There is a desire that I often feel to let go of the bird in my hand, in the hope that there will be two in the bush waiting for me.
Behind this is the desire for more.
The bias to try and quantify as much as possible in life has abstracted the human experience to be bits and bytes. The goal of the human experience seemingly is to be happy. However, I am not sure that happiness can be measured.
Scientists will claim to measure happiness. Upon a closer look though, these are mostly measures of the lack of unhappiness. The lack of food, security, safety, income, education, and so forth, are clear measures of unhappiness.
If you have the time, patience and interest to read this reflection, chances are that your basic needs are currently being met. You have shelter, safety and stability. You have food, family and friends. You do not have the indicators of unhappiness, however may still feel unhappy at times. I know that I do.
The lack of unhappiness does not mean happiness.
To go from the lack of unhappiness to happiness, there is still a bridge for me to cross. This bridge is called choice.
Happiness is a choice. I have to make it. To choose what exists for me. To choose my reality. Reality does not care if I choose it or not. It will continue to do its thing.
When I try to change reality, I get frustrated. When I feel frustrated, it is from an unwillingness to accept my reality in this moment. I am trying to force some idea that I have, versus flowing with what is.
Reality at times feels great, and at other times, feels terrible.
The most common source of unhappiness is a lack of the basic needs, like food, safety, shelter, health, and so forth. I am grateful that, like you, my basic needs are met.
The second most common source of unhappiness is not accepting reality. I am a work in progress here.
The third most common source of unhappiness is comparison. Comparison brings into my awareness an alternate reality that does not exist for me. It may be what I perceive to be someone else’s reality. It may also be what I desire or imagine as an alternate reality for me. In all cases though, it is a reality that is different from my present. I then start to believe that this is better. I am now experiencing unhappiness.
With comparison, I am deprived of truly understanding all that this alternate reality entails. I can only see the tip of the iceberg, what appears to be big, better or beautiful. I fail to see it in its entirety, with all of its pleasant, and unpleasant, givings.
I do have a desire for more. I cannot hide from this.
This desire is likely from the conditioning and programming of my society and culture, and also likely hard coded in me through evolution. Thousands of years ago, I imagine that more meant survival. It was a strategy that made sense a long time ago, and one that I have to learn how to live with today.
There are different paths to fulfill this desire for more.
One path is for me to live in a state of near continuous dissatisfaction with reality. To see constantly what is not. I have tried this a lot in my life, and have not enjoyed it very much.
Another path is for me to start by appreciating what is. To hold onto the bird in my hand. To celebrate, recognize and acknowledge my present reality, as it is, without an ounce of desire for it to be any different. Easier said than done.
With appreciation, feelings of gratitude fill my heart. I begin to realize all of the circumstances and choices that have led to what is. The people, the actions, the decisions. It is as if the universe has conspired to create this moment, just for me.
In a state of gratitude, I have difficulty even remembering why it was that moments ago I was in a state of unhappiness. It seems to me, through my experience, that gratitude is a vaccine to unhappiness. One that I need a daily dose of.
Appreciation for the bird in my hand triggers endless gratitude. I am now grounded in my present reality and then become curious to discover what might be. If all the goodness in my present reality is possible, then surely more goodness is also possible.
The irony in this understanding is that it leads me to more. However, I won’t ever know that I have more. I am too occupied with appreciating my reality. I am with this present moment, unconcerned and uninterested in any alternate one from the past or the possible future.
With appreciation for reality, gratitude for the journey thus far, and curiosity for what might be, I notice that I now have a bird in one hand, and that my other hand is open.
Photo credit: Nelson Hammer