By Dr. Robert Puff
Although I try to eat a proper diet most of the time, I love chocolate! I limit how often I treat myself, and I try to restrict myself to a particular "healthier" type of chocolate. Years ago, when I was much more indulgent, I found the biggest, most delicious chocolate cake while shopping at Costco. The first bite was so exquisite; I couldn't help taking another and still another! However, after a few bites, the cake didn't taste quite as good. Each progressive bite wasn't as enjoyable as the experience of that first taste. You may be wondering, "What does chocolate cake have to do with happiness?" Let me explain.
The Key to Happiness is Keeping Things Fresh
Studies have shown after we get something new and wonderful, we eventually become used to it. After a while, most of our feelings toward it become less intense. Eventually, we reach a point where we are so "full" of the good feelings they no longer seem so amazing. In other words, when we get used to something, we stop enjoying it as much. Life is full of such examples. One of the key factors of happiness is keeping things new, thus avoiding getting into a rut.
It is merely our own minds that prevent us from viewing life's details as new and fresh. We tend to label or categorize things; when we do so, we stop seeing them. As an old saying relates, "Once I see a sparrow and label it, I stop seeing it." There is great truth in this statement! The same principle applies to our experiences. When we have a really great experience, we usually perceive this first, initial encounter to be the most intense.
We relate everything back to it, and seek the same "high" again. But life doesn't always give us the same "high" again, particularly if we are comparing and contrasting our experiences! It is this constant comparing and contrasting that keeps us from enjoying things in the present and keeps us from feeling fresh, new, and alive with a wonderful richness and sense of fulfillment.
Open Your Eyes and Senses to a Wonderful New World
Yes, sometimes we do indeed need labels. Labels are important for remembering the past and for avoiding dangerous things. However, we miss out on so much in life when we're wrapped up in our own notions instead of simply experiencing that which is before us! When I speak at a retreat or to an organization, I love to bring some "healthy chocolate" with me to share.
Before everyone samples the treat, I'll first say, "Let's pretend we are all aliens and have never, ever seen this substance before. First, let's smell it and touch it and see what it's like. Then, if we think it's safe, let's put it to our lips to see if we have any adverse reaction. Then, let's cautiously put it to our tongues. What does it taste like? Let's put a piece into our mouths, not too big, just holding it there without chewing or swallowing. Just hold the chocolate there and see what happens." As one can imagine, at the end of this exercise, the chocolate seems to be the most exquisite piece of candy we've ever eaten!
Now, this "healthy chocolate" is very good, but it's not the best chocolate in the world. Instead, our enjoyment stems from experiencing it with new, fresh eyes and senses. This exercise applies to everything in life. If we learn to quiet our minds and just be present with what is, then we will experience all the beauty and freshness of the world in a new, pristine state. When we label, we don't experience the world around us nearly as well.
Be Present, Be Happy
We must learn to still our racing minds and to simply enjoy life as it is right here, right now. Once we are aware of the extent to which we label, we will start labeling less. This novel way of thinking and perceiving requires work, but if we put forth the effort, we will reap the benefits. We will finally be aware of all of the rich beauty in life that has always been there, but that we have regularly overlooked. Learn to cease labeling things; instead, see everything in this world as new and exciting. You will truly be amazed!
Dr. Robert Puff is a meditation expert, international speaker and creates a podcast and articles that explores the world of Enlightenment available at http://www.EnlightenmentPodcast.com. He also has a blog at http://www.Meditation-Enlightenment.com. He is the creator of the weekly Meditation For Health Podcast, available at http://www.MeditationForHealthPodcast.com. He has a weekly podcast that explores the world of Happiness at http://www.HappinessPodcast.org. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com