What can we have that can’t be taken away? Illness, addictions, legal troubles, or a divorce can take away your money or the house you cherish so much in a flash. Girlfriends and boyfriends come and go. One mistake can cost you your six figure job and pension. And sadly, no matter how much we love our families or ourselves, the reality is that illness or death can strike at any moment.
Luckily, there is one source of permanence- yourself. No matter what happens, the essential “you” is always intact. How you choose to see the world is something that can’t be taken away and is with you wherever you go.
If you connect your sense of happiness to external things like your net worth, or even your family, you’re playing a dangerous game. As discussed, these things are transitory, no matter how much you don’t want to believe it. And worse, it’s a black hole. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to acquire enough to satisfy yourself; like many people you’ll end up in a never ending cycle of “upgrades”. A nicer car and I’ll feel better. Another 100k in the bank and I’ll be good. If I was just in better shape I’d be happy. I recall a study of individuals with an average worth of around $75 million asking what would bring them happiness. The majority said more money. It never ends.
One of the most powerful realizations I came to was that I didn’t have to play that game. Once you let go, once you realize that we’re here for a short time and just renting everything in our life, incuding our bodies, you are free. You start to see every day as a gift, and to enjoy life without a desperate sense of trying to hold on to everything. Stop worrying about what you’ll have tomorrow and you can enjoy what you have today.
And if you think not worrying about tomorrow is irresponsible, for most people something happens when they “unplug”- you end up feeling so much happier and healthier than you were before, you end up making more money than you did and have just as much “success”. More importantly, even if you end up making less, it’s not going to bother you.
People think things like money or status are power, but true power is having a sense of self worth that is unshaken even if you lost everything. Cultivate that, and you are truly untouchable. There are quadriplegics that had a better day yesterday than some people on the Forbes 500.
There is nothing needed other than a desire to reach this state, but it will take time and patience. Everything you need is already within you and always has been. The path is different for everyone, but seek out people and places that help you move in that direction, and never give up. If you’re looking for a place to start, try “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle. Yoga or meditation will also help. Getting out in nature or volunteer work are other things to try, but there’s no “right way”.
I’d wish you luck, but trust me, you don’t need it. If you took the time to read something like this, you’re closer than you think.
“Even your own happiness is so vulnerable and short-lived, at the mercy of a bank-crash or a stomach ulcer. It is just a moment of respite, a mere gap between two sorrows. Real happiness is not vulnerable, because it does not depend on circumstances.”
-Sri Nisigardatta Maharaj, from “I Am That”.