Is This All There Is?

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The mindful attitude is about living in the present, about realizing that all the conditions for happiness and fulfillment are available to us right here, right now.

This perspective obviously contrasts sharply with the common Western way of thinking. We tend to focus most of our attention on the future, on pursuing and attaining distant goals. We ignore, if not outright disparage, the present. Life just isn’t good enough for us yet. It’s the big, bright future that deserves our loyalty. If we can just make things happen for ourselves, if we can get our ducks in a row, happiness and fulfillment will be ours.

One psychological benefit of this future focus is that some of the less than desirable aspects of the present situation seem more tolerable because they’re instilled with hope, with the idea that one day soon everything will change for the better. In a way, the thoughts and emotions we believe we’ll experience when this wanted future comes to pass actually are experienced in the present in the form of hope.

None of us have access to how we’ll feel down the line, we only have access to how we feel right now. And the unfortunate reality for many of us is that when all the sought after conditions of life have finally come to pass, the result is not the expected happiness and fulfillment but rather an empty feeling accompanied by the discomfiting thought “Is this all there is?”

At some point the future catches up with us. It becomes our present. When we train ourselves over the months and years to discount the present as not good enough we shouldn’t be at all surprised to end up feeling the same way down the line, regardless of the environmental variables we were able to manipulate along the way.

The mindful solution is to accept that things can probably never be perfect, they’ll never be exactly how we want them to be. There will always be some less than desirable aspects of the situation but we shouldn’t let this fact keep us from experiencing all of the joys and miracles of life in the here and now. Instead of ignoring or discounting the present we train ourselves to embrace it and find to our surprise that it’s already good enough.