Our Greatest Source of Unhappiness

Hope, memory, and how our chronic compulsion to flee from our own lives robs us of living.

It is too often the case that we spend our lives fleeing from the present moment.  Instead of being ever-present, we find ourselves occupied with overplanning the future or ‘recoiling with anxiety over its impermanence‘. This preoccupation robs us of the vibrancy of life.

This is something that I ofttimes find myself struggling with, and have blogged about in the past.

What I find helpful, is to step outside my own thoughts, and step inside of those of someone else.

Lately that has been the works of Alan Watts – more specifically his book, The Wisdom of Insecurity.  I have found it quite therapeutic and will try to summarize what I have gathered from it.

The art of living well consists of being sensitive to each moment, in regarding it as utterly new and unique, in having the mind open and being wholly receptive to it.

There is no where else to be.  You are here — so be here.
Smartphones, and this new culture of over-availability, have exasperated this issue.

When I am out for lunch and look around, it is not rare to see a couple sitting together while one (or both) are clicking around on their smartphones.   That person on the phone is effectively saying to the other that ‘you are not as important as anything that could come to me through this device’.   Put the phone away, put your problems aside, and just enjoy the company you have for those precious 30minutes.

Smartphones keep you so well connected to the world, but also to all your problems and anxieties.

You will be a great deal less anxious if you feel perfectly free to be anxious.  The same may be said of guilt and any other human emotion, for that matter.   So turn those phones off and feel the liberation that comes with it.

The meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet, everybody rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves.

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37 thoughts on “Our Greatest Source of Unhappiness

  1. Which is why I don’t have a smart phone 🙂 Not that I don’t love technology, social media and being connected – but not while I’m out. This is a lovely quote: “The art of living well consists of being sensitive to each moment, in regarding it as utterly new and unique, in having the mind open and being wholly receptive to it.” I haven’t read a book of his, although I have read bits and pieces around the place and think he is very wise. I might have to add it to my list!

  2. I have always found it humorous and sad when I see people eating out and they are all on their phones. Are they texting each other?!

  3. Having been launched into this world prior to the overwhelming technical era (1949), I and others of my generation have a vantage reference that today’s youth does not. We played in the dirt and clay and trees and creeks of our neighborhoods. We stayed out until our mothers called for us, and then reluctantly returned home. We rode our bikes everywhere, sometimes attaching playing cards to the spokes to sound like Harley Davidson motorcycles. Our TVs were black and white screens, with broadcasts ending at midnight, and not ramping back up until 6 am. There were three stations, plus later, the public broadcasting station. We thrived on Gene Autry and Howdy Doody and Ed Sullivan (Elvis and the Beatles) and kid shows like Li’l Rascals and Underdog, Roadrunner and Mighty Mouse. Saturday mornings were spent in the movies. Dinner was at 6 promptly, and was home cooked. Boy Scouts were still okay. Who knew what soccer was?

    And, yet, I do find myself saying from time to time, what did we ever do before _______________ (fill in the blank).

    Thanks for liking my post, RIP, Robin.

  4. Thanks for the link. This passage opened my eyes: “While you are watching this present experience, are you aware of someone watching it? Can you find, in addition to the experience itself, an experiencer? Can you, at the same time, read this sentence and think about yourself reading it? You will find that, to think about yourself reading it, you must for a brief second stop reading. The first experience is reading. The second experience is the thought, “I am reading.” Can you find any thinker, who is thinking the thought, I am reading?” In other words, when present experience is the thought, “I am reading,” can you think about yourself thinking this thought?”.

    Insecurities often plague our consciousness to the point where nothing exists but the tumultuous past and uncertain present.

  5. So true, happiness that this world offers are temporary, unpredictable and impossible (as we humans usually don’t find satisfaction. God offers not just happiness but joy, pure joy 🙂

  6. Love, love, love! “The meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet, everybody rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves.”

  7. Brilliant. Have you ever seen the movie, “The Peaceful Warrior”? I absolutely fell in love with it. It’s all about looking at what is truly important, like noticing and appreciating the ordinary moments. One of my favorite quotes from it is, “There are no ordinary moments.” I’ve blogged often on this topic.

  8. I couldn’t agree more on this topic, I wish there was a way to change our generation and not have it so fixated on the digital device in out pocket all the time.

  9. I couldn’t agree with you more, although from my perspective smartphones aren’t the culprit, but rather a new kind of security blanket for people who haven’t really sharpened the skill of embracing discomfort. Being fully present and willing to observe your experience without judgment takes practice, and until you’ve made mindfulness a regular habit, it’s hard to know what you’re missing or that you should be doing anything differently, even.

    I never really realized until I started observing myself how awkward and uncomfortable it can be to be out and about in the world. Even for people who don’t struggle with anxiety (as I do), the “risk” associated with plunging into a new experience that’s outside of your comfort zone can be daunting enough to push them to cling to any means of protection they can get their hands on – whether it’s a smartphone or a newspaper!

    That book sounds incredibly interesting – I’ll be sure to check it out!

  10. I wish we can go back to the days where we actually write letters with our own hands. But we are here now in this era, and it might be worth it looking back. I just miss those days. 😦

    Thanks for this post, i think i know what is next on my give-up list.

  11. I say the same thing about the art of living but it’s very hard to be consistent to it. And the thing you said about smartphones and that they keep you connected to the world is true but they keep you disconected to yourself and the things around you.
    P.S. I really like your blog:)

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  14. Thanks for the visit. Loved the quote in this post. Made me think about how I spend my day. I do have a smartphone but I rarely use it for anything other than calls. When I look at kids today I’m saddened that they don’t understand the value of a face to face conversation. Keep writing 🙂

  15. Hey, thanks for checking out my blog. Yours is great! Makes me think a lot more about things. This post especially; how complex things are really very simple when we look at them clearly. Keep it up. 🙂

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