Enlightened Living

Meaning and mindfulness in everyday life

The Trap of Our Dissatisfaction and How to Fix It

Why life sucks

When we are infants, we're pretty much all set. We eat, we sleep, we poop - we're good. The trouble starts when we begin to get a sense of ourselves, and we fall into the trap of what the wisdom teachings might refer to as our narcissistic delusion, which is something that we are more likely to call "It's all about me". Just as soon as we cross the boundary from survival needs to social needs, we are inevitably doomed to foster a sense of our own perpetual dissatisfaction; a conflict that is at the core of the human condition.

Basically, this is a conversation about stuff. Not just material stuff, but all sorts of stuff - intellectual, emotional, social, etc. - all of our human stuff. When we collect some stuff, we, quite naturally, want more stuff. It is this desire for more that traps us in our own dissatisfaction, because we are always grasping for that more-ness. Quite a conundrum isn't it, as the American Way is, after all, all about bigger, better, stronger, faster, yes?

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The problem isn't really the stuff. It's the desire for the stuff, and the anxiety that desire provokes when unmet, creating the dissatisfaction. But how do you get rid of your desire? Even the Dalai Lama agrees that we can't divest ourselves of our desires because, in that, we desire to be desireless. So, it's not about the getting rid of desire, but applying that desire mindfully and with skillful means.

In the best of all possible worlds, we would operate with the maxim, "This much is enough." Well, we don't; instead, we fairly consistently pursue that elusive more-ness. What if, however, we chose to work with what we had without clinging to it, or found a way to enhance what we had without feeling the need to move on from it or leave it behind, recognizing that we are making it more complete? This perspective would demand a bit of introspection, some honesty with ourselves, and a reasonably good understanding of our own needs. It would also free us from the chains of our self-imposed bondage.

If we consider our desire - the root of our dissatisfaction - as a sense of incompleteness, then we are compelled to look at what motivates that sense of incompleteness. Where are you dissatisfied in your life? What needs to happen in order for that sense of incompleteness to be transformed into a sense of completeness? In other words, how can you apply your desire for more in a meaningful way, rather than allow it to foster your own negativity and perpetuate your sense of dissatisfaction?

This is the take-away; if we can ask ourselves that question honestly, and answer it just as honestly, then we have a starting point for change.

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© 2010 Michael J. Formica, All Rights Reserved

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Michael J. Formica, M.S., M.A., Ed.M., is a psychotherapist, teacher and writer. He is an Initiate in the Shankya Yoga lineage of H.H. Sri Swami Rama and the Himalayan Masters.

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