Well, we made it to the penultimate day of 2020. It’s a day to ponder and reconcile how we interfaced with the world and our dreams. Today is a good time to do this before we get caught up in the nostalgia surrounding New Year’s Eve, or the introspection of New Year’s Day. In short, did we fulfill any or many of our plans we had laid out earlier this year?
Feelings of discontent have likely arisen several times throughout the year. It’s easy to understand why this is the case, due to the circumstances surrounding the global pandemic and its many repercussions.
However, we do not require pandemics in order to feel discontented. We try to mask our discontent through consumerism, obsessing over famous celebrities and sports. We might indulge in the latest styles of thought, politics, or lose oneself in a belief system. Or one could give up and surrender to substance abuse. You and I do some of these as portions of our lives or lifestyles.
We have repeatedly been told that fulfillment is what we should pursue. The marketers of fulfillment say that when we are fulfilled, we will experience some sort of heaven on Earth. On the other hand, a few wise sages have said or written that to pursue fulfillment is to invite existential frustration. The search implies the lack of acceptance. This is not to say that we should not find ways to improve ourselves. The point is to become better versions of who we are.
On the other hand, the search for fulfillment too often leads down the garden path of Utopian fantasy and dogma. The search strengthens our desire to possess what we crave. To ultimately possess something, a state of mind, or whatever, makes one feel active, vital, profound, rich, and smart. To feel fulfilled gives us the feeling of having a leg up on society.
This feeling of fulfillment, however, is as temporary as other human feelings. A person becomes used to this state of mind. It needs to be “fortified” and ritually refreshed on a regular basis. This state of mind is also known as “plateaued”. It is compared to the geographical term which means a land area that is elevated above the adjoining lands and features a fairly level top–a mesa. In the mental sense, to plateau is to increase one’s mental power and sharpness up to a certain point in which progress, betterment, and improvement halts or even begins to diminish.
We are familiar with the process of plateauing in other areas of life. Perhaps it is in work or career–when we attain a certain level of advancement and then remain at that position for a long time. To plateau in one’s career is a common occurrence in the business world. Plateauing in work, social climbing, or spirituality leads to discontent. Perhaps this discontent feels profound.
This underlying sensation of discontent leads one to search for deeper fulfillment. The sort of fulfillment that promises to last a lifetime and beyond. This desire masks our fears of failure and of death. Fulfillment becomes identification with someone, something, or an ideal. It is common to identify with words and conceptual writings. The satisfying sensations brought about by our reactions to these words feels fulfilling.
Perhaps the attainment of fulfillment is accompanied by euphoria or an epiphany. This feeling of triumph over the mundane is intoxicating and persuasive. Its aftermath are the sensations of peace and joy. The sensation is temporary. One keeps the concept of such fulfillment alive through memories of the euphoric sensations and words.
The lack of understanding oneself leads us to become ensnared in the net of illusions. When we do not understand the origins of desire or fulfillment, this very common state of mind is inevitable. A way around this is stillness of mind. It is wise to sit and contemplate the concept of fulfillment and why we wish to possess it. What are our deepest, existential fears? What do we wish to satisfy and fulfill? This is an ongoing part of life. We begin to understand fulfillment when we are passively alert regarding our observations about ourselves and the Universe. What sort of fulfillment may we finally attain?
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Vietnamese Zen monk, Thich Nhat Hanh. “Peace in the world starts with peace in oneself. If everyone lives mindfully, everyone will be more healthy, feel more fulfilled in their daily lives and there will be more peace.”