I have to be honest.
It makes me panic a little when I think life really is all about the journey and not the destination. Because that would mean, if I believed all that Buddhist-mindfulness-meditation-acceptance-is-the-answer logic, I should be able to make myself happy RIGHT NOW. I should find joy in every moment. I should embrace the suck. Pain is a portal.
Ugh. The pressure.
And, that, my friends is the problem.
All those damn shoulds.
All the supposed-to’s.
All the have-to-or-else beliefs.
All those expectations and pressures about how I ought to be living my life (but clearly am not) are the problem because they assume there is a problem — and that is what causes the suffering.
And then, because I have all this knowledge gleaned from meditation apps, YouTube lectures, spiritual and philosophical podcasts, not to mention all the self-reflection that comes from writing in my journal, I tell myself that something must be wrong with me because I’m suffering.
I don’t know about you, but I can take any well-intended spiritual or philosophical principle, and use it like a battering ram to prove to myself how unworthy I am. Allow me to give you an example:
I should meditate more because then I wouldn’t feel so ornery and would be a nicer, kinder, more compassionate human. I really should try to be a better human. Wow, I really suck because I didn’t meditate today.
It is all those expectations, of any kind, that ruin any journey I’m on; so, by applying that logic, if life is a journey, then it is having the expectations about it that creates the suffering.
Hmmm … I’m still mulling that one over, partly because I’m not sure how to stop having expectations… although the gurus would probably tell me to be present in the moment.
Those mindfulness geniuses could be right, but I just don’t know how to let go of my expectations. Or how to stop beating myself up for not being able to let go of my expectations.
What really twists my brain up is when I look at my current life, and I’m like, really? I should be appreciating this journey? Finding joy right now? Looking at my bank account and appreciating it?
I get it.
Show gratitude for what I do have. “Yep, at least there’s some money in there. It could be worse.”
But living my life according to a mantra of “It could be worse,” just sounds so … lame. True, it could be worse. But how does that help anyone?
So here’s where I’m netting out on this little philosophical debate with which I’m amusing myself.
Like it or not, I am on a spiritual journey. And what I’m learning is that anytime I use “shoulds” to govern my behavior in any way, I create suffering for myself. I create a never-ending list of expectations that prevents me from, shit, appreciating the moment. Back to that again.
When I look at life as a problem to be solved, then it becomes a problem to be solved, and I enter a continuous loop of I’ll be happy when _____ or I’d be happy if only ______ or when X happens, then Y.
More to the point, the way I think about these things is the cause of the suffering. I think there’s an answer. If I just do enough of the right things and less of the wrong things, there will be no more suffering. And it is that belief that causes the suffering: that by fixing and doing, I will be fixed, and someday, I will have arrived and there will be no more fixing necessary.
That belief sets me up to be miserable. I just don’t know how to release it.
Maybe admitting that I don’t have all this figured out is the first step toward taking a journey without expectations; that is, a journey toward freedom.