I was raised to compete.

“It’s every man for himself out there,” my dad used to say. “To get ahead, you have to outdo the next guy.” That’s how I was groomed to live the American Dream.

Competing to get ahead is a restless occupation. It gives rise to a restless mind, and mine was no exception. The weight of our culture urged me to study hard, work hard, make a lot of money, and have a lot to show for it. To me, this had the ring of a patriotic duty. Few were the voices that questioned the intelligence of living such a competitive-consumptive life.

Like everyone else, I just wanted to be happy. I figured that financial security was a major part of the package, and I was willing to persevere to achieve it.

Before I knew what a mantra was, mine was: “What’s in it for me?”

Something was missing inside me. No matter how many gains I made, my contentment would come and go like sand through a sieve.

By most common measures, I became successful. I worked for Disney and later moved to Hawaii, where “the good life” got even better. As a freelance writer, I was my own boss, free to set my own schedule and travel as I pleased.

But something was missing inside me. No matter how many gains I made, my contentment would come and go like sand through a sieve. I was always in pursuit of the next fleeting pleasure.

When our joy slips away, most of us just try harder to get it back. We do what we have been doing all along, only at a faster and more strenuous pace. I was no different. According to my social conditioning, I was a making all the right moves, a model of upward mobility. What was the problem?

The problem was society’s formula for finding happiness. It might look good in theory, but in reality, it simply doesn’t work.. Society does a masterful job of promoting and appealing to our worldly desires, persuading us that it knows what is worth our time and effort, but nothing it sells has the power or durability to keep us in smiles.

Though the “good life” is portrayed as the Holy Grail, the more we buy into it, the more we are likely to wonder why the payoff doesn’t pay off.

I was looking in all the wrong places for what I wanted: outside, instead of inside.

At the height of my questioning dissatisfaction, I discovered an age-old path to peace and contentment. It wasn’t fancy or fashionable. But the sheer simplicity of it was deeply effective.

I walked into a class that taught me how to turn my energy inward instead of letting it dissipate in my outward chase of transient dreams and delusions.

I learned the sacred art of meditation. I discovered a stillness inside me that I didn’t know was there. It connected me to my innately divine nature.

What I’ve learned since then is mostly what I’ve needed to unlearn.

I was looking in all the wrong places for what I wanted: outside, instead of inside.

Instead of directing my ambition entirely toward self-improvement, I was using it divisively, trying to be better than others.

“What’s in it for me?” was working against me also. I wasn’t happy getting more for me, but found that giving to others brought me profound joy. Oddly enough, the more generous I became, the more abundance I attracted as well. Giving begets getting—what a concept!

Have I mastered the art of meditation? Or the science of selfless giving? Not by a long shot. My ego has its way with me more often than I care to admit.

But every day of showing up at the altar of silence within me seems to make the rest of my activities flow more pleasantly and smoothly. Every gesture of kindness and generosity adds to my happiness, too.

As you might imagine, or may have experienced yourself, a competitive mindset is an invitation to stress. Frustration, moodiness, anger, and anxiety abound, because competition does not always end in winning whatever is sought.

Since becoming a daily meditator, my emotions are less reactive, and they are less a part of who I am. Even my physical health has improved. The overall holistic effect of quieting my mind and calming my heart is quite unmistakable.

Every day of showing up at the altar of silence within me seems to make the rest of my activities flow more pleasantly and smoothly.

I am seeing now as if through a window that had long been shuttered. An expansive horizon has opened to me, and it’s right inside who I am. I see, too, that my happiness will always be fleeting when sought in outward pursuits, in pleasures that don’t last.

“Outward longings drive us from the Eden within; they offer false pleasures, which only impersonate soul-happiness.” ~ Paramhansa Yogananda

There is no escaping a letdown at the end of every emotional high, whether it comes as ennui, disappointment, or a more serious sense of loss and depression.

Isaac Newton put it into words: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

There are many techniques of meditation being offered today. Mine is Kriya Yoga, as practiced by yogis, saints, and sages for millennia. As a spiritual practice, it offers more than a means of coping with today’s many stresses. It offers intuitive access to higher guidance and divine communion.

In the words of Paramhansa Yogananda, my beloved guru: “The wholehearted practice of meditation brings deep bliss. This is not an abstract mental state. When this bliss comes over you, you will recognize it as a conscious, intelligent, universal Being to whom you may appeal.”

2 Comments

  1. Wonderful and inspiring article. Thank you so much for sharing that.

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