Mental Toxins

While taking A Million Steps the Camino de Santiago, my daily experiences were vastly different from those at home.  The mixture of meeting new people, getting physical exercise, finding beauty in nature, appreciating the simplest things in life, and living with a tiny pack full of clothes was transforming me into another person. Weeding out all the thoughts that had previously cluttered my mind made me much more open to new experiences. I had never lived with so little and been so content.

Last week, I found myself perched on an outdoor deck at a best friend’s condo in McCall, Idaho.  The third story enclosed patio reminded me of being a kid in a tree house.  We dined on oatmeal laced with walnuts and chia seeds while losing ourselves in conversation.  With 65 degree weather and looking at blue sky through the tops of Ponderosa Pines, I pointed to a crack in the ceiling and sarcastically said, “Carlos, can you imagine how happy you would be if that crevice was repaired?”  A shared chuckle brought us right back to the moment.

A large portion of my life has been spent looking for a thing, experience, or person to act as the key to unlock my elusive happiness.  I am not sure if Madison Avenue or society is the culprit, but this is a dangerous path.  My grandmother has a perfect poem to describe this problem:

As a rule, man is a fool,

When it’s hot, he wants it cool;

When it’s cool, he wants is hot;

Always wanting what is not.

We enter this world with nothing, we temporarily possess things, and we exit with nothing.  Given that all things change in life, attaching happiness to anything other than the joy of being, will always lead to disappointment. Like a drug, there may be a short term high, but the trip down is always filled with despair.  The Buddhists eloquently describe insatiable greed as a mental toxin.

I intend to spend the rest of my life focusing on what I have instead of the alternative.  If you need a refresher on sources of gratitude, keep the following in mind:  Parents, family, friends, eyesight, oxygen, taste, heart, lungs, immune system, hands, legs, mind, school, fire, disappointment, shoes, internet, NFL, air conditioners, sex, rain, sun, rainbows, thunder, puppies, music, planes, chocolate souffles, herons, flowers, ice cream, boobs, lattes, fleece, water,  books, laughter, and your life.

I began this glorious day by meeting an old friend for coffee at Starbucks.  Kristi visited Rwanda this past year and volunteered to work at a medical/dental clinic.  They saw over 1,000 patients in  four days.  Many of these people walked in excess of 10 miles with the hope of waiting in line all day to see a doctor or dentist.  Learn to find the silver lining in your next root canal.

Dave Mathews sums up my thoughts  from Jimi Thing when he sang, “What I want is what I’ve not got and what I need is all around me.”