're grateful for, whatever it is, whatever we have around us A relationship, a pet, a job, a possession, an experience, a freedom, an ability, this breath right now. I'm grateful for this breath right now because this means I'm alive, this means I am, this means that infinite possibility is still in front of me and I get to choose how I take advantage of it. I get to choose how I seize it. I get to choose how I appreciate it. I get to choose how I live it. Because I get to choose my focus. I get to choose my beliefs. I get to choose my values and, because of that, because I acknowledge and honor my own abilities to choose, I acknowledge and honor my ability to live a full, complete and rich and nourishing and fulfilling and meaningful life, and I choose to do that now.

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