“Happiness is not having what you want, but wanting what you have.” ~Hyman Schachtel
I have a chime with the words “Desire what you have” painted on the front of it. It hangs from the window to the left of my desk in the treehouse where I write. I bought it a few years ago as an epiphany purchase.
It was one of those times when I was sucked into the vortex of a boutique in Minneapolis, the wallet in my pocket a burning inferno. I saw this beautiful painted chime dangling from the ceiling and I was so struck by the message, I put out the fire out and put my money on the counter.
I am so glad I did.
I love the simple wisdom of the phrase: Desire what you have.
If we desire what we have then no matter what our possessions, we are rich.
I love coming across it again and again because it reminds me to be aware of my thoughts and to be aware of what I have and what I am now. I need to be reminded.
When I sat down to begin writing I was looking for inspiration in The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living. I came across this quote by the Dalai Lama:
“…our moment-to-moment happiness is largely determined by our outlook. In fact, whether we are feeling happy or unhappy at any given moment often has very little to do with our absolute conditions but, rather it is a function of how we perceive our situation, how satisfied we are with what we have.”
I have noticed by listening to my thoughts that I spend a ridiculous amount of time wanting to be more than I am. I rarely, if ever, sit back and bask in my accomplishments and who I am now. I unwittingly live in a state of personal dissatisfaction.
“When I publish my first book, then I will be a writer,” I tell myself. “When my website is perfect, when my teaching is perfect, when I have many articles published in Oprah Magazine, when I am no longer nervous before I begin teaching a new class—then I will feel like I have arrived at my own doorstep.”
Meanwhile, I ignore the person I am right now–my feet up on this couch in the treehouse, my children healthy and vibrant, my dog Dharma curled up next to me, writing this essay–because I have convinced myself that I am not complete. That I have to strain and strive and be better to deserve this blessed life.
I don’t think these things consciously. These thoughts run unsupervised through my head until I take the time to notice them and really hear what I’m saying to myself. And then I realize all of this self-talk is crazy talk.
If I can’t accept myself and what I am now, then I will never accept myself. It’s a way of thinking, of practicing non-acceptance of myself over and over and over.
This is yet another reason I must write. I must have a way to reveal this crazy talk, to call it out for what it is so I can be aware of it and slowly change it.
If I write it, not only have I taken the time to draw it out and contemplate it, I can see it in literal black and white, staring back at me. And when I am able to look my thoughts in the eye and see them for what they are, I can then challenge them.
In the pages of my journal, I sow seeds of change. Some are slow to grow, others just need a little light and attention to take hold and flourish.
It is necessary to be aware of what we want in this life. However, it is a delicate balance that must be tempered by an abiding awareness of what we have.
Life is now. I have arrived at the doorstep of myself. In fact, I’ve been standing here the whole time.
Photo by hang_in_here