“The true journey of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having fresh eyes.” - Marcel ProustTweet It!
We seek new landscapes because the present one is not interesting. This is particularly so when the inner landscape we find ourself in is painful or dark in some way. We don't usually like these kinds of landscapes. But not liking where we are doesn't exclude the location from its potential to be interesting.
When our location is a black dog day, in other words when we feel depressed, we don’t usually like it. In this territory we are inclined to seek a new landscape, scrambling to flee the darkness within. We might grasp for anything that gives pleasure. It’s what Freud was talking about in his theory of the Pleasure Principle, where we orient from pain to pleasure. The Western mind leans into the Pleasure Principle. It’s akin to the pursuit of happiness. And we glorify the pursuit of happiness - it’s enshrined in the Declaration of Independence of the USA.
The pursuit of happiness, however, is not a way out of black dog days. If we seek a passage out of the darkness, we risk turning away from life. The darkness, if we get curious about it, is a way toward, not away from, joy. It can reveal an unfolding dynamism, a movement in our emotional and sensory world that we experience as joy. Our experience, no matter what it is, can be a portal to joy.
It’s all about perspective. If we approach our inner experiences with curiosity, they tend to move through us. Even the most difficult of our experiences morph when given our curiosity. Sadness may morph into tender compassion, anger may morph into inner strength, hate may morph into a sense of peace, fear may morph into clarity about our situation, anxiety may morph into excitement about being alive. The key is to let our experiences just be without discharging or distracting from them. With this approach, our experiences morph from moment to moment.
Curiosity invites a dynamic playfulness, a pursuit-less engagement with life, a perspective with fresh eyes. We can’t force this curiosity just as we can’t force happiness. But we can encourage ourselves to dwell a little longer in the landscape we are located and invite curiosity as our companion. This is a prescription for black dog days. There is no pursuit of happiness here, though happiness is a common side effect of this prescription.
Dr. Geoff Warburton is a specialist in love and movement meditation. He enjoys baking bread and dancing whenever possible, often at the same time.
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