“Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.” –Westley (The Princess Bride)
There was a time when I agreed with Westley. The buddhists mention this as one of their core beliefs as well… that what we are doing here as humans is struggling… that the human condition is pain and that our mission is simply to minimize pain for everyone on the planet… to make our time here as comfortable as possible.
I’m realizing today that this is not just a glass-half-full debate. It is an incorrect vs. correct issue. Westley, and that buddhist notion, are simply incorrect. Life is not pain.
And yet for a good deal of my life I think I believed that. And I have this image, this memory, which I can not escape: those twenty minutes that I held my grandmother’s frail head up while EMT’s tried to bring her back, every day I am here I think of it, and it drives me know what the reason is… why someone who lit up when I was around is now vacant, in that body no more… somewhere else… gone… and for what?
When you finally start to once again get 7+ hours of sleep … when you are not sick, and you drink enough water… when you limit the amount of caffeine and alcohol… when you exercise and eat things that support your health and give you energy…
When you finally start to do all of those things at once, your eyes re-open to something that you knew as a child:
Life is joy. Pain is simply a sign that a specific condition exists that is getting in the way of the underlying joy. Once we remove the pain, the joy returns.
For many of us, we started to chase something that we thought would be a means to an end… a temporary pain that would bring us more lasting security or a level of more permanent happiness. Yet who is more joyful than a child? Who brings out the best in us more than a child?
Would we feed our children crap food, dump loads of coffee into their bloodstream, make them sit on the couch or in a desk chair for 8 hours, and limit their exercise to nearly nothing, force them to stay up late or get up too early?
No. Of course not. We know that it would turn them into unhappy individuals. It would get in the way of their essence… their pure underlying default existence: Joy.
So why do we not insist on the same for ourselves? And will our children not learn more from our example than from our rhetoric?
If life sucks for you right now, it can be temporary. Write down the things that are covering up the essence of you … of life… the joy you had as a child. You might think it’s your job or some condition that can’t be changed. But what if it’s bigger than that? What if the reason you’re not just smiling right now is because of the behaviors that you have chosen, and habits that you continue to strengthen each day that you ignore them, pretending that the world is out to get you?
What can you do differently today and tomorrow than you have in the past? What is getting in the way of you feeling joyful, like a child, like you did when you were young?