Americans are weighed down by how easy it is to survive alone here. I know it brings many advantages with it, advantages others would surrender a lot for, but it brings intangible disadvantages with it as well. Take for example running water. We wash our hands, clothes, dishes, bodies, etc. in it daily. We have control over the temperature, pressure, frequency, etc. We can get it from multiple sources within and around the home - 7 easily accessible sources in my house alone. We take all of this as a given.
Can you imagine how most average Americans would respond if they had to walk outside of their house to get water? Hell, even if there was only one main facet right in the house to provide all of the inhabitants' water. Most people would be outraged by this. Yet, in other countries entire villages walk to the well and wait to get their rationed amount of water for the day or even week. They would lose their shit if all of a sudden it came out of one facet near their home, let alone in it.
Accessible water (and we won't even get into clean accessible water here) allows for many things, and makes our lives a lot easier in many areas. Yet it makes one thing extra hard for us, and that one thing is actually more attached to happiness than all the convenience the 7 accessible sources provide - Gratitude. We don't lack gratitude because we are spoiled, entitled, shitty people. It just actually is hard to be grateful for something that is so easily accessible and prevalent. It takes consistent, intentional work to be grateful for so much. I often think of how good it felt to properly wash my hands after a recent camping trip. I experienced the rush of warm water as such a treat after 5 days of a camp setup. Don't even get me started on the shower! I try to remember that feeling each time I wash my hands, but it happens so regularly here that I forget to remember it.
"Oh poor Americans, they have so much accessible water and convenience that they can't remember to be grateful for it." I know, it sounds silly, but spiritually speaking this does put us at a disadvantage. Of course I believe that we can have both gratitude and running water; I'm just saying the gratitude is a lot harder to come by, even when we are aware of this and intentionally work to cultivate it.
This makes perfect sense to me. The accessibility of spiritual fulfillment is much more prominent in places where there is less, depending on community is required, being in communion with the earth is built into daily life, and there isn't enough energy left at the end of the day to create suffering (yes, there is pain everywhere, but suffering is that which is laid on top of the pain unnecessarily- think salt in the wound).
Convenience sets a precedent and allots us plenty of time to put ourselves in isolation, to add suffering to our pain, to justify this suffering, to use that justification to make pain for others, to find and perpetuate ways to escape from all of this (be that substances, TV, video games, escapist behaviors, sex, etc.), to compare ourselves and our lot to others, and somehow to feel sorry for ourselves in the meantime. But hey, we have 7 places in the house to get water from!
We certainly can be! Though it may be easier to experience gratitude when we've gone without (I don't know if you've ever had chocolate cake after being on a diet, but let me tell you, it'll blow your mind), I don't think it is required. Instead we can take all of that extra time that convenience provides us and use it to cultivate mindfulness so that we don't forget how miraculous it is to have such a precious resource so readily available in our homes.
We can use that mindfulness to live in the present moment, where we'll find there is no suffering.
We can use our time to make someone else's day a bit better.
We can set some of this time aside, even a couple of hours a month to work towards a brighter world for everyone.
We can find or form communities and give of ourselves to them so that we may reap the happiness they sow.
We can learn new things.
We can play and have fun.
We can use some of this fortunate time to look into our own pain and find the path out of it.
We can sit peacefully and watch the amazing light show put on every minute of the day as the sun bounces on dancing leaves.
We can choose what we want our lives to look like and how we want to show up in them.
We can move into the space of all possibilities and from there we can create.
Nothing is softer or more flexible than water, yet nothing can resist it. Lao Tzu
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