I’ve written a lot on this blog about my struggle with striving. Always thinking there’s more to achieve, that I can be better, do more, save the world! Never stop “being more” than I already am! And how exhausting that is…
It’s one of the things that so attracted me to the Zen of Thich Nhat Hanh, who introduced me to the concept of aimlessness, one of the buddhist canon’s ‘Three doors of liberation’. And it certainly was completely liberating to me to be told ‘you already are what you want to be’, ‘there’s no need to run or hurry any more, there’s nothing to search for, everything you need is right here in the present moment.’
It’s the best medicine I’ve ever tasted (there’s a perfect explanation of aimlessness in this transcribed dharma talk).
I’ve pretty much got the ‘there’s no need to strive’ thing sorted out now most of the time, as long as I keep myself relatively busy. My mind needs something new and different to work on, it seems to be healthier like that (I remember the guy who wrote the book Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell, saying he writes because if he doesn’t he basically drives himself mad very quickly, and I totally related to that!)
At the moment I’m learning guitar, with the help of the wonderful justinguitar.com, and the process is keeping me very happy – now I’ve slowed down a bit, realised I’m not in a hurry to be ‘really good’ at it. Hurry, rush and haste are still my biggest difficulty. So often I find myself leaving to meet someone, or pick up my son from school, or whatever, and being in a mad stressed rush as I leave the house. I think I just have to be prepared to accept being late. The rush is unhealthy. I need to join the ‘slow life movement’, if there is one.
The Spanish have a proverb, ‘vísteme despacio, que tengo prisa’ – Dress me slowly, I’m in a hurry.
But back to the striving and wanting and achieving thing. For a long time I focussed on having inherited this from my mother, but it’s more than that. It was part of my schooling, it’s part of society, our industrialised, materialist, consumerist world – be more, consume more, earn more, get more, faster and faster… My mother got it from there, her parents probably did too, and so on back (to the industrial revolution?) – and so on forwards to our children if we don’t work it out.
The concept of aimlessness has helped me enormously, but the other day I read something else by Thich Nhat Hahn that I thought summed things up so wonderfully that I’ve been thinking (and smiling!) about it every since. That a good enough life is good enough. It’s as simple as that. Why look for more if life is already good enough? He says:
“There is a Vietnamese proverb, “Tri tuc, tien tuc, dai tuc, ha thoi tuc.” That means, settling for “good enough” is enough. If we wait until all our needs and wants are met, we may wait forever. “Tri tuc” means “good enough.” “Good enough” means being content with the minimum amount necessary. Your shirt and pair of shoes can last another year. It’s all right for three or four people to share a desk for studying, there’s no need for each to have her own desk. Settling for “good enough” in terms of simple living will bring us contentment, satisfaction, and happiness immediately. As long as we think our lives are not good enough, we will not have happiness. As soon as we realize our lives are good enough, happiness immediately appears. That is the practice of contentment.” From Two Treasures, by Thich Nhat Hanh
So, yes, a good enough life is good enough. And mine, without doubt, is good enough.