Our human life is fleeting, and yet we keep waiting to be happy, or happier. We are seemingly constantly dissatisfied with something: our mood, our weight, our income, the status of our significant relationships, the weather, the political situation, the environment, and the various slings and arrows of everyday life. We desperately want things to be different, and we may even do many things to make us happier; to improve ourselves, or our relationships, or our bodies. However, as the title of Jon Kabat-Zinn's book says "Wherever You Go, There You Are." No matter what we change, many of us find that we still have this gnawing sense of incompleteness, or of some type of inadequacy. We long for something more but find that no matter what we get, purchase, or learn, we still feel the lack. And no matter how much you pour into this sense of lack or dissatisfaction, we still seem to feel ultimately dissatisfied. We may blame it on others, or we may blame ourselves, or the stars, yet the solution seems to always be just on the other side of what is happening now. We often say "I'll start the diet tomorrow," or "Next year/month/job/marriage things will be better." So we wait. We try and we wait. But time keeps marching on, and we are not getting any younger, and more of our life is passing us by.
I have discovered from the more than 36 years of being a practicing psychologist, of the 49 years of practicing meditation, and from the 25 years of teaching meditation and presence that the one thing that seems to underlay most people's dissatisfaction and unease is their inability to be present to their life. Most of us are continually in our heads thinking, re-thinking, ruminating, worrying, stressing, planning, re-living the past, and pre-living the future. And meanwhile time still passes and we keep doing what we have been doing.
So what can we do? I have found that helping people learn how to really slow down the constant chatter and thinking in their mind can make a world of difference. Learning mindfulness practices, and practices to shift into presence helps to cultivate the ability to really be present to and savor our life as it unfolds. This is a skill set that is not taught in schools, yet it is perhaps even more important to our happiness and satisfaction in life than our work or our relationships.
Taking some time daily to be still and cultivate the ability to simply Be (rather than our constant compulsive doing), will nourish this capacity for presence, and will support our being able to be in life more consciously, rather than being tossed here and there by our never-at-rest minds. The secret of happiness is not really a secret, it is developing the ability to be present to our life rather than forever stuck in the constant stream of thoughts and yearnings and judgements. It is being able to truly rest in your mind and body in this moment and to receive all that is already present for you.