Our culture seems to teach us that there’s no such thing as enough.
I can enjoy my iPhone, but I’m really very distracted by the fact that I want the newest iPhone. There’s always more for us to try to accumulate, when, in the end, possessions don’t really make us happy.
If we learned to appreciate what we have instead, we would be a lot happier.
We have certain needs that must be filled, of course. That’s not what I’m talking about. I am talking about desires that go above and beyond our needs. The only way not having the things we want can make us unhappy is if we decide it can make us unhappy.
Gratitude can help us deal with the poisons of greed, jealousy, resentment, and grief. When we are grateful we do not wish for more than we have, but appreciate that which is already present in our lives. We do not look upon the good fortune of others and feel jealous.
Gratitude is something that can occur in us us spontaneously, but it also can be cultivated. The more we practice it, the less room there is for mental poisons to take root.
The desire to always want more is a big part of Buddhist philosophy. The second noble truth states that suffering is a result of attachment.
In this sense, to cravings that can never truly be fulfilled.
But, if we cultivate gratitude and practice the noble eightfold path, then we can work toward overcoming this problem.
How do we cultivate joy?
How do we transform our lives to brings us closer to equanimity and contentment?
Sometimes it’s hard to be joyful. We can’t be happy all the time. Life is full of suffering. But, real joy comes from a sense of contentment, from accepting our lives as they are in each moment.
When bad things happen, we sometimes stick to them like glue. One bad thing can happen during our day and we can hold onto it all day, even for several days. It can continue to affect us for a long time after the situation is over.
How do we commit to a joy practice? We should set a daily intention and remind ourselves to be open to it.
We can start with a daily affirmation: “May I be filled with joy today”.
And then we can extend it to: “May all beings be filled with joy today.”
We talk a lot about compassion in Buddhist practice, but we may sometimes forget that in a Buddhist context compassion applies to how we view ourselves and our suffering too.
It’s not about creating feelings that aren’t there. It’s about appreciating the little things in our lives that are good and becoming content. It’s about accepting things as they are instead of attaching too strongly to our wish for them to be different. It is so easy in life to focus on the negative.
Sympathetic joy also helps. It’s a feeling of joy we can experience when something good happens to another person. We have to set our intentions to do this as well. We can tend to be full of jealousy sometimes and this doesn’t serve us. If we can be joyful about good things happening to others, that increases our joy a great deal.
We can also cultivate gratitude. Spend some time thinking about what you’re grateful for each day. So much of our sadness is simply from not appreciating what we have already.