November 12, 2017
The other day I was walking through the infant section of Target when I noticed that most of the clothing had some sort of affirmation on it, “Be thankful.” “Be Kind.” “Smart like mom.” “Be brave.” “Brave and Strong (like mom).” “History Maker.” I thought to myself, what has the world come to? (In not so many words.)
Is the desire to be "happy" making us miserable?
In short, yes! Our drive to feel or appear a certain way has become the focus of our lives and has disconnected us from what actually does make us happy: connection, sense of self, commitment to our morals and values and a bigger vision for our lives.
The culture of keeping up with Joneses is in overdrive. The executive producers got it right when they titled their reality hit “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.” It completely captures the zeitgeist of our times.
Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Reality TV and Instagram create a heightened state of “keeping up” due to their immediate access plus the dopamine hits we get from checking our phones for texts or likes and all of it is here to stay.
The desire for more, bigger and better is neverending and that doesn’t just mean material things, we are looking for the long-lasting emotional high as well. Unfortunately often times these two get confused. Last night my son asked for a new hoodie. He owns about 10 so I asked what’s so special about this one? “It’s Logan Paul and it just dropped.”
In case you don’t know – because I certainly did not – Logan Paul is a YouTuber with 13.3 million subscribers at the time of writing this article.
When I asked my son why he likes this guy, he told me it was because he was funny and relatable. We watched one of his videos and what I saw was basically a quick-cut, 15-minute video of a guy living in a mansion worth millions with a car worth $200,000 running around with his dog and personal assistants and making fun of them. The cuts were so quick I could barely keep up. He didn’t stop moving or talking. He was manic. I started to feel anxious.
“I hope you don’t want to grow up to be like this guy,” I said, pausing the video.
“Why not? Breaking the system. Having fun with my life. Being a maverick.”
He had a point, the days of working for the same company for 50 years for that gold watch are gone. Things are moving fast, the human race is evolving at a rapid pace, people want to live outside the norm, cubicles are becoming a thing of the past, the enslavement through corporate breed fear is not anything the next generation is interested in being a part of. We are becoming a world of self-made celebrities, entrepreneurs and mavericks. Being safe equals boring.
I must confess sometimes I watch movies from the '80s just to sink in to the reality of a slower, easier time. It’s like visiting with an old friend.
The pressure to be a “history maker” as stated on the baby's onesie now begins as an infant. What used to feel like a pipe dream might just be 10 YouTube videos away, if you’re lucky.
Welcome to the new frontier.
But for those of us that have been on earth a few decades, we know that if the hustle isn’t grounded in a strong foundation of Self, there is going to be a crash – a brutal, painful, excruciating crash. If we haven’t lived it, we’ve witnessed it because the journey always leads back to the Self.
So how do we find happiness in the chaos of this new frontier?
The same way that has always been available to us – in Truth. And because Truth can be found in all religions and non religions, to keep things simple I’m going to use the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism to help us out:
Suffering exists: that’s right, suffering exists; no matter how hard you try to run from it, it’s there. I suggest leaning into the suffering by surrendering. Having a miserable day? Great! Be sad, and get curious about why you are sad instead of shopping, eating, drinking, popping extra prescriptions, etc. get curious about what’s making you sad and perhaps make a change or a communication.
Suffering arises from attachment to desires: The dress, car, house, fame, fortune you want creates further suffering because these attachments are transient. Once you have the car, you will want another car, house, dress, etc. It’s a never-ending cycle of suffering because to acquire more and more means a cycle of desire and control.
Suffering ceases when attachment to desire ceases: This one is a little harder to swallow, its probably why most people give up on any spiritual path and decide the momentary high from driving a new car is the way to go but if you can even get a glimmer of life without attachment, it truly is bliss. How do we get there? Through seeking self-improvement.
Freedom from suffering is possible by practicing the Eightfold Path: According to the Buddhist religion, the Eightfold Path is the way to gain freedom from suffering but there are many other practices you can adhere to, including the 10 commandments in Christianity, Islamism, Judaism, or Hinduism. There’s also the Eight Limbs of Yoga. Finding a spiritual teacher that doesn’t follow any of the above is another way to go but all of this only works if it becomes a practice in your daily life, not something you just read about but are committed to even when it feels ‘painful.’
Bringing consciousness, mindfulness and self-awareness into our daily life is happiness, not the race for material possessions or stature gained through objects, sex appeal or likes. Objects rust, one day you will be old, and likes are fleeting.
Metaphorically, keeping your eyes half-shut like the Buddha, allowing your gaze to remain soft and inward, keeps you from a hard-focused, predatory, desperate life.
I’d love to see a baby onesie that says, “Am I your purpose or just a means for more likes?” Now that would make me laugh and might just bring a little mindfulness into one’s day.
Stacey J. Warner is a certified life coach, equus coach and yoga teacher. She received her bachelor of arts in drama from the University of Washington and currently resides in Los Angeles. She is the founder of The Intensives for Radical Healing, Consciousness, and Grace. Her one passion in life is to lessen the suffering of others through deep inner work and laughter. To learn more, visit: www.staceyjwarner.com.