Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Excess, Mindfulness, and the Path to Joy
As I flip through the pages of GQ, Esquire, and other men’s mags at 30,000 feet, I can’t help but wonder: really, does any of this stuff make anyone more happy, or does it simply serve as a distraction from our own selves?
I recently read a book called "The Art of Power" by Thich Nhat Hanh. And no, this Buddhist monk isn’t prescribing how to get the corner office, but a different type of power - the power of simple mindfulness and the freedom one experiences when released of their cravings. The book helped me understand that many of the things I "crave" aren’t natural, but the product of my upbringing in the United States, in Texas, in a life that’s continually distracted by what outside forces tell me what I should want, how I should spend my time and with whom I spend it.
Now don't get me wrong, I love living on a beautiful sailboat. I love taking trips to far off places, learning new things, and a nice cashmere scarf, but the truth is, I don't really love these things as much as I think I do. What I love the most are those quiet moments of reflection on my boat, the smiles exchanged with children on Shoe Drops, and the feeling of warmth that the scarf gives me. These are the experiences I crave, that help me to be more mindful of the world around me… and that mindfulness is what I think we’re all ultimately seeking, whether we ever stop distracting ourselves for long enough to realize it.
This Thanksgiving, try to really stop. Sit still. Hold a loved one's hand, and simply be thankful. No matter what your situation, positive or negative, sad or joyful, take the opportunity to truly experience this moment. The stillness. The mystery of this life. For this, and no other reason, I'm thankful.
(PS - Thank you Gillian Zinser for taking the wonderful photograph above)