Count Blessings not Desires

What do you appreciate?

Is it having a home to call your own?  Is it living a lifestyle that many others cannot afford?  Maybe its the pleasurable moments in our lives that make us smile, relax, and enjoy with the company of those that we care about?  Could it be that it’s the next meal that we can’t wait to suppress our hunger with, and some of us do not even know where it will come from?  Could it be that we are ecstatic with a new pair of shoes that completely cover our feet and actually fit?

During the time a person is establishing themselves in this world, they have to face a barrage of challenges in the midst of all of our social comparisons and inventories we take in, in the midst of all of our societal dockets and what it means to be successful in this world, we can sometimes become lost and lose focus in more meaningful values.  The want to have more, the want to be more, the want to expect more out of life is something that is modeled throughout our lives.  Wanting to fill a void with material possessions, or wanting to seem as a success to others is often the motive we use in pursuit of a social status we think is envied.  Just look to your local grocery store and view the magazine covers in the check out area for examples of the mass exposure in what is communicated.

Early on in my educational pursuits in college I wanted to help children afflicted with Autism.   I’m not sure why I was drawn to this but the want to help children with neurological and behavioral issues somehow captured my attention as a young psychology student.  I also was entering a time in my life when I was observant of those I was attending school with, and how they were able to navigate the college years of their lives.  The struggles of a student will vary in degree and in kind; the finances, living conditions, social conditions, employment conditions, are all very clear to one that had to self-finance their pursuits.  Even as my career interests were not solidified and unknown, I began to see changes in my peers and myself during that time in my life.

My perspectives changed due to the influences that affected me at the time.  What I find interesting is the outlook of those that have not had to struggle as hard as others in achieving their goals.  I am not talking about the gifted, but rather those enabled or those who did not have to necessarily make their own way for themselves and had the benefits of a financially supportive family, whether it be in finance or some other attribute.  Similarly maybe they have flourished in their career paths as nods are dispersed to a select few whereas others do not enjoy a similar perk simply because of their connections.

What is most clear are the attitudes formed and demonstrated by those who have not had to fight for their place in their respective careers, or perhaps have not had to compete for grades in contrast to those who have not had to work and can spend much more time studying.  Of course there are many who have had greater challenges, and many stories that will fill the spectrum of experience within this topic, but in general, and in my experience I have seen this to be a fairly common trait.  There are as many inspiring stories of those who have risen above their means to achieve goals against many odds and challenges.  I salute you.  And there are those who have had the luxury and presumption that they are special via some proxy association.  I find this arrogance disturbing due to the circumstances it is built on.  The insolence from non-recognition is obtuse, but on the other hand, those who are grateful for their circumstance despite their preferential appointment can be acknowledged and acceptable.  Given the fact that they simply have awareness, and are less prone to be contemptuous, they will fare better in the working world.

I give reference to the political world through appointment and election/selection.  Those multi-term serving politicians who have been in place for years, sometimes act as if they are above us, and must therefore administer over us.

Gratitude is relative.  The man who covets expensive shoes has average shoes.  The man who covets average shoes has worn shoes.  The man who covets shoes has no shoes.  The man who covets feet has no feet.

Perhaps we should not be interested in having great possessions, but rather one should have fewer wants!

Whatever path you have taken, be grateful for what you have.  Do not lose sight of the gifts you have been bestowed.  Do not grieve over unfulfilled wants.

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not.”  — Epicurus–

“A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

“The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

“The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous ‘yes.’

“The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

“‘Now,’ said the professor as the laughter subsided, ‘I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things – God, your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions – and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car. The sand is everything else – the small stuff. ‘If you put the sand into the jar first,’ he continued, ‘there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.’

“‘Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal. Take care of the golf balls first – the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.’

“One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented. The professor smiled. ‘I’m glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.”

– Unknown

2 thoughts on “Count Blessings not Desires

  1. “Desire can be compared to fire. If we grasp fire, what happens? Does it lead to happiness? If we say: “Oh, look at that beautiful fire! Look at the beautiful colors! I love red and orange; they’re my favorite colors,” and then grasp it, we would find a certain amount of suffering entering the body. And then if we were to contemplate the cause of that suffering we would discover it was the result of having grasped that fire. On that information, we would hopefully, then let the fire go. Once we let fire go then we know that it is something not to be attached to. This does not mean we have to hate it, or put it out. We can enjoy fire, can’t we? It’s nice having a fire, it keeps the room warm, but we do not have to burn ourselves in it.”
    –Ajahn Sumedho, in “Teachings of a Buddhist Mink”

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