Always in search of the new

We can spend a lot of time, and money, chasing after “new”. New cars, houses, clothes, and, of course, experiences. A car with a DVD player to silence those back seat “are-we-there-yets“; a kitchen makeover filled with the latest stainless steel gadgetry; a month long holiday off-the-beaten track.

Whatever the object of our desire, we’re pretty much guaranteed to find a company out there spruiking the goods. But once we’ve parted with our money and sat back to admire, or remember, where all that hard-earned cash went, is that the end of the story? We may have bought it, eaten it, and achieved it, but are we happy? Or do we just keep working our way down a very long “to do” list?

I spent the better part of a decade traveling, amassing a huge array of stamps in my passport. Yet for every country I ticked off on my original file of faraway locations, I accumulated ten more must-sees from the people I met on the road. Then there were the new friends who demanded I go back and visit them.

The list kept on growing.

Had I discovered Alain de Botton’s book The Art of Travel earlier I’d have been made aware of an insight that it took me many airline tickets to discover: “the pleasure we derive from journeys is perhaps dependent more on the mindset with which we travel than on the destination”. De Botton, in his gentle, unflappably English manner, encourages us to see the wonder in our present location. To become content with our everyday environment by learning to truly notice that which we usually just see.

There is no off-switch to the brain’s “more” button, so happiness will never be achieved by trying to quench that thirst. Rather, the secret lies in finding satisfaction and joy in simply being. Adopting a different attitude. Learning to discover the beauty in everyday occurrences.

The Yoga Sutras tells us that the answer to perfect happiness can be found by cultivating contentment, or santosha.

A challenging task indeed, to find this rare gem in the midst of the mental want list. As a starting point, Patanjali advises us to contemplate the root cause of discontentment in our life. If we understand the source of the feeling that something is lacking, then we can begin to experiment with ways to bring in contentment in its place.

If we know that “more” is not paying us many happiness dividends, perhaps less could be the answer.

Image by madmack66

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