Las Machotas, El Escorial.
I climbed this mountain the other morning, getting to the top about 10.30 after an hour and a half’s walk. From the top you can see vast space, the sweep of the Guadarrama mountain range, down to Madrid 50km away, across to the Gredos mountains in the distance.
A very fine breeze was gliding over my legs, it reminded me of the breath in my lungs, they seem to be one and the same.
On the way I had a quote very present that I found from Thich Nhat Hanh:
“The Kingdom of God is a treasure. Once you have touched that treasure, you know that the things you previously considered to be conditions for your happiness are just obstacles.”
Which I take to mean that the Kingdom of God is the wonder-filled life we have right now in the present moment, and if we are distracted by things we think we need to be happy, like more money, more recognition, a better life, more fulfilment, then we will miss it.
I’ve just stumbled again upon ‘The Work’ of Byron Katie, and something she wrote echoes this perfectly:
Q Loving what is sounds like never wanting anything. Isn’t it more interesting to want things?
A My experience is that I do want something all the time: what I want is what is. It’s not only interesting, it’s ecstatic! […] I find that life never falls short and doesn’t require a future. Everything I need is always supplied, and I don’t have to do anything for it. There is nothing more exciting than loving what is. (‘The Little Book’, Byron Katie)
Everything we need to be happy is right here already – that’s the treasure.
18 thoughts on “Life’s Treasure”
Really enjoyed the article!
I wonder how you balance this idea with the pyramid of basic human needs:
Hi James, this is one of my endless loops of mental mischief – how to be happy with what is, without sitting around doing nothing on the one hand, and without becoming fulfilment-obsessed again on the other. I found another answer from Byron Katie that I think is pretty spot on:
THANKYOU Ben for sharing you life with me…Its true nature is awesome…
Thank you Amanda!
“The things you previously considered to be conditions for your happiness are just obstacles.” Powerful insight.
Absolutely. There is a huge amount of depth to be looked into in that sentence.
your words are so true. this is very insightful and particularly appropriate for me at this time, or perhaps i should say, this present moment! i have longed to live outside the u.s. for decades as the culture here does not suit me well unlike that of spain. since i am of spanish descent, i have alway had a keen interest in the food, culture, beautiful nature and importance of family in spain.
i desire a very different growing up experience for our 7 year old daughter, they grow so fast as i am sure you know! the work you and marina have done has been so helpful and we are deeply grateful. it is a challenge for me to stay with the moment as i find myself loathing life in portland oregon and thinking about the future too much. today i will once again begin my mindfulness practice. saludos amigo! miguel
I understand what you are saying Miguel. I longed to go and live in the North of Spain for a long time, where it’s greener, much more like my old UK landscape – I miss the green! For a long time I resented Madrid and drove Marina mad trying to get her to move up there with me. But we stayed, and I’ve relaxed about it and seen that Madrid still has many wonderful things for me, more than enough for me to be happy.
Perhaps we’ll end up in Asturias one day, if it’s meant to be. Good luck with dealing with this, it’s a really tough one. I wrote about it before, here:
gracias ben. your great attitude towards living will take you where you need to be. btw, my abuela’s father’s family was from Galicia and my abuelo’s family has origins in Andalusia before immigrating to Cuba in the 1800’s. i am a fisherman at heart and will visit Galicia and Asturias soon as it’s looks so wonderful. It’s a little lower in latitude than Portland so maybe not so gloomy for 8 months of the year?
i will check out your link. saludos.
You’ll love Galicia and Asturias. It can be pretty wet (hence so green!), but I’ve seen abuelas bathing in the sea on a sunny February day in Asturias, so it’s not so gloomy!
Miguel and Ben,
Your conversation raises an interesting question for me. I live in San Jose, CA and often long to live in San Francisco (50min drive north) or Portland (9 hour drive north) or Madrid (13 hour flight!!). Miguel seems to want to leave Portland and Ben at times dreams of leaving Madrid. I dream of leaving San Jose for a place that will “make” me happier.
I agree that geography and personality and environment and history can mingle and perhaps make happiness more accessible in one place than another. But after the “I’m here!” feeling wears off (and it will–won’t it?) will we really be happier overall? Maybe we should work on our “I gotta get out of here to be happy” thoughts and emotions in addition to our moving plans. I think if we don’t, those thoughts and emotions may follow us wherever we go . . .
I agree completely James. Otherwise there’s always another fence where the grass will be greener on the other side!
This is such an interesting thread. I’ve long been fascinated by the personality of cities and have often weighed one against the other. So much gets mixed in with how one feels about a place: the particular point in the city’s evolution, the time in your life that you experience it, your personal experiences (which often lead to generalizations), etc.
I’ve lived in most of the cities mentioned, and my impressions appear to be quite different. Although a city is part of the “world of form,” as Eckhart Tolle would put it, I’m not sure I agree that one should just stay put and adjust one’s mindset. I do think certain places resonate with us more and bring out the best in us, and others have the opposite effect. That said, it’s counterproductive, as you (Ben and James) have noted, to negate the present by focusing too much on a future possibility.
I agree Bill, it’s very interesting. I was unhappy once in London, and I left for Madrid, because I was free enough to be able to, and despite being terrified by the move, it turned out to be absolutely wonderful.
I was unhappy once in Madrid and wanted to move to Asturias, but conditions (wife!) didn’t favour the move, so I ended up staying here and that’s turned out to be perfect as well.
There’s never a right answer, certainly everyone has to explore where they are and where they want to be, and if there’s a chance to move which works, then why not experiment?
My sister left London for Brighton last year, fed up with the city and wanting a small town by the sea. After 6 months in Brighton she moved back to London and loves it again! Decisions can always be undone, places re-evaluated!
Hi Ben! How are you! My name is Matheus, I´m brazilian and I started studying spanish this year. Looking for a good podcast I found Notes in Spanish and I am addicted to it! It is amazing! I am listening to all episodes and learning a lot! I got curious about you and Marina, because the podcasts are from many years ago and I would like to know how you are! So I found this site! Thank you very much for your amazing work teaching spanish!
Thank you too Matheus for your kind comment.
Hola, organizáis quedadas en madrid para practicar intercambiar español-inglés? Si hay gente interesada
… Me uno!
Hola Raquel, nosotros no, lo siento, pero si buscas en Google veras que hay muchos grupos – mira también en meetup.com. Un abrazo.
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