When I was seven years old, I got my first Barbie house.
It was huge, pink, and well-furnished—precisely how I’d imagined it. That house became my favorite toy and I played with it regularly. However, another Barbie house that I saw on TV caught my attention. Though the one I owned was pretty similar, I wanted the one that was unattainable.
Growing up, even though I had what I wanted, I tended to desire what I couldn’t have.
My mind would constantly cling to what wasn’t present. And, ironically, when I did get what I desired, it was never as satisfying as I thought it would be.
I didn’t really notice this pattern of thinking until a few years ago, when I became interested in learning how the human mind works. Our minds continuously have this urge to reach the unreachable. We have an obsession with forbidden fruit.
My Barbie house story might sound familiar because so many of us are fixated on what’s absent, especially when it comes to our relationships. We long for the commitment-phobic partner or chase after the friends who take us for granted.
But why do we always want more?
If we dig deeper into the makeup of our minds, we’d be shocked at the perceptions our minds create. We’d realize that the mind is never satisfied. It’s always waiting for the next thing—no matter how much we have right now.
We frequently identify ourselves with our minds because, as humans, we need something to define us. The identity we usually adopt is the voice that keeps running in our minds like a videotape. Because if it’s not us talking in our minds, then who else could it be?
Eckhart Tolle says something rather interesting in The Power of Now: “You are not your mind.” As frightening as it sounds, it’s actually a relief to acknowledge that we are not the tricky mind that wants more day after day.
The mind is the manifestation of thoughts that stem from the brain. This fantastic instrument is capable of solving the most complex problems. Our ability to logically analyze and make choices is what differentiates us from other living beings.
Needless to say, while the mind is often the solver of problems, it can also be a problem in itself.
The purpose of Buddhist meditation is to help us recognize this truth and to separate ourselves from our thought patterns. Through meditation, we learn how to become the watcher of our thoughts instead of being the compulsive thinker.
So long as we are the compulsive thinkers, running after every thought, we’ll never be happy with what we have right now. Since the nature of the mind is to always want more, we start believing that the only reality out there is that there isn’t enough. Hence, the mind keeps living in the future and desiring what we think is waiting there.
With time, we become unhappy and ungrateful because we’ve dismissed what’s in the present moment.
How about we take a look at we have right now? If we examine this very moment, we’ll realize that the Barbie house we have is often far more beautiful than the one on TV.
When we learn to be grateful for what we have in the present moment, we’ll stop worrying about what resides in the future. We’ll notice that there are hundreds of things to be grateful for—including the fact that we’re breathing. We woke up this morning. We’re alive. And how can we not be grateful for this blessing called life?
Gratitude is a choice. Here’s how we can start:
>> Make a list of what you’re grateful for. Begin with the simplest things, such as food, shelter, clothing, and health. I recite what I’m grateful for every night before going to sleep. I even mention the bad things that happened during the day because they’re often just blessings in disguise.
>> Notice the wonder in your life. I once found an illustration on the internet that showed a girl and a boy riding the same bus on a road with beautiful scenery on the right and a dreadful view on the left. The girl sat on the right, smiling at the scenery, while the boy sat on the left with a frown. Life is the bus we’re all riding. However, each day we choose which seat to take.
>> Understand you’re not your mind. Our thoughts are a psychological force, but they don’t define who we are. Learn how to use your mind and realize that it’s never satisfied—it always wants more. We are beyond our minds. We are a bundle of consciousness, energy, silence, and awareness. We are made of the same elements as the universe, which just “is.”
>> Gratitude leads to satisfaction. Not being grateful will only make you miserable, and greed and dissatisfaction are two main causes of our internal suffering. Nobody’s life is perfect. We all have our issues and we each have a cross to bear. But this doesn’t mean we can’t look at the other side of the coin and choose to be grateful for all of it.
Author: Elyane Youssef
Image: Author’s own
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Copy Editor: Emily Bartran
Social Editor: Catherine Monkman