“We have what we seek, it is there all the time, and if we give it time, it will make itself known to us.” – Thomas Merton
Today’s quote has many layers of wisdom. The first layer is simply that we often confuse our needs with our desires. Going a bit further, we often confuse our desires with our impulses, habits, and tendencies. Our minds are filled with impulses, desires, and tendencies that are constantly arising and seeking fulfillment – “I can’t wait until the weekend.” “That banana split is just what I need right now.” “If only I was in a relationship.” “If only I could get out of this relationship.” “If only I had that kind of car, that job, lived in that city, etc.”
If we take some time to look at our impulses and desires, we will see that even though they have been satisfied countless times and we have even experienced moments of complete contentment, our impulses and desires continue to grow. When will they ever be truly satisfied? The more things we have, the more activities we engage in, the more things we have to take care of, and the more complicated our lives become. Instead of making our lives more fulfilling, they become more stressful. We then seek new things or new activities to reduce the stress. It can become a vicious cycle, one in which our desire increases, constantly looking for something else or someone else to make us feel better. When was the last time we just sat comfortably in our own home, peaceful and content, without needs or wants, simply enjoying the breath that gives us life? Instead of asking ourselves what we can do to make us happy, often a more profound and helpful question is, what can we not do to make us happy?
In order to discover the wisdom in today’s quote, that inner peace, joy, and love is in us not in things, it is critical that we develop patience. Patience is both an action and a skill to be developed, one that actually solves more problems. When we are actively patient, we can allow impulses, desires, and uncomfortable feelings to arise without immediately acting upon them. We can also watch them fade away and potentially develop the ability to no longer be a prisoner to them. In fact, we will find that giving them attention gives them energy. Until something triggers the thought, there is no desire. Once we smell the popcorn, we suddenly become hungry even though we were content moments before. Instead of spending our lives cultivating pleasurable experiences that will come and go, we can spend our time more wisely cultivating inner contentment, merely by letting go of the delusion that something out there is what we really need.
I invite you to do your best to pay attention to impulses and desires as they arise. Try to see the difference between what you need and what you want, and evaluate the long-term benefit. See if you can let the unhealthy impulses and desires come and go without acting upon them. They can be simple like an unhealthy snack, a desire to lie or say something you will regret. Instead of acting immediately, try to just label those thoughts as an “impulse” and let them go. As your day goes on, see if you find a little more peace and contentment by not acting on every impulse that comes to your attention. – John Bruna
The above is an excerpt from one the daily emails sent to the members of the Mindful Life Community. I invite you to explore our community and consider joining.