Zen and the power of mindfilness:
Part of my journey this past year has been to explore philosophies that help improve your happiiness. Due to several things in my life that had occured, I realized I was unhappy. Furthermore, it seems despite feeling unhappy for a while, I had convinced myself that it was normal to feel that way. The good times always lay in the future. Somehow, I was going to get there eventually.
I started reading Thich Nhat Hanh, a very wise Zen Buddhist monk, and I found a lot of excellent life advice in his pages. I had never given Zen Buddhism a lot of thought, dismissing it without ever really understanding what it was.
I have always been wedded to physical objects. I am a collector. Sometimes I border on hoarding. When I lost my house in 2015, I had a library of 2,000+ books that I had collected over the course of my life. I loved my collection. I had lugged those books from college to the Army, stashing them in people's cellars and waiting until the day when I was able to put up my book shelves and take them out to display.
When it became clear I had to get rid of 90% of them, it was devastating. But, I realize now that they are just things. My attachment to them led to suffering, which helped no one, especially me. I had read the books. Their stories and knowledge was preserved in my brain. I didn't need to own them, display them, or brag about them. By letting them go, I freed myself.
Am I a perfect ascetic now? Of course not. I still buy books to read, and I still have many books on shelves. But, I can say I no longer covet them, or refuse to part with them. I give them away to those who could use them, or I donate them. Thus they continue to do good by enlightening others.
Improving your mindfulness and happiness is a journey, much like anything else. But you have to take the first steps to begin.