It’s that time of year again: the time when we are pushed to finally make steps to fill what we perceive as the lacks in our lives, when we strategize to solve the problems that demand resolution, and initiate the changes that we wish to see in ourselves. We make lists. We revive our long-dead gym memberships. We activate–or deactivate–our dating website accounts. We enter the new year with hope in our hearts, thinking: this time, this’ll be it.
We put so much pressure and expectation on this one instant in our lives; the new year rises before us, demanding and implacable and definite. It’s a marker, a starting line that we are crouched in front of in anticipation, and in fear that its our best and only chance to reach for happiness.
But sometimes, “this time” just really isn’t the right time. And that’s okay. Maybe you’re struggling with illness, either your own or of someone close to you. Maybe you’re working at a job you find dull and unsatisfying because, at this moment, you’re paying off a student loan. Maybe you’re just struggling to keep your head above water, and you cannot begin to fathom the idea of jumping out and running a marathon.
I’m here to tell you that it’s okay. Sometimes an excuse is legitimate. Sometimes there are reasons. Give yourself a break. If necessary, you will make these changes in a month, six months, a year. Don’t give into the belief (no matter how tempting) that dissatisfaction–whether it be with your body, your finances, your relationships, etc–is the only means by which you can achieve real and lasting “happiness”.
What you can do, whoever and wherever you are, is to accept this moment. And sometimes acceptance means surrendering. It means seeing a moment in your life as just that: a moment that begins and ends, just like everything else, and to not let your joy and sense of self get sucked into it. So you’re not where you want to be. That doesn’t mean you can’t find peace anyways.
If you are fighting for change, but find yourself overwhelmed by the day-to-day demands and necessities of life, I have enlisted the immense wisdom of Eckhart Tolle to remind you of your endless capacity for peace and joy, no matter the situation. I hope the following exploration inspires you to realize the happiness that is already in your grasp.
1.) You are always already complete.
As Eckhart Tolle observes, any feeling you might have of incompleteness or lack can only cause emotional pain, not emotional satisfaction or healing. You might argue that your dissatisfaction is what compels you in the direction of positive change, but he argues that, no, you already have in your possession everything required for your happiness. Be careful not to place your happiness on the achievement of things external to you; such things might be “possessions, the work you do, social status and recognition,…physical appearance, special abilities, relationships“, etc. Tolle states in The Power of Now that for as long as the ego’s desire for happiness lies outside of the self, “you cannot truly be at ease; you cannot be at peace or fulfilled except for brief intervals when you obtained what you wanted, when a craving has just been fulfilled”. So don’t wait for that relationship or the promotion or those six-pack abs to show up before you can give yourself permission to be happy. Nothing can give you what you need for happiness; just be.
2.) Follow your goals in joy.
Tolle also states in The Power of Now that “setting goals is good. But you shouldn’t use it as a substitute for the feeling of life, of Being”. To be always looking towards the finish line or the end goal means oftentimes to restrict yourself from the fullest experience of life, the journey. Most of your life is the journey, and only a small percentage is experienced as achievement. So why not enjoy it? If you do have a goal, enjoy your movement towards it and every moment you spend in pursuit of it. Follow your joy; “There is nothing wrong with striving to improve your life situation,“ Tolle states, “You can improve your life situation, but you cannot improve your life”. Do you want to spend your life waiting for happiness to happiness to you? Or do you want to be happy now?
This might seem pretty obvious; of course, fear is in the mind. Where else would it be? But how often, and how closely, do we analyze the actual source of our fear? When it comes to our fears for the future, we are prone to projecting upon it visions of what we hope will happen and what we are afraid might happen: this is what Eckhart Tolle refers to as ‘psychological fear’; it is when “you are in the here and now and your mind is in the future”. It is the fear of something that hasn’t happened yet and which is completely separate from the moment that you’re existing in now. If you want to be happy or at peace or fulfilled in the future, experience all of these things now; the present moment is the only point of access to happiness in the future. So dismiss the desire to ‘get there‘, and your fear that you never will. Give yourself a break. Breathe. Be here now.
Tolle states: “Your outer journey may contain a million steps; your inner journey has only one: the step you are taking right now. As you become more deeply aware of this one step, you realize that it already contains within itself all the other steps as well as the destination”. In conclusion, relax. Though it’s tempting to make resolutions and to project upon the achievement of these resolutions future happiness and inner peace, by doing this, you are restricting yourself from happiness now. So resolve to not make resolutions. Life and happiness are not things that you wait for. They are you, here and now.
Author: Theresa Faulder
Theresa Faulder is a recent graduate student of the Masters English program at the University of Victoria. She was born and raised in Edmonton, Alberta, but currently lives in Vancouver, BC. She is a personal trainer, an illustrator, and magazine editor and writer. She enjoys baking, drawing, writing, and adventuring with friends, old and new. If you are interested in contacting Theresa, she would love to hear from you! You can reach her at her email address, firstname.lastname@example.org