We’re always running on a schedule, gulping down dinner with one foot out the door. We have a million things we have to do, places we have to be, things we want to see, projects we want to accomplish. Why all the hassle and rush to get there? Because here isn’t quite good enough. We have to get there, one step up, five steps up, to get that dream job or relationship, to lose those 10 pounds, to have that perfect circle of friends, to get into that program. Our lives are always pending, waiting on something to tell us that we’re okay, that we’ve got it, that we’re good enough.
But the real problem with this way of life is that every time we do reach a goal, hit the number on the scale, or start that job, we spend exactly 0.5 seconds appreciating what we’ve just accomplished before the knot twists deeper in our stomachs and we realize that there’s something else, slightly above, that’s the real goal. We’ve hit the “goal weight”, but now we actually want to see abs. We’ve got that dream job, but now we have to surf the learning curve and impress the big bosses. We’re once again running. We’re once again pending. And so this goes on and on for the rest of our lives.
The reality of it is, every one of these endeavors is like running all-out through a hot desert, always chasing that elusive stream of life-giving, flawless water. Yet every time we’re about to taste and dive into the haven of perfect comfort, pleasure, and awe in life, it plays a trick on our eyes, skipping off into the distance again, like the mirage that it is. Because deep down, it’s not the thing that we really want or need. That little number on the scale has exactly nothing to do with how happy we are. Our relationship statuses can do exactly nothing to fill the empty space in our hearts. So why do we keep chasing, running aimlessly, keeping ourselves busy, occupied, and at times, addicted?
Because the anticipation of success is almost always greater than success itself, just like the fear of a certain thing or situation is almost always more detrimental than the actual thing itself. This imbalance occurs because the place of realization and satisfaction—or dissatisfaction—is rooted in our minds. It’s not an external source, a thing, a person; it all takes place inside. So why do we keep looking for this satisfaction from without? Why do we keep running when all we need is right here between our ears and within our chests?
Because running is safe. Not quite getting there is the perfect place to be. We’re busy, we’re working, we’re distracted. We’re doing the “right” thing, and that makes us feel good about ourselves for trying so hard, no matter how much sleep we lose, no matter how much it kills us. We’re being martyrs for the cause, and that’s an honorable feat. It gives us purpose and resolve and meaning. If the fight in our lives never goes away, we’ll always have a battle cry, something to wrap our lives around, something to distract us, so we don’t actually have to think about or feel anything else.
But if we get there, we could be disappointed. We could realize that it wasn’t actually what we thought it would be. We could come to the horrifying conclusion that nothing in this life can actually fulfil us deeply, powerfully, eternally. We could possibly realize that that little number on the scale actually has zero power to change the quality or texture of our lives. We could realize that this program might look good on our resumes, but it doesn’t have that all-powerful, healing, and magical effect on our lives that we somehow expected it to have.
Think about Ted’s “almost kiss” with Victoria, the baker in How I Met Your Mother. It was a moment of incredible anticipation that paused before the final climax. They didn’t actually kiss. They never actually got there, at least in that episode. And because they didn’t actually do it, it was perfect, flawless, untainted. It was forever captured in time as the apex of romance and love. It couldn’t hurt them or disappoint them or let them down, because it didn’t happen. However, after they really did kiss, when they got together, tried to love each other and make it work, it all fell apart.
This is why we run. We want to live in the flawless mirage of perfection so that our lives will never have to be tainted by pain, by reality, by life. This is why we so often find ourselves in cycles of distraction, of setting our sights on something new as soon as we’ve nearly wrapped our hands around what we thought we so badly wanted.
This brings us to a dark realization that all these goals and dreams and hopes that we have are merely constructs of our minds to distract us from emptiness, pain, and disappointment, and these things in and of themselves cannot provide deep or lasting joy. We just can’t seem to derive from these things the kind of ecstasy and certainty that we crave, that will zing us from the inside out and leave us implicitly and explicitly fulfilled. Do you see the trend here? We keep trying to fix the inside from the outside.
But this also brings us to a point of hope that even though these things in our lives will never work the way we want them to, that the anticipation will always be better than the kiss, there is something else greater than them both. This is something available to each and every one of us, something within our control and capacity that can change the perspectives of our lives and calm the frantic running and trying. This is the best thing, and the best part is that we don’t have to strive for it. It’s already here, in our hands, our minds, our hearts.
It’s knowing that everything we want, everything we need, is already here. It’s not a thing, per say. It’s an understanding, as subtle as the dew evaporating off the grass and as powerful as the sun that draws it. It’s releasing ourselves from the pressure to scour this world for something to make us feel “okay”. It’s realizing that we’ve always been enough, and all we needed to do was accept it, appreciate it, befriend it.
It’s knowing that happiness isn’t out there in things or people or places, rather it’s in here, in our constant presence in the moment, in our relaxed, easy breath, in the stillness of our hearts and minds, soaking up all the blessings and falling in love with each new moment over and over again.
We’re already all we need to be and exactly where we need to be. To get that callback for the interview, to get a boyfriend or a girlfriend, to get the approval of our parents, these things can all feel great on the outside, but they can never fill us completely on the inside. They can support us, inspire us, help build us and grow us into deeper and more complete human beings, but they can’t give us the love that only our own pure and present acceptance can offer.
We are precious sons and daughters of this world, of God, of the Universe, and only once we understand and accept that calling and place will we truly accept ourselves, love ourselves, and free ourselves from the treadmills of our dreams and angsts.
Once we tap into the wonder within our own souls, we’ll be able to dig deeper, to become more content, inspired, and motivated, to keep progressing, learning, and loving. Whether that first kiss happens or not, we’ll already have a light beaming in our souls that nothing on this earth can extinguish. This is our true purpose and calling—to stop running, to stop worrying, to look deep into our hearts and find everything we didn’t know we already had.