Why you put off happiness and how to stop doing it
Capitalism forces us to strive in the present in hopes of a better future. Meditation can help start to undo that.
The human mind is like the coyote in that old Looney Tunes cartoon Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner. It’s always trying to catch something just out of its reach: an end to pain, worry, and discomfort.
It does this by thinking about the past or future in a futile attempt to escape the present moment, which is too overwhelming or boring or emotional — too real.
This is why you suffer. Not why you experience pain — which is inevitable — but why you suffer.
Suffering comes from adding a story on top of the pain. She dumped me because I’m not attractive. I’m a loser because I don’t know what I want to do with my life. Etc.
These stories are like the elaborate inventions the coyote comes up with to catch the road runner, which always end up backfiring.
When we’re not present, we close off, clamp down, tense up. Our shoulders scrunch, our stomach tightens, and our breath gets short.
This sense — in the body — of not being open and fully alive feeds our mind’s tendency to leave the present moment by ginning up stories. Why do I feel a little off? Why can’t I just relax and be myself?
One of our mind’s biggest inventions is to strive — to obsessively plan, worry, hustle, and scheme so that life will be better at some future time.
This striving feels like we’ve got unfinished business, like there’s a pot boiling in a kitchen off in the distance that we can’t seem to find.
Some of my worst days are when I can’t shake the sense that I have more work to do, even after I’ve finished “work” for the day. There’s a lack of something, but I don’t know what that something is. The present moment isn’t enough — I’m not enough. I‘m restless, but the last thing I want to do is rest.
Like the coyote, I strive to find the one answer that will finally make me feel fulfilled, accomplished, able to rest. Maybe I didn’t get enough sleep. Maybe I just need to get a new job. Maybe… Maybe…