Thought bubbles: that grass is greener paradox

There’s a paradox I noticed after returning home from nearly a year spent on the road. The paradox being that when I’m living a life of constant travel, at some point, I inevitably start to crave the structure of home life, but when I’m back home and living out my daily routine, I inevitably start to crave the freedom of boundless exploration. Call it human nature, call it wanting what we can’t have, call it our endless quest for the greener grass, but whatever we call it, one thing’s for sure: it can be a tricky little thing to unpack.

Before I attempt to, let me say that I recognize that I’m writing this from a place of extreme privilege. That these conundrums are decidedly small on the grand spectrum of life, but it’s also true that this paradox has implications for every situation, not only this specific travel example I set out above.

Zen Buddhists would probably say that this paradox is a result of our worldly clinging and inability to simply be in the present moment, to appreciate what we have and not constantly desire for more. As Eckhart Tolle puts it: “As soon as you honor the present moment, all unhappiness and struggle dissolve, and life begins to flow with joy and ease.” And while I agree with these sentiments, I think they can also be hard to fully embrace or wrap our heads around in daily life. Probably because most of us aren’t Buddhist monks or widely lauded spiritual writers, but also because, before we are able to be present and release these desires or cravings, it might be helpful to understand what they are telling us in the first place, what they are pointing to in our lives, if anything.

This way of looking at it proves helpful for me because I believe that my cravings for the opposite, the new, are not always just superficial wanting, I think sometimes they are also red flags telling me what I need to focus on in the present. For example, when my travel lifestyle becomes too unpredictable or when maybe I’ve been spending too much time floating around, not focusing on my work or something that gives me a sense of purpose or accomplishment, then that craving for structure probably means that I need to stop and settle myself for a minute. That maybe I should find a coffee shop wherever we are and go work there every day until I get myself grounded and back on track. And, on the other hand, once I’m home and have fully embraced my routine, that craving for adventure probably means I’ve embraced the “regular” just a little too hard. That I likely need to loosen my grip and push myself to explore somewhere new around me, in my own city, or close by. Maybe it means I should spend some time with new people to get my creative juices flowing, to make sure life doesn’t become stagnant. In this way, my endless, and sometimes infuriating, desires can be useful tools. When I can look at my cravings as signposts telling me where to direct my energy and attention, then it makes being in the “now” so much easier. It gives direction and purpose to the present moment. (Or it could be that I’m just bastardizing these Zen-type teachings entirely..)

Of course, I’m no spiritual guru and will probably always struggle with wanting more, as a product of boredom or simply because I can, but when I am able to break down some of these desires to their core elements, it’s true that, in a way, I’m also acting as my own teacher. And in the process, I’m granting myself a little headspace that comes from that awareness.

~

What about you? Have you been able to break down your desires into useful signals? Or do you see things differently? Tell me in the comments.

And to close, I will share the best Eckhart Tolle quote I’ve come across; “I have lived with several Zen masters — all of them cats.”

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