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For the past few days we’ve been moving from our 2 bedroom apartment of the last 6 and a half years. It’s funny as time goes on I become less and less attached to memories and things.
Somebody asked me recently if I was nostalgic for any reason. The answer was absolutely not. I’m always looking forward to what’s next. I think it’s a shame when old friends get together and talk about old times or share old memories. I’m more interested in what’s happening right now and where I’m going. There’s no sense in focusing on the past, unless you can learn from it.
Your environment affects you…
Where we live has a direct impact on not just our health physically but it also affects how we see the world. It affects our outlook on life and over time, has the potential to dramatically shape what kind of existence we’re able to carve out for ourselves.
People often say to be careful what kind of friends you make or what kind of people you surround yourself with. But the same could be said for where we live, or what job you have.
Do you live in a neighborhood that has toxic people in it? Do you live next door to people who don’t share the same values you do? Do you live in an area where people aren’t motivated to make a better life for themselves?
This is the case where we used to live. We lived in an area where many of the neighbors we had were living off the government. They would spend the better part of their days drinking beer and smoking on their front porch. Cars would be on blocks parked on the front grass.
Maybe you can relate…
Regularly you would hear car alarms going off, police sirens, Harley Davidson motorcycles going by, helicopters (we call them ghetto birds) searching for criminals, diesel engine trucks (we lived at a 4 way stop on the way to the beach and a popular school in our area), trash trucks, work vehicles, bicycle riders, scooters, skateboarders and everything in between.
It wasn’t uncommon for people to leave mattresses, shopping carts, office chairs and broken down cars on the side of the streets.
I was a fish out of water living there. It’s not the right thing to do to leave trash all over your yard.
We are motivated people, wanting to help infuse change into the world. Living in this kind of broken down environment just wasn’t conducive to who we were or where we were going in life.
Perhaps you feel this way. Maybe you are dealing with these same set of challenges or maybe they’re different. Regardless you feel the need to move on. You know that you don’t belong where you are. You see the people around you and if you’re not careful, you’ll end up becoming them.
It’s a slippery slope. A few wrong choices and you never know where your life could end up. Here are some things I’ve learned from living in a place that was my greatest nightmare and my greatest teacher.
After about 6 months of living in our last place I was ready to move. It was too loud and the people that lived around us were not the type of people I wanted to associate with.
Everything within me was desiring to leave. I’ve had this feeling many times before with jobs or other situations in life. It seemed as though as time went on, I grew more and more impatient. My tolerance levels were getting less and less. The smallest things would either annoy me or anger me.
I began judging people and making up stories in my head about who I thought they were and being upset that I had to be subjected to the noise and chaos they created.
I was becoming somebody I wasn’t, and I knew it. I was becoming angry, jaded and judgmental. I began to hate people. I hated strangers I didn’t even know!
I knew I was becoming angry and upset. I could feel it. But it wasn’t me. I knew it because when I would remove myself from that environment, I would instantly be happier and my joy would come back.
By default my internal nature was happy but I just couldn’t let that side of myself manifest because I was constantly on edge. If I were talking with my wife in our kitchen, I’d be waiting to be interrupted by Harley Davidson motorcycles that would literally shake our walls.
After a year or so of living there we realized it wasn’t working. We looked around but we just couldn’t afford any other options. We were looking everywhere, even out of state. The median home price in Orange County was $659,000 and $790,000 in the city we lived in (San Clemente).
It was a renters market. Routinely we’d see studio apartments or one bedroom apartments starting at $1,900 and going as high as $2,500 per month (for a studio).
We felt trapped and stuck. We were starting our business and running that full time. Kate was overcoming health issues from working for 17 years as a hair stylist.
Money was tight, we hated where we were living but we had to stay there and endure. We felt like we had no options.
Sometimes patience is the answer. For us, we knew we just had to hold tight, no matter how much we hated our lives, where we lived and who we were becoming. We worked on our own psyche as much as we could. We’d read self help books, meditate, get out and go on long walks and everything in between. But there’s a limit….
Knowing When To Move On
A lot of self help gurus and spiritual teachers will teach people that they need to simply restructure their thinking about what it is that’s bothering them. Once this is accomplished (according to them) the person should more easily be able to accept what their current situation is.
To a degree I believe that. Don’t get me wrong, it is important to do your daily spiritual practices. For me this includes daily Qigong, meditation, reading empowering uplifting books (I just finished Loving What Is which I highly recommend), affirmations, breathing exercises and generally focusing on the good we encounter in life.
There’s a reason why Oprah lives in Montecito California, and why Deepak Chopra lives in Carlsbad California (both majestic and beautiful spots) and other “self help” spiritual teachers live in nice quiet places.
The only person I can think of that forsook a comfortable life and lived well below her desires was Mother Theresa or Jesus.
There’s no doubt that we all must do the spiritual work to learn how to overcome situations we don’t like. That is the foundation but in my opinion, that can only take you so far.
It’s part of being human.
Now it’s possible that after they get angry the spiritual work they’ve done would kick in and take over, where as with other people, they would remain angry. That’s where spiritual work can be very helpful.
Regardless, their first reaction would be anger. It’s what makes us human.
Being stuck in physical bodies forces the invisible eternal part of ourselves to be infused with material. The two are inextricably linked.
So that means what’s around us has an impact on how we think and what we feel. What we do with that depends on the spiritual work we do. Do we let it go or do we hold onto it and allow it to make us bitter?
Each person has the ability to take their spiritual work to a predetermined level in their own lives. We should focus on spiritual work while at the same time, realizing what makes us happy and moving in that direction.
Maybe it means quitting a job, moving to a new house, breaking up with a girlfriend or boyfriend or simply getting a new car.
There were so many times when I was mad, frustrated and angry living in our old house that I told myself that God has me here to learn a lesson. Maybe he wants me to be more patient. Maybe he wants me to be more kind and loving.
Recognizing that, I actively leaned into the things I needed to learn.
But with that said, it’s up to us to move in the direction of happiness.
They say that money can’t buy happiness. I agree with that but isn’t it interesting you don’t see many millionaires say that, just poor people.
What I do believe is that there were so many little annoyances that made life harder and would make me upset. Here were just some of them.
- Not having a garage
- Having to climb up stairs with groceries (we lived upstairs)
- Not having a dishwasher, a parking space or our own laundry machine
- Having very little counterspace in our kitchen
- Not having a backyard
- Having loud neighbors
- Living on the corner of a busy 4 way stop
- and many more…
I realize it might sound like I’m complaining and that people have much less. Don’t get me wrong, I’m always grateful for what I have and had. What I had in our old apartment was my greatest teacher.
But having money can remove the things in your life that make life harder and more annoying. This has been the case for me. I can say that I never was an angry person. My default state was happy, it’s just that I wasn’t able to feel those feelings because I was constantly upset.
Learning what makes you happy helps you to be able to figure out what makes you upset. Money will not magically infuse happiness into you but it can remove the things that make you unhappy.
With that said, doing the spiritual work is the foundation to all of this. I don’t believe the spiritual work itself can make you happy any more than giving you a million dollars can instantly make you happy.
But it helps. Having money and doing the spiritual work can be a recipe for happiness.
A Deep Appreciation
We’ve only been in our new place for 4 days and I can tell you, I’m beaming. Every day I’m more and more appreciative of what we have. I’m humbled, thankful and grateful for where I get to live.
All of the little annoyances have been removed and I feel like my default state again is happy. With every up there’s a down. With every black there’s a white. Everything exists in contrast.
If I didn’t have the experience of the last six and a half years of hating where I lived, I know I wouldn’t be nearly as appreciative as I am now. It *is* important to have contrast.
It’s the contrast that allows us to experience the difference between two situations.
Appreciation is about perspective. Humans are interesting creatures. We all get comfortable and settled where we’re at and then start becoming discontent. I remember living in Africa, Europe and poor parts of the south Pacific. How I was living at our old house would have seemed like a dream compared to my days traveling around the world.
Humans get comfortable, it’s just the way it is. I was always appreciative of what I had but I knew I wanted more and I knew that changing my living environment would remove what was making me upset.
Letting Go Of Attachments
This seems to be the overriding theme of my life. I’m constantly learning how to get rid of the things that hold me down. I’ve experienced this with ideas, opinions, physical objects, people and situations.
I’ve learned through this move that I hold onto lots of things that have sentimental value. I somehow think that the object I want to hold onto has magical powers. Letting go of everything I can is one of the most liberating things I have ever done.
It’s kind of a fun game actually. Every day I look for more things to lose attachment to. I’ve thrown away lots of items that I would normally want to keep. I’d want to keep items because they had sentimental value (like a yearbook or a gift from my mom) or I felt like I didn’t want to buy it all over again. We threw away our beloved Breville juicer because it was old and barely working again. We could have got more use out of it but it was on its last legs.
Ordinarily I would have held onto it (we juice every day) because I didn’t want to spend another $300 dollars to buy a new one. What I realized is that I’m holding onto something because I felt like God (or the universe) wouldn’t bless me financially to be able to afford a new one.
I refuse to live in a state of lack, because there’s always enough.
The act of letting go seems to allow more cool stuff to come into your life. So now, I’m awaiting for the money to come in to buy a new one or I’m sure we’ll get gifted one from a friend. These things happen to us all the time. It seems to happen more often when we let go of things, whether they by physical or emotional.
I don’t believe that money or *things* can make people truly happy. It’s just not the way we’re designed. Happiness must come from within. Happiness is an art and it should be studied. We can actually work on being more happy and joyful in our lives.
Schools should be teaching the art of happiness.
Fundamentally we are all wired in different ways and doing spiritual work and emotional work to improve ourselves should be a big focus of our lives. We all must work on being happier.
But like I said before, there’s a reason why monks live in peaceful caves and priests live in quiet cathedrals. There’s a reason why people go to the mountains to hike or to the beach to surf and get away from the stresses of life.
The environment where we currently find ourselves does have an impact on how we think, how we feel and how happy we are. No amount of spiritual work or “Loving What Is” can make you okay with a horrible situation.
Along with doing the work, sometimes we just need to remove ourselves from the situations that make us unhappy.
This was a big struggle for me to come to this conclusion. I wanted to think that I could will myself to being happier. I thought I could do enough spiritual work to be happy in the midst of a stressful home environment.
But you know what? Sometimes we just have to cut the things out of our lives that make us unhappy and chalk it up to this is just human nature. It’s the human experience.
I’m not ashamed to say that moving into a nicer area has had a direct impact on my happiness. It might not be the source but it has been helpful to regain my default state of happiness.
Instead of beating yourself up for not being spiritually evolved enough to thrive in your current situation, why not just cut out the things in your life that are making unhappy?
It worked for me and I think it could work for you also.
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