The first noble truth of Buddhism states that Life is suffering. One reads this and goes: Huh? Really? That’s what life’s about? But delving deeper into this simple phrase, there are layers of wisdom to be found.
Suffering, the wise man goes, is caused first and foremost by attachment. Attachment to people, to things, to memories, to desires, and worst of all to results. We all know the last one, we all fall in its trap day in and day out. It’s called Having expectations. You see, at the core of everything we feel, think, do or choose, sit two primal forces – love and fear. And when we get attached to something or someone, we begin acting out of fear. Fear of losing that which we have. Fear of going without that which we have obtained. All the while ignorant of the simple fact, that nothing we “have” is truly ours. Everything that enters our lives at one point or another, is simply passing through. Experiences come along to teach us something about ourselves, people stop by for a while to show us a different perspective, challenges appear to help us grow. And things, well, things don’t last anyway. Fearing the loss of that we think we have causes us to worry about a future without it, instead of enjoying a present with it. So we spend time and energy and money building walls around our “possessions”, physical or otherwise. We don’t share the abundant gifts of life out of fear that there won’t be enough left for us. We limit the freedom of those we claim to love out of fear that they will leave us and love us no more.
We chase careers and success, thinking that we will be happy when we reach the next promotion, get the next pay raise. All the while having no time to enjoy life because we are too busy slaving away. We have substituted our happiness with one or other form of success, thus placing its source where it is not – outside ourselves. How often do you hear yourself or someone around you say “I have to go and get this, I have to go and buy that, I have to do, I have to get, I have to be….”. The list goes on. Truth is, there is nothing we have to do. There is nothing we have to ‘achieve’. There is nobody we have to become. All we have to do is be. Right here, right now, fully present in the only moment we actually have. Instead of being afraid about the things we cannot get, or losing the stuff we already do, love ourselves for who we are and love each moment of every day, as if it’s the only one. Because it is.
But let me back-track a little. That short phrase I mentioned before, attachment to results? Oh yeah, we don’t really notice that one too well, do we. But it’s the worst of them all. Expecting outcomes not rooted in reality, wishful thinking without foundation or reason. Placing expectations on people is as unfair as it gets. Denying someone the right to be themselves and expecting them to be who you wish them to be. And then bitterly complaining about the disappointment. We do it all the time. And we do it to ourselves, too. Worst, we do it to ourselves. We create pressure to work hard, to do the right thing, always. To deliver what in turn is expected of us. To compete, to achieve, to accomplish, to obtain. The world has set the standard and we feel like failures every time we don’t manage to meet it. That is the bad news. The good news is that we can make a different choice. We can substitute attachment and desire with acceptance, appreciation and gratitude. Because the moment you feel grateful for what you have, you stop worrying about that which you don’t. The moment you share it all with another, you declare that you have enough. The moment you let go of everything, you get it all back. You are rich not when you don’t lack anything, but when you don’t need anything.
So be grateful for every breath of fresh air. Appreciate the smile of a stranger in the street. Accept the flaws of those who care about you. Leave the job you hate, and find your true calling instead. Show kindness, to yourself and to all around you. Tell fear to take a hike, and give love a chance. Because you are perfect, and beautiful, and wonderful. In all your flaws and imperfections, you are exactly who you’re supposed to be, right here and right now. Give thanks, send out light and just be.