I’m going to be rather presumptuous and guess that this sums up your life story so far:
Once upon a time, in Ancient China, there was a stonecutter. All day he worked really hard, under the hot sun.
One day, he was walking home from work, when he looked through the window of a merchant’s house and saw that he was having a party,
He thought to himself, ‘Look at him having a great time with all his friends, beautiful women, food, wine and music. I wish I was a merchant! Then I’d be really happy.’
And in an instant, he became the merchant, and he was at the party, having a great time.
After a while, he looked out the window and saw a General being carried along on a sedan chair. He thought to himself. ‘Look at that General surrounded by soldiers. He’s so powerful. I wish I was the General, and then I’d be really happy.’
In an instant he became the General, being carried along, surveying the land and the villages.
But then he started to feel very hot and sticky. He looked up at the sun, beating down on him, and he thought to himself, ‘damn you sun, making me so sweaty, you’re more powerful than me. I wish I was the sun!’
In an instant, he became the sun, and he was shining down on the earth.
After a while, some clouds came along and blocked his rays.
And he thought to himself, ‘Damn you clouds. You’re more powerful than me! I wish I was the clouds.’
And in an instant he became the clouds.
Then the wind came along and started to blow him around, and he thought, ‘Damn you wind, you’re more powerful than me! I wish I was the wind.’
And in an instant he became the wind.
He was blowing up mountains and down valleys going wherever he wanted, until he came up against the rock, and he realised he couldn’t pass the rock, and he thought ‘Damn you rock! You’re more powerful than me.’
And, in an instant he became the rock, and he thought he was more powerful than anything else on earth.
But after a while, he felt the chip, chip, chip of a stonecutter.
Is this the story of your life? Some of my versions of this have been I’ll be happy when…
- I’ve stopped climate change
- I’ve paid off my debt
- I’m in a nicer flat
- My eczema is healed
- I’ve had this holiday/retreat
- My girlfriend stops feeling anxious or angry
I once went to a workshop on intimacy and relationships and one of the things the teacher said that stuck in my head was ‘There is one thing that all of your failed relationships have in common… YOU!’
In other words it’s not the people or world around you that needs to change, it’s your inner world.
But what if you’re really not happy in your relationship, job or abode? What are you meant to do?
Well I don’t take from this story that we should never try to change or improve things, we should just settle for what we’ve got. It’s about balance. Are you always seeking something else?
In order to be happy, we do need to be able to find contentment in how things are right now. Afterall, it’s never not the present moment, so if you’re not happy now, when will you be?!
At its most basic, mindfulness is about paying attention to what you’re experiencing in this moment, and seeing if you can accept it. Whether that’s a busy mind, a fidgety body, fear, anger, sadness or whatever.
If you can’t, then you are effectively wishing you were someone else, doing something else, somewhere else. You are at war with reality.
If you can, then you are the stonecutter who is able to accept and maybe even appreciate being alive in this moment, hitting this stone. That is a feeling of contentment, peace and fulfillment.
Our whole culture is tilted towards making us think that happiness is around the corner, so it takes a lot of practice for most people to let go of that, even for a few minutes.
That’s one of the key things I help people to do with my coaching and my group sessions.
If you’d like to practice this with me, to have the experience of deep peace and contentment NOW, you can sign up here for a free coaching session.