Living The Good Life
What is it, that makes for a good life? I ask myself this question now and again… The answer changes as life changes as it probably does for everybody.
Besides that…. When we answer the question we often think in terms of outside influences and events, happening right now or things remembered from the past. The time we spent as a family when the kids were young, or the time we had when we had just left school and the world and life seemed to open up to us. The presence of an important person in our life to help us through difficult times.
The good life, when I was a teenager was about hanging out with friends, going out to dance and party and generally have as much fun as possible. And in hindsight I can also appreciate the fact of my freedom at the time… freedom from responsibility for example. I didn’t consciously experience it at the time, it was just a given.
And then, as I’ve gotten older that which constitutes a good life seemed to be more and more a choice of how I decided to see things. Whether I could acknowledge the good things and how I could deal with things not so pleasant to experience; a choice also in what to focus on, whether of value to me in the moment and/or for a long time to come.
This leads to the contemplation of our values; it becomes crucial to think about, be aware of and live by what has value to you, what is important to you. However… what is important to you, can change from hour to hour, year to year. If we haven’t been aware of our values and dreams for a while, we might find ourselves adrift. Then we need to come back to ourselves and ask ourselves that important question: What makes for a good life?; contemplate what we want and value and how we can make that real in the world in order to experience it.
And so it seems that the question has lead me inside, into its contemplation from the inside out, rather than the other way around where it started when I was young.
Maybe up to 10 years ago I concluded that what makes for the good life, is the quality of relationships. My relationships with children, family, friends etc. My relationship to my life, my past, my environment and also myself…
So I busied myself with improving my relationships. There was always something to be found that needed figuring out, something that I could do better. My ideals were still high, aiming for a (spiritual or emotional) ideal. Still I worked with intellectual ideas of perfection. I had expectations that logically, if I did the work, I would succeed. And now and again I would, but then I’d fall back and not be able to see the good in anything. Least of all in myself.
Out there were ideals held up by society, culture, religion etc to inform me of what I needed to aspire to. The answer to the question “What makes for a good life?”, would have been about an idealised mental construction. The good life was something out there existing IN GENERAL and then IN THEORY for me to put INTO PRACTICE. I would have mentioned freedom, happiness, doing things I love, being a good person and making a contribution. I would also have had much to say on how to achieve these things. Which I did, some of the time.
However my experience THEN, didn’t really feel like it constituted “The Good Life”. My values seemed right, worthy and important and I worked consistently and logically to bring them about. But satisfaction came and went very quickly and most of the time I felt like I was forever struggling with life and myself.
SEEING THE GOOD LIFE IN HINDSIGHT
Another way of idealising was to observe life’s blessings in hindsight. This can and does have value and is great insofar that it is useful in reminding myself that I am fortunate and grateful. It is valuable to take stock by acknowledging the events, influences, people and my own thoughts and actions that made it blessed. Even so, this exercise, though it can contribute to living the good life, is still an intellectual exercise. I am using my mind to interpret the past in a way that it suits me in this moment. I can do it on my own, not having the connections to that time, space, feelings, the people that might have been there, to give me the true experience of it, in its own moment. It just becomes another interpretation of a photograph seen with a certain coloured glasses.
LIVING THE GOOD LIFE RIGHT NOW
I am wanting to experience what makes a good life right now. RIGHT NOW. In making that happen, I am committing to my relationship to myself (I am sitting alone, writing this at this moment) and ask myself…. what makes for a good life right now?
In asking this question in this space, thoughts come up. In asking these questions I don’t want to end up with an immediate answer. I want to experience my body’s response, my minds response and not necessarily in words, but in feelings and impressions. I want to just sit and experience it. Like the comfortable silence you can experience with a good friend. In that moment time seems to slow down and I feel deeply grounded in reality, no frills needed. No interpreting needed, to make the moment “better”. By living the moment like this, I experience joy, appreciation and gratitude and feel I am honouring my own and humanity’s collective experience.
So for me… what makes for a good life… are relationships (to myself, to others, the environment, to my life etc) experienced in their given moment.
If I’d continue to experience these relationships only through the lens of the past, I’d separate myself from the possibility of experiencing it in the moment as it is happening.
I know a lot has been said about living in the moment; there are a lot of ways to quantify what it entails. For me it is the pure experience of reality in my body as it resides in the world. I don’t WANT rose coloured glasses, drugs, cultural or religious reasons, spiritual ideals, meditation, opinions, interpretations etc to make “NOW” a meaningful experience. In this moment I experience my own self as an integral part of humanity and existence and it feels deeply satisfying and real.
It makes for a good life.