I recall the moment very clearly. I was coming out of the supermarket seeking my car – never can understand why finding a space is always so much easier than finding your car – when I came across two of my cars together. Same colour, make and model standing side by side. The only difference was that one seemed to have a broken headlight. In that one insane moment the message that flashed across my mind was “let it be the other guy’s car.” I was consciously wishing that someone unknown to me, should have the car with the broken headlight.
I was attached. Attached to MY car; attached to the stress of inconvenience; attached to the thought of an expensive repair. At that very moment my state of happiness depended on inanimate matter, time and money. The thing that had given me so much joy was now giving me a lot of pain. As I got closer and could read the number plate, I realised that my car was fine. What a relief but what a lesson. For a few moments, the mere THOUGHT of something negative led to deep un-happiness within me, which, as it turned out, was groundless.
Isn’t this how we all behave in real life, though all circumstances? We seek things that make us happy – a car, a partner, a child, a job – and then we work very hard to maintain them and finally cry at its loss or even apparent loss. Pain of acquisition, pain of maintenance and pain of loss. Ironically, everything we seek to be happy is GUARANTEED to give us un-happiness.
Furthermore, whatever we achieve seems to be limited. The car could be higher spec, the job could be better paid, wife could be … lets not go there! Finally, that which we acquire eventually enslaves us. How? The moment that car, you so painfully bought (hours of overtime) and so expensively maintained, breaks down, it assumes the role of master and subjugates you to the role of slave – I am still taking about the car, honest! You are its master when you drive it but now you are at its mercy. You may even plead with it to start!
We are all seekers of eternal happiness but begrudgingly put up with temporary happiness as we jump from one object of desire to the next. Only when we tire of seeking the temporary, will we seek the permanent happiness that is inherent in all of us.
That moment in the car park was a turning point for me. A moment when I realised that it was just a car, just a broken headlight that can be fixed with some money that I can find … somewhere. When we look at life this way, we shift the negative energy of loss to positive energy of renewal. Unhappiness gets banished even in the face of adversity. I cannot change my current situation but I can choose my path forward.
I need not think about myself at the expense of someone else. I need to simply choose what to think, say or do based on the simple rule of “The path of least harm”. Least harm to myself, others or the world. When I think like this, every thought is good. When I speak like this, every utterance is good. When I do like this every action is good. It does not mean I cannot have fun. It means I shall place ethical living at the heart of everything I think, say or do.