What would you do if you only have this day to live?
When asking yourselves this question, what comes to your mind? Most likely, we will think of what is the most important thing for us. We are suddenly able to separate what is trivial and what to prioritize.
Before, I would think to indulge myself in consumption. My priority would be to savor everything. To eat the most delicious food, have the best partner, or go on a thrilling adventure. It all about wants and wants. To fulfill our lives. But, what is a fulfilling life, anyway?
We chase fulfillment after fulfillment. However, even if we have fulfilled some of our wants or desires, we will not necessarily feel satisfied.
After getting a promotion, we wish to get more money. When coming home after a vacation, we hope the holiday is not coming to an end. Seems like our wish for fulfillment never ends. But is there something wrong with chasing fulfillment? Or are the wishes itself is the issue?
“First of all, by the time you’ve arrived at your destination, you’re expecting to reach it. So it has already been incorporated into your happiness.
Also, arrival often brings more work and responsibility. It’s rare to achieve something (other than winning an award) that brings unadulterated pleasure without added concerns. Having a baby. Getting a promotion. Buying a house. You look forward to reaching these destinations. But once you’ve reached them, they bring emotions other than sheer happiness.
And of course, arriving at one goal usually reveals another, yet more challenging goal.”
(Gretchen Rubin – The Happiness Project)
Practicing meditation gives me some space to consider fulfillment and happiness. The passage from Gretchen Rubin’s book above explained this perfectly. I realize that it’s no use to chase happiness because a fulfilling life is not about the pursuit. Even more, it’s not about chasing something. The moment we get our desires, we will not necessarily feel happy. What’s left to do? Wait, let me write it: chasing new desires.
The world has limits, the time has limits, so we can’t just increase our desires to an endless pursuit. When we attain something, it means that someone has lost it. When we build a new house, means an ecosystem is lost. The plants and animals lose their home. David Attenborough said this perfectly:
“We have a finite environment—the planet. Anyone who thinks that you can have infinite growth in a finite environment is either a madman or an economist.”
Thankfully, I am not an economist. But, I do work in finance. And this makes me realize that pursuit and endless pursuit (no pun intended) will cost us much money! Ah, somehow, this got clearer.
So, this cycle needs to stop. To feel truly happy is to stop chasing after something. To stop searching for new desires and appreciate on what we have. Because, without we realize it, we already have more to be happy.
“We believe that happiness is possible only in the future. That is why the practice “I have arrived” is very important. The realization that we have already arrived, that we don’t have to travel any further, that we are already here, can give us peace and joy.
The conditions for our happiness are already sufficient. We only need to allow ourselves to be in the present moment, and we will be able to touch them.”
Thich Nhat Hanh – Your True Home
To live a fulfilling life is to be content with what we already have. Mindfulness teaches us to be aware, and that includes being aware of ourselves. When we look deep inside ourselves, we will realize that we already have a fulfilled life. We don’t need to search for something new.
However, it doesn’t mean that we only need to just sit and do nothing. If we are in an unfortunate condition, let’s say, unemployment, we might need to improve our condition. But we can also be aware that it is just one thing among the other good things that might be neglected.
By being mindful, we will be aware to appreciate our life. To appreciate that we have a shelter to protect us, a body that can move freely, and a chance that we have one more day to live. Aware of this, we don’t need to feel discontent about our life anymore, even if we face a stroke of bad luck. We already have everything to live. We can use the thing that we already have to improve our conditions.
So, if I want to ask myself, what will I do if I only have one day to live? In a way, meditation has changed my priority, and I can’t be more grateful for that. Before, what the most important for me is to chasing desires after desires. But now, everything changes. On my last day, I want to live with contentment. To be aware of our own miracles.
I might do the things as other people do in their typical day. Like, doing chores, catching up with friends, or maybe working. Or maybe die of old age, in my deathbed. Or whatever. It might be ordinary and it’s okay. No need to complicate our life anyway. But this time, I want to do it with contentment. So that I will feel fulfilled. By feeling fulfilled, we will be happy. And isn’t that what everyone wants, to live a happy life? With this awareness, I am ready if I won’t make it for tomorrow. Death doesn’t sound so dreadful again.
(No, thankfully, I’m not dying. I am perfectly healthy now. If you see my other post after this, it means that I still live.)