The Pursuit

As I gingerly test my footing here outside the rat race – where the highlight of my day is watching my grandson’s face as I let him unlock the car with the remote, and slow coffee and thinking and reading and meditating are on my to-do list, with the longest travel  being across town to the café where my middle daughter is studying – in that environment, I’m noticing something else.

Namely, I’m noticing a lot of other people still caught up in the race.

It’s a race to find…something. A true love, authentic happiness, a place called home, a sound night’s sleep. Through the lovely technologies of twitter and facebook I see friends and loved ones working so hard to find that one thing. The memory of not-so-long-ago doing the same thing sets up a residual twinge of exhaustion.

Damn, that looks tiring.

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Of course, if I were the usual self-help blogger this is where I would make some possibly snide or pretentious or even compassionate comment about how much easier it is off the treadmill than on, about how here as I cultivate the garden of the self and the local I have found some better way.

Nope. Not by a long shot. There’s a few reasons why:

  • It’s only been a few days. Yes, it is feeling good. Yes, I am feeling more peaceful and happy than I have in a long time. But that doesn’t mean I’ve found the way, not even for me. It may just mean that I’ve actively made a space for myself to breathe, and stop for a bit, and that’s going to be better than the constant motion my life has been over the past year.
  • It’s a different, not better, perspective. The speedy hares look at the tortoise and say “Good lord, how the hell can he stand going so slow?” while the tortoise grumbles “Where the hell is he going in such a hurry?” as he lumbers forward another step and munches on another strawberry. Meanwhile, the little snail on his back simply throws back his head and yells “Wheeeeeeee!
  • The Cult of Slow is no less a cult. I’m loving the book “In Praise of Slowness” (thanks, Jenna!) but then again, I’ve also been reading the work of Andrew Potter (The Authenticity Hoax) and I’m aware that every “solution” to happiness – whether it’s Slow Food or Getting Things Done or Trance & Dental Meditation – is just another attempt at the same age old conundrum, that we have the right to the Pursuit of Happiness…but no assurance at all of actually capturing the prey.
So my “slowdown” is as much an experiment as any other, and while it is backed up by some experiments by people like Daniel Pink who has found that happiness only has correlations to socialization with friends and family, it is still an experiment. And everyone else’s experiments are every bit as valid.
And every bit as necessary. Something that Mathieu Ricard, “the happiest man in the world,” said in his TED talk resonated with me. He was talking about the kind of meditation that he and the other monks do up there in the Himalayas, and said that he found it odd that we don’t take such things more seriously. “Mind training matters,” he said. “It’s not just a supplementary vitamin for the soul.
You can see what else he has to say here, but in the meantime, to all those who, like me, are pursuing happiness, whether at top speed or a snail’s (“Wheeeee!“) pace: good luck, and let me know what you find when you find it.

2 thoughts on “The Pursuit”

  1. Been thinking a lot about meditation recently, and would love to hear/read your thoughts on it, particularly on the conflict(?) between the goal of acceptance and using meditation as a productivity tool (ie – if you’re using meditation as a means to focus and acceptance, then how do you move forward?)

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