Is it possible to be full and hungry at the same time?
Is it possible to simultaneously strive for a goal and be content with where you currently are in life?
We say yes.
We propose that it is both possible and necessary to strive for continuous improvement in our daily lives, but at the same time be content and satisfied with our best efforts.
And even more, striving for worthwhile goals and being content with the results that happen each day are the keys to personal happiness!
If somebody has all the money in the world and doesn’t have to work, this doesn’t make him any more happy, content, and satisfied with life. You only need to look at our business billionaires and movie stars to discover the truth that money does not buy happiness.
Striving for excellence and improvement is a lifelong process. It’s good for a person to have purpose and goals and to feel the satisfaction of a job well done. Having a powerful reason to get up in the morning is a blessing, not a curse. At the same time, very busy and very productive people are not necessarily happy and at peace.
One of the primary objectives of our lives is to balance the Happiness Equation, with ambition on one side and contentment on the other. While goals and good personal habits can fulfill the ambition side, the practice of mindfulness is necessary for feeling content and at peace with our lives.
Mindfulness is defined as “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.”
Much of the wisdom from the eastern hemisphere is centered around the idea of mindfulness and meditation. These teachings are available to all of us in the form of books and other materials. According Jason Gutierrez from the blog The Monk Life, here are the top 10 best mindfulness books:
Our favorite mindfulness book is number 8 on the list, called The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. The Power of Now is not a quick read, but is well worth investing your time. This is the type of book you may need to read over and over again. The concepts are transformative for a Western-trained mind that focuses on productivity and over-planned days.
Here are the top 20 lessons to learn from The Power of Now and becoming more mindful:
1. Say yes to life, accept challenges, and watch how life starts working for you.
2. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if we had chosen it. Make the present our friend, not our enemy. This will transform our lives.
3. Enlightenment is what we should seek for in life. Enlightenment is a state of wholeness, of being “at one, and therefore at peace.” Enlightenment comes when we free ourselves from the dictates of our mind. Enlightenment is not only the end of suffering and continuous conflict within (and without), it is the end of enslavement to incorrect thinking.
4. Being free (being separate from the dictates of our mind) is an important skill. Freedom and peace come with the realization that our thoughts are a separate process within us; we as individuals are not the thought generators. Our mind is a resource to us, and we can observe our thoughts. When we do this, a higher level of consciousness becomes activated, and we make better choices.
For example, if someone offends us, notice how the mind takes over and provides all sorts of negative support, such as, “I’ve never liked that person. They have the nerve to treat me like this,” and the negative ideas continue to flow. So we need to be alert that not everything our mind feeds us is for our well-being. We need to be separate from our thoughts, stand back, and observe them, rather than just accept them. We must be aware of them, and decide if they are helpful, peaceful, or if we need to let them go in order for peace and happiness to grow within us.
5. As we watch our thoughts, we can create a gap in our mind by simply redirecting our focus to the now, the present moment and what we are feeling.
6. The single most important step toward enlightenment (wholeness) is learning to not identify with our mind. Every time we create a gap (a pause in our thinking to reflect) in the stream of ideas coming from our mind, the light of our individual consciousness becomes stronger. When we disengage from our mind and focus on ourselves, how we are breathing and how our body is feeling, we are disengaging from our mind directing us.
*Important point: Once we achieve this state, we no longer take for granted that the content of our mind is always providing good direction, and thus our sense of self-worth does not depend upon what our mind tells us.
7. Love, joy, and peace cannot flourish until we are freed from mind dominance.
8. When we can look upon our mind as an observer, we can get a glimpse of true joy, true love, and a deep inner peace.
9. Cravings (like for things wrapped in chocolate) are the mind seeking fulfillment from external things, and thus they become a substitute for the joy of feeling whole.
10. Resentment, hatred, self-pity, guilt, anger, depression, jealousy, etc., even the slightest irritation are creations of the mind. In other words, the unobserved mind can run our lives.
11. We must focus our attention on the feelings inside us. Stay present and continue to be an observer of what is happening to you. The power of NOW is the power of our own conscious presence of what is occurring.
12. Once we have understood the basic principle of being present in the NOW as a watcher of what happens inside us—and understand it by experiencing it—we have at our disposal the most potent transformational tool: we can let ideas go and not own them.
13. Anyone who is only identified with their mind is therefore disconnected from their true power and deeper self-rooted person.
14. We all have an ego mind, which is the deep-seated sense of lack, or incompleteness, of not being whole. The ego mind manifests itself as the unsettling and constant feeling of not being worthy enough or good enough. The ego mind identifies with external things—praise, money, or position to make us feel better, instead of using our intended self-awareness or “enlightenment.
Let us share a personal experience with you illustrating this principle. I (Dale) recently resigned from a position in my church after 28 years. My mind was telling me on that last day, the Presidency will announce my release, and express their thanks or might even ask for a standing ovation (just kidding, but my expectations were high). Not a word was said, and my mind started to protect my ego. I immediately stopped the negative flow of thoughts by saying in my mind, “I know I did a good, dedicated job, and God knows I did.” Because I caught myself and separated myself from my ego mind, I have felt at peace, and even whole ever since then.
15. Stop living in the past (whether positive or negative) or looking for happiness in the future. NOW is the most precious time. NOW is a thing that will take us beyond the confines of our mind.
16. Assessment is one of the keys to living in the NOW. Are we always trying to get somewhere other than where we are? Is fulfillment just around the corner or confined to short term pleasures such as food, drink, drugs, or some form of excitement? Do we believe that if we acquire more things we will become more fulfilled, good enough, or psychologically complete? Or are we waiting for someone to make us happy and complete?
17. Forget about your life situation for a while and pay attention to your life and who you are.
18. Having a problem means we are dwelling on a situation mentally without the intent or possibility of taking action now, and thus we unconsciously make it part of our sense of self. This can lead to discouragement or depression.
19. If there is not joy, ease, and lightness in what we are doing, we are covering up the present moment, and making life a burden and a struggle.
20. Pay attention to the actions you are taking. Paying attention should bring peace and happiness.
The best indicator of our level of consciousness of who we are is how we deal with life’s challenges when they come.
Go ahead and dream! Go ahead and set lofty goals for the future! But don’t be a slave to them. Accept what is. Rejoice in what you accomplish. Stay focused on the now. Don’t let the past or the future destroy your present.
The key is to train the mind to stretch and to be satisfied. Strive but be content. Being full and hungry is the key to lasting happiness!
Please share with us your feelings about this blog. How do you strive and be content at the same time?
– Dale and Rick Heyland