Do we really need more than we already have to be happy? More love, more money, more knowledge, more unique experiences, more good memories, more esteem, more clothes, more food, more things, more of what we don’t have, more of everything? Is the pursuit of happiness nothing but a never-ending effort to accumulate more?
I’m not sure about you, but I always want more than I have, whether it’s love, attention, knowledge, or blog followers. My nature is not an immoderate one; I don’t seek to wallow in excess. Yet somehow, I never seem to have enough; something in me craves for more, tempting me with the promise that just a little bit more will be enough to make me happy. Of course, nothing is ever enough.
If I somehow manage to catch the attention of a girl, I’m not satisfied with her friendship and I invariably think of how to get more (and in the end I end up with nothing at all). If I spend three hours a day writing, I am not content but regret I have not spent four or five. If I go out Saturday and wander through the city center, taking photos of people, I don’t truly appreciate the five or six good shots I get but want more. If I enter a bookstore and decide to buy a book, I feel this urge to buy another, and another, and another, so that before long I have more books in my basket than I can afford.
“Going on as we do, obsessively trying to improve our conditions, can become an end in itself and a pointless distraction.” – Sogyal Rinpoche in the Tibeban Book of Living and Dying
Like you, I have heard time and time again the saying ‘less is more’, and I agree with it. It can be applied to everything in our lives. It can help us curb our ‘vaulting ambition’, as Shakeskeare would put it, and teach us to cherish the here, the now. Oh, I know the theory well enough, but it’s the practice that grieves me.
But I am resolved to change, to learn to appreciate what I already have, starting with myself and with those qualities that, like shiny gold coins spilled from a torn purse on a muddy road, I know that I, like everyone, possess, together with a muddiness of faults, and to appreciate the value of the people around me, such as they are, and of my belongings, and of the shelter above my head, and of the warmth and all the comforts of my home, and to live more in the present, to be fully emerged in the here, in the now.
“Our task is to strike a balance, to find a middle way, to learn not to overstretch ourselves with extraneous activities and preoccupations, but to simplify our lives more and more.” – Sogyal Rinpoche
I begin this quiet revolution by cutting my screen time, by meditating on my feet during my walks and in my moments of repose, by abandoning before the checkout the clothes I want to buy at my favorite online shop, by walking into a bookstore and picking up books that catch my eye and savoring a few lines from each of them and admiring their covers but then leaving without buying any one of them, knowing that plenty of unread books already await me at home in my old library, by trying to do more by doing less, by not filling all my time with thoughts, worries, hopes, and activities, but trying to spend more time alone with myself.
I am resolved: from now on I will try to enjoy life and search for happiness by yearning not for more, but for less.
Are you happy with what you already have? Or do you want more?