“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.” — Rabindranath Tagore
My whole life I have wanted to have this peaceful life. I know it takes hard work and discipline. The past decade or so I have created and maintained many healthy habits. I have also tried and failed at creating and maintaining many healthy habits. I thought that if I could just create this perfect day or routine then I would feel good. I would get up super early. I would engage in some movement and fitness. Then I would do some meditation and prayer, followed by reading from inspirational and spiritual texts, and lastly, I would journal and reflect. I would set an intention and start work early so that I could then have the perfect set of conditions for after work! I would optimize my life, become the best version of me, or Robo-Mari. Ha!
However, I have come to understand in my heart that no external things can bring happiness. No job, no child, no relationship, no vacation, etc. could fix what has always been an inside job. But I confused myself because I thought seeking these healthy habits and some of them very spiritual indeed, would then make me happy. But it’s just more of the same thing. I was expecting a set of conditions to fix me. Now don’t get me wrong, these things are extremely beneficial and I will continue to do them. But it sure takes the pressure off, especially because it is unreasonable, at least in my life, to expect to be able to do some three hour morning routine on top of my full time job and all the other obligations I have in my life. And I am allowed to rest and not produce or engage in activity I deem good enough, based on the conditioning I have had.
Moreover, the point in having all these healthy habits I have listed above, is to help me in my day to day life. So I can be a kind and loving wife, a contributing team member at work, or a dependable friend. If I meditate on a stoop for an hour, and then go back and snap at my husband over something small, then I have missed the point. If I go back to work and half ass it or play on my phone while I’m trying to listen to someone speak in a meeting, then my whole mindfulness training is wasted. These are the real test of my growth, not how disciplined by daily habits are. Of course, they do help, but now I am coming to understand the depth of my seeking.
Because what is the point of all this? Am I just living my life so I get to feel good and be happy, and check off all my goals? Its been a slow burn of a lesson for me, as knowledge itself does not produce the understanding I seek. I am coming to believe in my heart that the purpose is so I can be of maximum usefulness and service to others. Sure, when I engage in self- care I can better do that, and that I believe is where the intersection is. But often I have sought self-care to the point of burnout and the opposite effect happens. Maybe I wake up late, because I’m tired, but I smile at my husband and I engage in contributing and applying myself to whatever is in front of me, then isn’t that good enough? Well that is for each of us to find out and continue to explore within ourselves. But I have found peace in coming to believe that happiness is a by-product of how we show up in the world and contribute.