When we look at someone else's life, and admire the things that we like or the beauty of it, we are projecting ideas and feelings onto this perception. The "what it must be like to live like that" mentality creates a desire to cultivate it for ourselves. The trouble is, this idea or image or desire to create whatever it was that we saw (and liked) in someone else's life is truly and utterly imagined. It is not real. So, essentially, we are striving, yearning, searching to create a life for ourselves that doesn't actually exist. Utopia isn't a place or an object or an image, it is a state of mind and therefore must be cultivated from within. I know this, my mind knows this, yet I struggle.
Right now, I am sitting in a picturesque, quintessential English village (Chaucer's Cottage is literally down the road) in an adorable house made out of Cotswold stone, gazing from my all glass walled living room onto my Cotswold stone walled garden with daffodils and croci in bloom, and budding branches and green tipped bush limbs. Lush grass spans the center and I can see the beginnings of growth from the tops of my garden beds. And I think, "Wow, this is so beautiful! It is exactly what I had envisioned for happiness in England, from tv shows,movies and media, this is it. Sorted!"
Yet, I'm not "there." I'm still here, inside me, searching for fulfillment, missing the shores of Santa Cruz, lamenting my loss of daily sunshine. What makes us humans like this? Always left for wanting something other than what we have? I believe that part of the reason stems from this idea that we create these alternative realities that, in truth, are just fantasies, fabricated fictions that promulgate the cycle of yearning for something "other" than what we have. Which is such binary thinking to begin with, the one and the other, what I have and what you have, I mean honestly, sometimes I feel like the modern state of human thought is truly primitive. The human default zone is "the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence." I am tired of even having a fence, you know?
When moving house, for example, and you are out looking at different property options, you might see in some houses how the current occupant lives, with all their pretty things placed in such a way that is delightful to the senses, that says in a celebratory shout, "This is it! Hooray! Happiness in a house!" And this gives you ideas of what this person's life is like and who they are, and how wonderful it must be to live here. But, in reality, you know nothing of this person; and moreover, to the person who currently dwells in this "paradise," it most certainly is NOT a paradise; for the current occupant, don't forget, is looking to move on.
We are unable to see the world from anyone's eyes but our own, yet we create fantasies that allow us to believe otherwise. And these fantasies turn into dreams, desires, wants, and endless yearning for something else. The incessant yearning is fodder for discontent and unhappiness. So, how then do we halt this wheel of wanting? How do we grow into happiness. How do we turn our gaze inward? Why, with gratitude.
This is how I have come to understand the importance of practicing gratitude. If you can take a moment and sit with what is, observe it, observe you, who you are right now, where you are right now and truly experience it and be thankful for it, then THAT is utopia. That is the trick to it all. Be present in right now and understand right now for the utter privilege to be ALIVE. You or I can only ever be who we are, so it is a waste of energy trying to create what someone else has.
I am learning more and more that happiness is a practice. Just as you must exercise your muscles to stay in shape, so must you exercise your happiness to be happy. Feeling grateful for breath and life and nature and sunshine, that is happiness. SO here is my work cut out for me. Practice, practice, practice gratitude. When I get angry, frustrated, sad, isolated, discontented I must practice being grateful and eventually, my gratitude will grow strong. And like my English garden, my happiness will blossom from the inside.