The things we value, that’s where our heart is. And when we can value the higher goals, something in the neighborhood of the ‘Love-Peace-Joy’ trifecta, that’s when our worlds start getting slowly and gently better, rather than slowly and gently worse.
But it’s not always that easy. Let me give you an example from my own life.
I very strongly value peace, and I say this as someone who wrestles with her rage like other people play board games with their children. And one of the things that comes out of that high value I place on peace is a deep interest in Feng Shui and the ongoing goal of making my home’s energy better, calmer, and more peaceful. When my home is neat, tidy, and ever-more promoting of peace, it is easier for me to be peaceful.
No problem, right?
Well… Of course I can take it to a really unhelpful place, like many of us. Some changes are small. Some changes are large. Some changes are quick, and some take an intense amount of time and resources to accomplish, and to be quite clear, not all I envision can happen quickly (and just lately with the cessation of the migraines do I even have some energy to spare). But regardless of how I meditate or analyze, what I plan and eventually execute, I can fall into a very common trap. That trap is imagining that all my problems are going to be solved with the next change. There’s a couple of mental fallacies here. I’m attributing more power to something than it has. I’m putting my happiness off into the future. In addition to my happiness only being accessible in the future, it’s also dependent on something outside in the world rather than inside me, and the stoics are very clear and have an excellent point about that: you can’t control what’s outside of you, and it’s not where your contentment resides, anyway. To put a Christian spin on it (just one more service I offer), I’m making an idol out of the Feng Shui of my home, saying ‘this is the thing that will make me happy/peaceful/a better and more loving person’. But in strictly spiritual terms, I’m saying that the proper Feng Shui of my home, if I could just achieve it, will bring Enlightenment.
And of course it’s not true. None of that is actually true.
Now, I’ll grant you, because I can hear the arguments already: ‘Come on, Sare. That’s a little much. You’re taking that a bit far. You just want a nice and easy flow in your home. Totally reasonable. If you can’t do it yourself, contract out and move on.’
To a degree, yes. It is reasonable to have a home one enjoys, no matter the size, no matter one’s income. And there’s no one who is dictating how much stuff I need to have and where I need to put it. That’s entirely in my control, actually. And yet, we humans seem to have a capacity to make mountains out of molehills. We take a thing we want and do not have, be it an item or an ideal or a personality trait, and say to ourselves, ‘I can be happy when I have this,’ and then we wait, as if happiness can come from something outside of ourselves. But we’ve already decided and in that moment we stop looking for happiness the one place it can be found: inside. It’s true with contentment, peace, love, compassion, and deep joy. They only come from within and so, so often we look for them everywhere else but the one place they play.
And so despite the fact that my enjoyment of Feng Shui comes from my deep value of peace (plus a natural proclivity for room arrangement, perhaps), I can still take it to a dark place, essentially misusing it. Because Feng Shui can improve the energy flow of my home and in my life, and that’s good and lovely and significant, but if I do it without mindfulness, without living in the present and being calm, without enjoying the gains I have already made and appreciating with deep gratitude the items of my life that make my life easier, I’ve actually missed the point of having peace as a value.
Which is, if you think of it, rather silly.