Today I was talking with my friend, Hayden. One of the things I like about talking with Hayden is that he probably has more insight into my life than I do. He'll often describe something I do or think in a way that I'd never thought about it, which then gives me something to ponder for a few days, weeks, etc.
Ironically, he's also the one who recommended the two books that made me adopt the MaxDiet, even though he doesn't follow it himself.
Today he asked me if I ever feel like crap.
He asks me this every few months, maybe because he doesn't really believe me.
And it's true. I definitely have a range of how I'm feeling, but it ranges from "really good" to "incredible". Never okay, never bad.
I've written a bit about this before. A year ago I wrote about how I never get angry. The ladies in my life at the time then started a riot in the comments and everyone started defending being angry.
I felt a little bit vindicated when I read The Power of Now, which basically said the same thing WAY more eloquently. Actually, I only read the beginning of that book because I found it way too boring, even though the message was awesome.
But this is different. Besides not feeling angry, I also never feel depressed or inadequate, or anything like that.
Hayden's explanation, which I think is right, is that I set my own standards. That's probably a nice way of saying that I really don't care what anyone thinks about me.
And I can see how in today's society it could go the other way. If you look at TV shows, advertising, or movies, there are clear messages being sent.
You're supposed to get straight As at a top school, get a high paying job, buy a sportscar, find your perfect spouse, buy a house, wear cool clothes and be beautiful like me, go on vacation in the Caribbean, and have kids. And that's just by the time you're 30.
Do these things, the legend says, and you will be happy.
There are two problems with this message.
First, this isn't the path that most people can or want to go down, when it comes right down to it. People don't meet the perfect girl. They get sidetracked on their own projects. When bombarded by this message, though, people get that nagging, "I'm not on track anymore" feeling.
Second, when people DO get that Porsche Boxster, the $100k salary, and their first mortgage, they aren't happier. They're only as happy as they've always been. Maybe less because the dream is gone.
"I worked that hard for THIS?"
I forget who said it first, but a phrase really stuck with me.
"You can never get enough of what you don't want."
In other words, if you go after society's standards, you will NEVER reach happiness. I've seen this so many times over.
However, when you change your definition of success to one that's a lot more appropriate, like, "success is when I spend all or most of my time doing what Iwant to do", it's easy and FUN to be successful.
Some people might call this lowering your standards. That's a poor way of looking at it. Maybe you aren't going to work 80 hours a week to afford a BMW lease, but you are going to spend more time scuba diving and reading. Which is better? Whichever one YOU want to do.
In my case, I'm essentially homeless. At one point I bought a house and two cars. Now I have no cars, no house, and actually no posessions that don't fit in my backpack.
By society's standards, I'm WAY less successful. By my standards, which are the only ones I care about, I'm way more successful. I'm seeing the world, learning, and becoming less materialistic.
As a result, I feel great about myself. I'm doing what I want to do. I'm happy. I feel no pressure from anyone, because I don't care about their expectations of me.
But don't bad things happen to me? Aren't some days better than others?
Sure. Yesterday, for example, I got almost no work done. Even though I'm in Bangkok, I didn't really go out and see the city. In terms of my standards it wasn't a great day.
It's important to learn acceptance. Eckhart Tolle talks about how any anger is the act of not accepting "the now", as he calls it.
Most days are full of me doing the things I want to be doing. Once in a while, like yesterday, I drop the ball. So I accept it. I'm not perfect.
I focus on the positives, too. While I didn't go out and see much, I did go get some coconuts in a new area of town, and that was interesting. I started writing this post. I had some good meals and spent some time with my friends.
And hey... I'm ALIVE. The joy of being alive and having been given the chance to live life will always trump everything. You could string 400 terrible days together and I would still be happy because I am alive. Everything else is a blip on the radar.
To sum it up, three ways to always be happy that work for me:
1. Disregard anyone else's expectations for you (including parents and society) and do what you want to do, Do it openly, honestly, and proudly. You have one life, and it is yours only. So enjoy it.
2. Accept that bad things will happen, but even if they do there is SO MUCH GOOD going on that they are irrelevant. You can consider them, act on them, but shouldn't be affected by them because there is too much good to ever justify not feeling great.
3. Think every day about how lucky you are to be alive. Any one of millions of sperm could have reached your mother's egg, but you were the one that made it. Trace that probability back a few generations and realize that EVERYTHING you have is a total gift. It is nearly impossible that you would be born, but you were. Is something like having your TV stolen REALLY enough to offset feeling great because you're so lucky to be alive?
from this post and many of your posts that I've been reading, a whole lot of what you say astoundingly lines up exactly with Buddhism. Has anyone ever told you that? Seems like you had an "awakening" in terms of your view on life. I wasn't sure if you knew that this whole line of thought has been around for 2,500 years.
First I have to say I'm not religious in the modern sense, and I'm not talking about the dogma of religions, or even religious Buddhism, which is not what I agree with. I'm talking about the original pure root of Buddhist thought, which is all about letting go of personal anguish and the cravings that cause anguish. This isn't forced and can't be. This happens naturally when you realize that all things in this world that we mistakenly cling to, and therefore cause this anguish, are not permanent, they are transient. This includes the obvious that you touch on, like wealth, material things. But the biggie here is that our sense of self, as a permanent and separate entity from the world (our ego), is a delusion. We spend our lifes clinging to this transient sense of self and all our cravings to preserve this never-changing self. Once we can let go of this delusion of a never-changing self and realize we ourselves are transient, all of our cravings, for fame, wealth, never-ending youth, material things, disappear. And then our anguish disappears. A good website that describes this, better than I have, is:
Just thought I'd let ya know how much of your thought lines up with the original pure thought of Buddhism that started 2,500 years ago. Anyone that reads that website (although there are better books) and really can awaken and feel the meaning for themselves will never be able to view the world the same, IMHO :)
You run a great website Tynan, that really shows the freedom that can be obtained from letting go, not clinging to material things, concepts, habitual patterns of habit. Many people have thought along your lines, but few put those thoughts into action like you have.
Hey tynan, from this post and many of your posts that I've been reading, a while lot of what you say lines up exactly with Buddhism. Has anyone ever told you that? First I have to say I'm not religious and I'm not talking about the dogma of religions, or even religious Buddhism. I'm talking about the root of Buddhist thought, which is all about letting go of cravings and anguish. And this happens naturally when you realize that all things In this world that we chi.g to, and therefore cause this anguish, are not permanent, they are transient. This includes the obvious that you touch on, like wealth, material things. But the biggie here is that our sense of self, as a permanent and separate entity, is a delusion. We spend our lifes clinging to this transient sense of self and all our cravings to preserve this never-changing self. Once we can met go of this delusion, all of our cravings, for fame, wealth, never-ending youth, disappear. And then our anguish disappears. A good website that describes this, better than I have, is:
Just thought I'd let ya know how much of your thought lines up. Anyone that reads that website and really can awaken and feel the meaning for themselves will never be able to view the world the same, IMHO :)
I'm middle aged. Kids are grown. I bought myself a baton (former majorette!) and am considering a pair of roller skates. My parents' generation would have said I was 'going through my second childhood'. I would say I am finally free of so many self-imposed obligations, and I just do want I want to do! I wish I'd realized that I could have let go of those burdens a long time ago.
Have been considering RV living for awhile, which is how I found your site.
Many, Many thanks for your fabulous thoughts!
Abso-freaking-lutely. This post should be required reading by, um, everyone.
So tell us, Ty, what kind of family/home situation were you raised in to have "it" figured out at such a relatively young age?
thank you for this post tynan, it has helped me during a rough time in my life. It is important to stay true to yourself and never doubt who you are and the path that you choose in life. It is we and we alone who put ourselves to sleep at night. Its not the job, the spouse, friends, the kids, its just you that takes responsibility for what you have done. If you are happy with what you did that is all that matters.
to hell with the rat race.
Hey ty great post,I'm 16 and live avidly like this, and about trying to get others to feel like this I worked some magic and got a friend out of depression, it really was magic, I don't know how I did it
Tynan I really like your post especially the part about being positive and living to love life. I admire you for giving yourself to your readers in a very possituve and respectful way....you are a true sweetheart! take care:)
Just found this article and I think it's relevant in terms of TOOLS to accept where you're at and set your own standards, separate your position from your ego and goals, and all that good stuff.
Here ya go: http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2006/04/self-acceptance-vs-personal-growth/
"How can someone afford a Porsche Boxster on a $100K salary???"
???... ummm by using part of the $100K salary to purchase the car. They cost around $50k, so it's no different whatsoever for someone who makes $50k buying a $25k toyota camry. In fact, it's much easier for the $100k person to buy the Boxster, since he'd still have $50k to live off.
I'm trying to write something personal improvement related every Monday and a story every Wednesday. I hope these are interesting to people, because I generally think that most personal improvement articles are relatively useless.
Every couple weeks I scan through lifehacker.com, and inevitably think "Man... this is a lot of useless junk."
Now... I've definitely found some good stuff there, and have had some of my articles featured there, so it's not ALL bad. I just feel like most personal improvement stuff is geared more towards FEELING like something has been accomplished rather than actually taking action.
After my meditation I snuggled-up under my duvet, still in meditative mode, still watching my breath - in and out. As I allowed my mind to wander again, a little bit, I noticed a reflection of the window pane on the ceiling, eerily looking like a face, with two squares for eyes and a big rectangular shape for a mouth. Strange, I thought, and tried to close my eyes to sleep. Thoughts came in and out. I had met a good old friend of mine, actually, exactly a week back. It was really wonderful to catch up with him after 11 long years. We were high school buddies who lost track of each other as soon as we moved away in our own directions. We met again, in London, and caught up with 11 years worth of stuff and also on some memories. He showed me an old class photograph of ours and we tried to name all our classmates (which we did). Oddly, though, we couldn't remember the name of a stodgy character in the middle of the front row, our class teacher!
Anyway, it was nice. That was a week back but I felt something lingering inside me, some thought, some odd feeling. I couldn't understand it. Was it a person? A memory? An incident? Or something we talked about? I couldn't get to grips with it. But as I was trying to drift away into sleep tonight, it came to me! It was indeed a person. A fellow student in our class photograph who is sadly not among us anymore. He passed away before we left school. I don't want to name him. He suffered from some kind of disease (I can't remember what it was exactly but something like a motor neuron disease) and he had to be on a wheel-chair all the time. We had become good friends. In fact I often helped him take his books out of his bag which hung around behind his wheel-chair. I always thought the wheel-chair was pretty cool! How awful a thought!!! It was gadgetry that caught my attention! Coming to think of him now, after all these years, what was really cool was his spirit. That is what this post is about.
This wheel-chaired friend of mine never complained. He was happy. He was content. He was competitive and he did his best. But we lost him way too early. I wondered what he would've been doing now if he was still around. But that class photo brought back something else for me, a feeling. I felt I am ungrateful, often. Here I was looking at the picture of an old friend who had a tough time compared to all his other friends. He couldn't do many of things we did. He couldn't go out play like us. Kick a ball around. Run. Walk. Dance. Jump. He couldn't even bunk lessons without being caught! He couldn't, but we could. We could do so much more but we never looked at it that way; at least I didn't. I'm sure he must have also felt a sense of loss, a sense of incapability, but he always looked fine and cheerful. In fact, most of us, the more capable ones, were the miserable ones. When I saw his picture again, he reminded me that I have so much to be really really happy about. So much to be grateful for. But I take all of it for granted, in search of the next fix.
My friend, I'm sure, struggled a lot. Life wouldn't have been easy for him but he kept at it. He went ahead and did the things he wanted to and could. Nothing else mattered. He just did it! And here I am, and most of us, not reflecting on what we have and not having the courage to just go ahead and be what we can be. We get stuck with what we have, good or bad. Who wants to change? Who really wants to improve? Who is really, really, the life-long learner among us? Most things are hum-drum. Routine stuff. This and that. Here and there. And life goes by. We have so much foundation on which to really build on, but we don't. We remain ungrateful and cowardly. I think making use of every thing we already have is also a way of showing gratitude, don't you think so? We should rightfully build on everything we have. We owe it to all the people and things in our lives. To squander away all those things we should be grateful for, is, ultimately, squandering away a life that could have been. My friend reminded me that tonight, almost as if by saying "dude! What exactly are YOU complaining about? You have so much. Build and grow and be happy for heaven's sake". He is right. I don't think of what I already have, at least not often enough. That is certainly one of the things I need to work on in the coming year. My friend also reminded me that there shouldn't be anything, really, holding me back either. He didn't worry about how he will be perceived in school. He didn't worry about norms and standards - someone else's standards! He had a benchmark of his own and he worked towards that. I too need that kind of courage. I think we all need to go that extra mile, set higher and higher standards for ourselves. Do you know why? BECAUSE WE CAN! That is what my friend has reminded me. He is certainly still around and I'm grateful for that.