Something I often catch myself getting into “If only…”s when I’m feeling upset or frustrated or sad. “If only I was better,” “If only I had more money,” “If only there were different people in my life,” “If only I had more time,” “If only I lived somewhere else,” If only I had this, could do that, didn’t have to do this – then… then, I could be happy, I wouldn’t be stressed, I could relax, I’d be content.
It’s a very easy mindstate to get into. It views the present obstacle as inherently bad, as something unjustly being done to me, and as the sole cause for my unhappiness. But this is a deluded mindstate. If I achieve whatever it is I desire, I may feel temporary relief, but it will not last, and before long, I will develop a new set of “If Only”s. My original judgment was incorrect, as I got what I wanted but did not find true happiness. And if I think back to my “If Only”s of two or three or six years ago, many of them were achieved, but I still do not have pure, lasting happiness.
This is because external circumstances are not the cause for my happiness or unhappiness, and they are beyond our control. What I can control is the way that I approach these circumstances, the way I handle them, the way I view them – in short, my internal mental state – and that is what brings me happiness or unhappiness. If I can center myself and accept whatever is happening, I will maintain my mental peace and happiness, no matter how difficult or stressful or unsatisfactory my external situation is.
When spiritual teachings say that, upon achieving Enlightenment, all your wishes will come true and you will be eternally happy, they do not mean that your current wishes and desires will all come true, and that you’ll have all the sensory gratification you desire. What they mean is that your wishes and desires will have entirely shifted and rather than desiring sensory gratification and worldly achievements, your only wishes and desires will be to be calm, centered, peaceful, and clairvoyant, and to use that wisdom solely, constantly, and eternally for the benefit of all living beings via love and compassion and an understanding of interconnectedness and emptiness. If our desires lie outside our mind, we cannot control them and we will never find true satisfaction (and even if we maintain a sensory happiness in this life, it is nothing more than a temporary illusion that will be completely gone and wasted when we die). But if our desires lie inside our mind and are pure, we can control these circumstances, and that will bring us lasting happiness. Further, when we die, that positive, loving energy will surely maintain in the cosmic energy continuum, and we shall be one step closer to universal oneness communion.
Now if only I could live these words at all times…