The baddest habit
My life before the monastery could be summed up with this process:
- Become excited by something.
- Pursue that something.
- Purchase or get that something.
- Become obsessed with getting more-and-more of that something.
And then I would just keep looping around and around doing that process ALL THE TIME.
So, here is an illustration of how this played out:
I was an artist who loved to create. I had a job that paid extremely well so I only had to work part time to be able to afford the beautiful apartment I lived in, pay the bills, purchase the food, and buy the stuff I collected constantly. I told people that I was working part time so I could spend my free time on my artwork — “my passion in life.”
Here’s the funny, and frustrating, part. Whenever I would be faced with some free time — time I specifically created so that I could focus on my artwork — I felt COMPELLED to avoid doing it. Sometimes I would get as far as putting up a blank piece of paper on the drawing board and proceed to stare at it. Then I would leave the apartment to go record shopping. Or book shopping. Or art supply shopping. Or all-of-them shopping. I would spend most of the day doing this.
Then I’d come home, put on one of the new CDs I’d bought, begin listening to it and then…
IT would happen…
“Wow! I need MORE of this kind of stuff! This is GREAT! What other music out there is like this?” And then I’d be off to the races again, looking that information up, calling around to see who had it. The music was playing in the background and I didn’t care. I was out on the streets hunting down more of it.
This was NON-STOP.
I even started to do it with the meditation books I had discovered! I began collecting all of them! Which is how I realized it was happening. The meditation books were teaching me about the process of dissatisfaction. And here I was LIVE in 3-D doing that process while becoming aware of it! I sat there dumbstruck with this realization. I saw the addiction. “Oh my God! This is how I have been doing my WHOLE LIFE!”
I literally saw my whole life flash before me: I couldn’t finish my meal without thinking of the dessert I was going to eat afterwards. I couldn’t enjoy my book because I was obsessed with the video I was going to watch with my friends tomorrow. I was talking to a good friend and all I wanted to do was shop for music.
This phrase from one of the meditation books stuck out in my mind:
One process does not lead to another. You can’t “want” in order to “have.” “Wanting” leads to more “wanting.” “Having” leads to more “having.” If you want to “have” just “have.”
Of course! Of course! Of course!
I was caught on the runaway train of “wanting” in the pursuit of “having.” It was never going to give me what longed for because I was never present. I was always on to the next thing, never in the moment, and so joy was evading me.
I began to cry when I realized that I was on the wrong train going in the wrong direction!
Once I began meditating, I was able to articulate how I felt. I described my life as being stuck in an invisible box with myself while Life was happening “out there” around me. I was always out of touch with it. It was always beyond my reach. Nothing was meaningful, conversations were shallow, I was hiding behind my mask of interests, and I wasn’t enjoying anything I thought I should.
What’s worse, I saw that everyone else was caught up in doing the same thing. We were all completely screwed up and pretending like everything was just fine.
When I saw how it all worked, I realized that I didn’t want to play this game anymore.
People can try to convince you to pursue your passions, to get what you want — that leading an extraordinary life is in doing something satisfying. But I learned that this isn’t the way it worked.
I realized that I needed to learn firsthand how to be satisfied in order to lead an extraordinary life.
I needed to start, end, and be with satisfaction if I was to experience satisfaction.
This is a chapter from my book, Meditation and Reinventing Yourself.