September 9, 2015

Have We Forgotten What Enough Feels Like?

I recently read a book by Wayne Muller,"A Life of Being, Having, and Doing Enough." His premise is simple and powerful: our striving for a life of constant motion, commitment, and responsibility guarantees we miss what is most important: living fully now and understanding what we have is entirely sufficient for a full, joyful life.

If you envision your most perfect, beautiful day, does it include a meeting at work or rushing to meet volunteer commitments along with family and spousal responsibilities? Does it include emotions like feeling drained, angry, or rushed? Does it include your falling into bed at the end of the day so frazzled that sleep is almost impossible? Is it the day you bought the new big screen TV or stainless steel refrigerator? 

Probably not. 

For most of us a beautiful, perfect day might include time by the ocean, or being deep in a mossy forest. It may look like a family picnic where everyone is laughing, playing games, and loving each other's company. It could be the day your child or grandchild is born. It might be a few hours spent on the back porch, with a cup of coffee, watching the clouds scud across the sky, leaving your mind blank and calm.

Mr. Muller makes a powerful case against the wasteful habits of worry and constantly striving for more, and then more. He states that we often feel defeated and discouraged no matter how much "progress" we might have made that day, or week, or month. He believes that we have the innate ability to be happy when we slow down, take stock of what is right and good in our life, and accept that as enough. 

Chinese author Lao Tsu spelled out the same message thousands of years ago in the Tao Te Ching: "Those who know that enough is enough will always have enough."

Mr. Muller is not saying we should withdraw from the world, or be content without any movement forward. He is making the case for understanding what is worth striving for; it usually is already right in front of us. I love his assertion that our life is always a glass that is both half full and half empty. How we react to that reality is what matters. 

Over the course of a life, most of us experience a combination of joy and sadness, contentment and disappointment, love and grief. It is never all of one and none of the other forever. The glass always contains the seeds or probability of both. If we look for a constant flow of external successes, possessions, or accomplishments we will eventually realize we are chasing the wrong goal. 

Mr. Muller says, "there is a geological term , isostasy, which is the tendency of something to rise once whatever has been pushing it down is removed."   Are we our own worst enemy in this regard? Do we simply have to remove what it is that has been pushing us down to rise? Abraham Lincoln said, "most folks are as happy as they make their minds up to be." Mr. Muller says, "Happiness is an inside job."

My Satisfying Journey is a wandering passage of discovery and acceptance. The signposts in this book has been quite helpful to keep me on track and working on my insides.


21 comments:

  1. Good thoughts to share, Bob. I'm on a group tour of Eastern Europe and this morning I decided to forego the group tour of the Buda side of Budapest. Instead, I walked on the city street, ran an errand and then wrote a thoughtful blog post. All my myself. It was wonderful to have the time just to myself.

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    1. A comment from Eastern Europe...thanks, Linda! Time fully for ourselves is a gift that keeps on giving.

      Enjoy your trip.

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  2. Great thoughts. I agree with all that you wrote. I am blessed to have more than enough and I thank God daily for what I have and that I can donate to causes near to my heart.

    I enjoy your blog. Keep on sharing!

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    1. Compared to so many of the world's people, we have more than they can even dream about. Think of the refugees streaming away from Syria. Our lives are blessed. It is up to us to live that way.

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  3. At the beginning of your post I was ready to dive in with a "but". You said " our striving for a life of constant motion, commitment, and responsibility guarantees we miss what is most important:" I latched on to the constant motion to mean it is best to just sit in place with no change. But, later you pulled away from that. Doing the same thing over and over and over again just doesn't appeal to me. I need motion, I need momentum and yes change!
    It reminds me of the joke about a guy who said if he gets to heaven all he wants is there to be a golf course there. He died and then found himself at the first tee of a course and thought "I made it" But (I'll shorten the joke here) after ten continuous rounds of golf he realized he was in hell and his total existence was to do nothing but play golf!!!

    Some of us just need something different to look at today than we did yesterday....

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    1. The key is understanding what is worth striving for- something that might be right in front of us or already part of our life. But, if we are always looking for more then it is too easy to rush right past what matters.

      Hell for me would be golf at all. I love the beauty of the courses but find providing all that grass and water for a handful of folks to whack a small ball around wasteful. Needless to say, I spend very little time watching the Golf Channel.

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  4. I have an only child nearing 38 she never forgets that something to be grateful for is denied to many in our woeld..She travels a lot and always comes home to us and says Thanks Mom and Dad for being my parents, thanks for having a home and food, water and clothing to wear..She is more than grateful and knows the words, plenty, enough and thank you very much! I just don't get that a lot of people don't teach their kids lessons in humility and thankfulness and gratefulness at all! No manners whatsoever and no gratitude..My husbands nephew and bride never thanked us for the 2 wedding gifts for their wedding 24 years ago come this November, not one word and no thank you for the photos I took and made sure to get several printed so they could have them.I was appalled his dad said he never nor the bride sent out thanks you cards and they footed the entire wedding and reception and my sister in law made the cake which was lovely...I just don't get it at all, of course we don't see them at all and rarely any of my hubs family they are so dysfunctional and his Mom was something else 9 kids 2 husbands and both men were something else, missing in action, she lived to nearly 87 and would be 102 if she had lived, had her kids well into her 40's and no husband whatsoever and she did not parent or home make whatsoever, it is a wonder my husband is so disciplined and kind and loving he certainly never had it at home whatsoever..I just think people bear kids they don't parent them and discipline them or make them go to school and have any manners, it is shameful oh, my and greedy people these days they are plentiful..shameful I don't live like that nor does my hubs and only child she is the least spoiled of any human being I know and appreciates everything, mannerly and kind!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    1. You will get no argument from me that a lot of the civility and good manners that used to be ingrained in most of us have gone missing. There are all sorts of reasons, I suppose, but that doesn't make it any less disappointing.

      Like you, we have two daughters and a son-in-law who are grateful, humble, and appreciative of their blessings in life. It makes us as parents feel good that they have learned well and understand that not everyone has their advantages.

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  5. Good post, Bob. I've felt for a long time that most of us cannot tell the difference between what we want and what we truly need.

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    1. Thanks, Rick. Society makes it tough to keep needs and wants properly separate.

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  6. Bob, sometimes we need to be reminded of what "enough" actually means. It's easy to adopt lifestyles and attitudes that reflect our society, rather than looking deep within to see what "enough" means for ourselves. Like you, I've had a wake up call, due to health concerns over the past few weeks. While I was being shuffled about, having tests (still waiting on some results), I quickly realized how very blessed I have been. How ironic that all I could think about was returning to my humble home, and puttering about my daily routine. Ordinary life is so sweet when we might lose it. There are moments when we know exactly what "enough" means. Watching the news reminds me that for many who are fleeing to safety, a helping hand, a bottle of water, and a sandwich (made of white bread) is enough. I have so much more than enough.

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    1. Very moving about the joy of ordinary life. I had a potentially serious disease, requiring me to spend 6weeks off my legs. I told my doctor I wanted my boring life back:).

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    2. The refugee situation in Europe should make each one of us be eternally grateful foe what we have...which is more than we need.

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  7. This is a very thought-provoking post. I'm trying to figure out how much capitalism is implicated in all this. If a healthy capitalist economy is one that is constantly growing, then the population as a whole must keep consuming more and more of what the economy can produce. It seems like there are only two ways for that to happen -- a growing population so that there are more and more people to consume and a rising standard of living so that each individual consumes more and more. Much of our economy and the advertising that sells it to us is designed to convince us that we should be consuming more and more. -Jean

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    1. More is never enough. More can never create contentment and happiness. Unless that more is more satisfaction with what one has and understands that true joy does not come from material things. It took me a long time to learn that lesson - one that I have not mastered but know what the goal is.

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  8. Some excellent advice. For me the key is variety. So now, after spending two weeks on the beach, I'm ready for some motion, commitment and responsibility.

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    1. I love beach time, too. But, after awhile there is a strong feeling to get back in the game.

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  9. Great post! One of the reasons I haven't been checking in is because I've been re-evaluating my "stuff" --- yet again and, as always, I am reminded how many more things I have than I really need. Some of those things I'll keep, just because I enjoy them, but many more need to find a good home somewhere else.

    As I let things go (& items get sorted) I feel so much lighter! Amazingly enough, I'm also losing weight because enough is enough also holds true for what I eat.

    Thanks for the post---it is one of those reminders that I need periodically.

    pam

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    1. Realizing how much is enough is a process that I doubt is ever complete. I have to constantly remind myself of the need to curb an impulse to add something to my life that won't make it noticeably better.

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  10. There iis one time when there is never enough. We are with the the whole family at Disneyland. There are never too many memories.

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  11. There iis one time when there is never enough. We are with the the whole family at Disneyland. There are never too many memories.

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