Sit in reverie and watch the changing color of the waves that break upon the idle seashore of the mind.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
I find it a cause for sadness that we live in an age where the West has become wealthier than ever, and status is afforded to the owners of the shiniest bling, or to those who currently own the ephemeral hashtag of celebrity. An era in which there is enough wealth to solve most of the world’s problems yet so many of us remain unhappy with our lot.
There seem to be few sources of genuine joy or excitement remaining in our lives. Increasingly we have turned to cynicism, or the accumulation of possessions, in an attempt to either boost our self-worth by belittling others, or trying to buy our way to some externally adjudicated state of happiness.
While living this way has many superficial attractions, it requires that we ransom our happiness, making it dependent on tearing down others to make ourselves feel better, or by making our self-esteem dependent on the fickleness of consumer society. We become swept up by the passing fads of fashion and owning the latest cool gadgets, and mistake the momentary firing of the pleasure centres in our brain for genuine happiness.
Our consumption is fuelled by the expectation that we will change our possessions at ever decreasing intervals, driven by a combination of built-in obsolescence and the ubiquitous advertising that fills our minds with false claims; only cool people drive this car, if we want to be part of the in crowd we must have this phone or those ear buds.
This second-hand approach to happiness is doomed to failure from the start. When we base our lives on things, we set ourselves up to remain stuck on the consumer treadmill of buying ever fancier, but less useful things, in a futile attempt to mask our growing sense of emptiness and alienation.
If we are to develop greater happiness, it helps if we the take time to reflect, to consider what is really important to us. What exactly is it that floats our own individual boat?
When we try to understand what is needed if we are to have a greater sense of fulfillment, the first thing that we notice is often a vague, barely palpable, sense of why we get up in the morning. A dawning recognition that we are not satisfied with our present lives, a sense that we could be more content if we started to do things differently.
We will gradually gain greater clarity about what drives us forward through life if we engage with this sense of change, and set out to give substance to this half-formed sense of purpose.
When we take time to think and reflect on this, we will give this vague perception a chance to coalesce into something much more concrete. We open up a much greater opportunity for happiness if we redesign our lives around this driving force. We can then follow a lifestyle that allows us to live happily in the world.
Living in this way produces its own rewards. Providing a sense of purpose that will help us move towards as job, a career, a life that will satisfy this drive inside us. A way of being that helps make our purpose ever stronger and more central to who we are.
This sense of fulfillment drives us on to achieve our goals.
When we go in search of our sense of purpose, it can feel like trying to catch smoke in a sieve, but in reality it is not as hard.
If we use mindfulness to produce unfocused attention, generating a state of mindful reverie, and then use this to reflect on everything our sense of purpose will gradually become clearer. This free-floating approach to self-knowledge can generate anxiety, a response to moving outside our comfort zones, and this can drive us to cut short our search and settle for something less.
This fear can prevent us from following the river of our inspiration back to its source, and is an indication that we should examine the conflicts that arise within ourselves and use their energy to drive our search onwards. It is when we step beyond the edges of our normal range that true discovery is possible.
Reverie provides a way for us to reflect and examine what we believe is our foundation, and then, as we carefully tease this apart, we can slowly but surely rebuild ourselves as we wish to be, as we continue to grow and develop throughout our lives.
In the process, we can rebuild our mental core, realign our life with our values, and become the very best we can be.