Back in August, a friend of mine was in the midst of planning a two week-long spiritual retreat to Hawaii.
As he began to explain his plans to me, he went on at length about the beauty of the landscape, the kindness of the community, the quiet of the retreat. With every detail, his face would light up in anticipation of what was to come; he was so excited that he was happier than I had often seen him.
Not surprisingly, he kept reiterating the fact that he was particularly looking forward to the mental space. Indeed, it’s easy to imagine how such a peaceful environment would contribute to a positive state of mind — however, there is also a point at which it is possible to depend too heavily upon a single event, experience, or opportunity for happiness.
Eventually, he reached that point: “I’m really looking forward to this trip,” he said, “because it’ll finally give me a chance to get my life sorted out.”
As soon as he said this, we both laughed. We were all too familiar with the idealized notion of then-I’ll-be-okay — as in, we’re not okay now, and we can’t possibly be okay anytime soon, but with the help of this magical, distant thing, then we’ll be okay. Both he and I had entered into many a situation with this same mindset only to inevitably discover that the happiness we had been seeking wasn’t as readily attainable as we had led ourselves to believe.
Too often, we set aside our present happiness under the guise that it will later come to us. We do this to such an extent, in fact, that it seems we don’t even bother to seek happiness in the present: since happiness seems so unattainable to us in our present circumstances, we purposely place our hopes on something which is outside of the present — a future trip, relationship, or job — because that is the only way in which we can imagine being happy.
Unfortunately, it tends to be the case that this delayed happiness doesn’t fulfill us to the extent we had hoped, which only leads us to further delay our happiness for another future time or event.
All things considered, then, does it not make more sense to simply seek small moments of joy in the present?
Jana Marie is a Croatian-born writer living amidst the restorative embrace of the Canadian Prairies.
Through her writing, she examines the interplay between self and society as she works to both illuminate and explore the power of contemplative thinking. Her recently completed two-year project, 100 Mindful Days, which combines teachings from the worlds of personal development, self-care, and wellness, will soon be her first book.
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