WHAT IF AVERAGE IS PERFECT?
What’s the one quality that almost any spiritual tradition hails as most important in our search for happiness? Contentment – being happy with what we have and letting go of our incessant desire for more. In other words, non-greediness, simplicity.
This morning, I was on a skype call with a client in New York City discussing her core inner conflict. She feels pretty content with where she is and what she has, but a nagging feeling that she “should” be striving for more, pursuing bigger professional goals, be more of a leader and make more money – haunts her. All around her – people, advertising, the rampant hustle of New York City pressure her to do more, better and faster.
“More is better” is embedded in our collective consciousness.“Manifest Destiny” is literally the motto of our homeland (if you live in the United States). Staking your claim, increasing your territory, being the world’s “greatest (fill in the blank)” is spoon-fed into our consciousness before we can speak. It runs in our national blood.
In 1845, American newspaper editor John O’Sullivan declared it was America’s “manifest destiny to overspread the continent” in order to become a political and social superpower and that our purpose as a nation was to expand westward, “driving out the wilderness and establishing civilization.”
A slightly greedy proclamation and quite a lot to live up to, eh? Webster’s definition of “greed” is “a selfish and excessive desire for more of something than is needed.”
The Buddha says “Desire is suffering.” Non-greediness (aparigraha) in yoga, is considered one of the 10 core principles for living a thriving life.
What if a grade “B” or (yikes!) a “C” is good enough? What if average is perfect? Less is more.
Greediness shows up in slippery forms such as “those last 10 lbs.”, “needing more clients”, “wanting to be the best”, “wanting your child to be the best” or adding another activity to an already bursting calendar.
It is obvious to spot financial greed, but what about in our relationships?
With our romantic partners, comparison is a common greed disguise. We compare our partner to someone else, wanting him/her to act differently, to look differently, to get a better job, to earn more money, to get a bigger house.
In the workplace, we cling to wanting the promotion, getting another degree, climbing the ladder of success – oftentimes disregarding those around us and sacrificing the betterment of all in the hopes of bettering “me.”
As parents, we want our children to do better in school and excel in extra-curricular activities. We want them to be better than the other kid in class or on the team.
Aparigraha teaches that ‘more’ never leads to happiness. Fulfillment is fleeting. The satisfaction we feel from achieving or accumulating fades when the inevitable question “What’s next?” arises.
There’s nothing “wrong” in the pursuit of money and achievements. Instead, aparigraha asks us to refine our relationship to them. Rather than owning things, we tend to allow the things and accompanying social status to own and control us. Consider how much time (and money) you spend in upkeep – running errands, fixing things, picking up dry cleaning, going to social engagements you care little about.
As we release the constant cycle of “what’s next,” the ego’s desire softens and we step more into our truth. When you live your truth, the need for external validation dissolves. You give and receive with ease and grace, allowing new ideas and experiences to come and go.
This Week’s Practice:
Cut yourself some slack. Less is more. Slower is best. Average is perfect.
Please comment: Where are you most greedy? What do you want to simplify? What does being happy with less mean to you?