Many people come into therapy wanting the perfect job, relationship, body or lifestyle that they believe will bring them happiness. This is a normal response to living in a consumer-based culture that tells us we need these things. However, when we look to externals to measure our worth, enough is never enough. This is because factors such as money, appearance, or accomplishments are all aspects of ego, and our egos are insatiable.
Identifying with your ego is a slippery slope that leads to the "quick sand" of misery. The harder you work to pull yourself out of despair, the more exhausted and depleted you become, and the more unhappy you feel.
In my practice, I also see that people often mistakenly identify with their issues (e.g., "I AM depressed," "I AM divorced," "I AM a codependent caretaker," etc.) As human beings, we all have issues. However, our issues are HOW we are, not WHO we are. WHO we are is the unique spirit of light, love ,and joy that lies deep within -- our "essence."
Therefore, we must consciously choose to detach from ego and the externals and instead focus our attention on these deeper aspects of character to more accurately measure our greatness:
Compassion: self-compassion, orientation away from self-centeredness towards consideration and empathy for others.
Awareness: thoughtfulness, consciousness, a greater understanding, insight, intuition, focus on the collective or global experience.
Patience: mindful presence without judgment, acceptance.
Generosity: charity, humility, acts of service and of love.
Forgiveness: a deep letting go of the resentments that keep us tethered to the past.
Integrity: dependability, reliability, acting as your highest and best self.
Goodness: kindness, truthfulness, openness, doing that which is right.
Courage: bravery to be your true self and to the greatest extent possible.
Use mindfulness practices (like deep breathing, meditation, yoga, quiet stillness, etc.) to detach from ego and connect with essence. Consciously focus on developing these qualities that will lead you to a life that is aligned with the highest good of self and others. Through this process, you will discover that love (not money) that is the currency of life and the true measure of success.
Bring your attention inward to this love that is inside of you, connecting you to all that is living or has lived across time and space. Remember you are not alone or lacking in any way because you are intrinsically connected to this whole, vibrant universe of abundance.
Let go of the externals, detach from ego and breathe out your issues. Tap into this source of love and energy, refuel your mind/body/spirit, and breathe in the joy, love and bliss you deserve. Namaste.
This piece originally appeared on the Huffington Post.