Yesterday after work I went to our local organic market to pick up some food for dinner. While in the checkout line the cashier asked me what I was up to and I replied by saying that I had just gotten off from work and was getting food for dinner. “So, your day is picking up then,” he remarked. In that instance it occurred to me that there was a teaching moment, of sorts, at hand. I replied by saying, “Well, actually I enjoy my job.” After a brief pause, as if processing an unexpected answer, he said, “You’re very fortunate. I like my job and all but if I were given the choice I’d prefer not to work.”
I found it an interesting exchange. In assuming that my workday being over was the equivalent of my day improving he was projecting his notions of happiness onto me. In telling me I was fortunate that I enjoyed my job I also got the sense that he held the belief that I must have some kind of rare, coveted position that was inherently wonderful. I don’t imagine that it ever occurred to him that I practice the art of enjoyment, that I put diligent effort everyday into this practice, and that true happiness is only possible in the here and now. Our collective idea about happiness is that it awaits us in the future, always in the future, when things align in all the ways we want them to. The trouble is that once we reach that future point our ideas about happiness change and it leaps further down the road. Our conventional ideas about happiness are illusory and oftentimes keep us stuck in patterns that are of little or no benefit to our own well being.
On my drive home after the market I was thinking about how the cashier had been right, just not in the way he intended. I am fortunate indeed. Not because I’m amongst the select few who has some kind of fictitious, challenge free dream job but because I’ve been able to encounter the teachings of mindfulness and joy. I’ve been able to experience for myself that my quality of life is up to me and that whatever moment I’m in is a moment to practice joy and ease. How fortunate I am to see the nature of happiness more clearly through the practice of teachings from Thay, the Buddha, and many other countless teachers.
This line in the Second Mindfulness Training, True Happiness, sums it up beautifully and is one of my favorites: I am aware that happiness depends on my mental attitude and not on external conditions, and that I can live happily in the present moment simply by remembering that I already have more than enough conditions to be happy.
“The first thing I do in the morning is to make my bed and while I am making up my bed I am making up my mind as to what kind of a day I am going to have.”
– Robert Frost
Dear friends, what kind of day have you made up your mind to have?