The other day my friend’s dog, who on a walk recently decided she wanted to go in the opposite direction. And when she wasn’t allowed to do so, she just laid down – full out – on the sidewalk, apparently sending the message, “Well then, let’s just stop, if you’re not going to let me go left!”
Ah, stubbornness. It’s kinda cute in dogs, but what about in people?
I noticed this same feeling of stubbornness in myself recently when I was wandering around my home, restless and bored. A part of me kept gently nudging… “Meditate! This would be the perfect time. Just settle in to these uncomfortable feelings, just the way they are, without trying to DO anything about them.” And then another part of me would answer: “Naw. Maybe there’s something in the fridge instead.” This “conversation” happened in one form or another for, oh, maybe the rest of the day, all the while me feeling restless and bored and unsatiated.
Stubbornness! That darn ego insisting that if I just _____________ (fill in the blank), well THEN I’ll feel content. If I just eat some chocolate, then I’ll feel good. If I just watch this mindless TV, then I’ll relax.
It really does feel like I’m just avoiding feeling whatever I’m feeling (restless, bored, or it could be sad, lonely, overwhelmed, anxious, etc.) by DOING things. And this is where the stubbornness comes in. I actually caught myself thinking this the other day, in response to this vague feeling in the back of my mind that I just needed to stop and meditate for a few minutes. Just stop and allow and feel and pause. But no, instead my mind actually talked back to me: “But I WANT to keep chasing these other things!” I WANTED food to bring me lasting pleasure. I WANTED shopping to be fun and distracting. And even bigger than that, I WANTED this image of typical happy family and fulfilling work and financial security and perfect weather to be ALL that happiness is. So I can just create those things (which are mostly, except for weather, I guess!) under my control. I wanted my happiness to be dependent on these external things that I could just “get” and “do” and “have.” And then I would be content.
It’s a hard belief to give up, right? We seem to live most of our lives thinking that If I just… move to a different city, find the perfect romantic partner, change jobs, get a haircut, lose some weight, …. Then I’ll be happy. And so we busy ourselves, both in big ways and in small everyday ways, working, working, working toward these goals, in the hopes of one day never feeling ____________ (all sorts of uncomfortable things) again.
The thing for me is that reaching these goals seems to be only a temporary satisfaction. I’m not saying having goals or making changes in your life, or even seeking out pleasure on an everyday basis is somehow wrong or meaningless. Not at all. I’m just saying that it’s only half the equation. Because ultimately we still do have uncomfortable feelings and experiences from time to time. Traffic still exists. You can’t always eat what you want when you want it. You can’t control other people. And sometimes you’re bored, restless, sad, lonely, angry, frustrated, etc, etc.
So learning how to be with these feelings just as they are for a minute, instead of filling the time, distracting, avoiding or running toward something else, is actually incredibly effective.
But very, very counterintuitive. And our egos are stubborn in holding on to this belief that if we just _______, then we’ll be happy. So treat that voice – your own ego – the same way you’d treat my friend’s cute little doggie – with a little humor, and patience, and knowing the bigger picture – that going “left” isn’t the only thing that’s going to make you happy.