Thursday, November 21, 2013

This is the thing that frustrates me most about life.

Here it is: the nature of life itself is just so damn needy. Do any states of being last? Anything worth having, loving, or feeling requires such continuous cultivation to maintain! You're never done 'til you're dead.

Let's say you've worked for weeks to create a new habit of daily exercise, better nutrition, daily meditation, or a more positive mental attitude. You begin to enjoy enormous benefits and results! You've got more energy; your body's feeling firm and flexible; your relationships are thriving; and most importantly, you're HAPPY. 

"How could I have lived any other way?" you ask yourself. The old you with those silly old problems seems like some kind of alien. You're convinced that, "this is me, from now on. I have arrived." 

Inevitably, obstacles and distractions creep into our positive practices, sometimes so subtly that you don't even notice until the damage is done. Riding a high of the arrival of health and happiness, you've mistakenly thought that you can work a little less hard and be a little less consistent. 

So it goes. What took days, weeks, or months to achieve takes half the time to let fall by the wayside. Suddenly, your pants are tighter. You've just snapped at your spouse. Last week, you were mesmerized by a beautiful sunset: your whole being buzzed with profound appreciation as you stood and screamed, "life is beautiful!!!" Who the hell was that? This week, you don't even notice the sunset because you're making a beeline for whiskey, french fries, and cigarettes. Instant gratification begins to take precedence; hard work goes bye bye.

Incredibly frustrating, don't you agree? There is, in fact, no such thing as arriving. There is, in fact, only continuous maintenance of how and who you want to be. It's a cycle of living well, riding the high, followed by a fall off the wagon, the return of suffering, and the need to start over and over again. 

Just noticing that you're feeling better as a result of positive behaviors ought to be accompanied by a little reminder that cultivation is the true cure! Wellness lies in the positive behavior itself, not in the outcome. We want to believe that our efforts are a one-time payment; we will receive something everlasting in return; we will be happy forever thereafter. But we've ridden the cycle full circle, and we've come to know that this is not the case. 

So, just keep pedaling. You will gain speed, you will gain altitude, oxygen will flood your blood and you'll feel fan-fucking-tastic! Then, from time to time, you'll hit a banana peel, or get distracted by something shiny. That's okay; it's frustrating but it's life. Mindfulness is noticing when your focus has wandered; it's the strengthening of your mind's capacity to bring you back to the calm, peaceful, loving self that enables you to behave in ways that benefit you and those around you. The more you practice this resiliency, the faster you'll notice that you've strayed, and as a result, you'll fall less far.

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